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The Power of Action Words on Your Resume

Derek Cirino - Oct 19, 2023

Your resume is your first opportunity to make an impression. It’s a snapshot of your professional identity, and in the blink of an eye, it can determine whether you advance to the next round or remain in the growing pile of applications. To make sure your resume stands out, it’s vital to harness the power of action words. This blog explores the significance of action words, how they impact your resume, and offers a comprehensive list of powerful action words to help you craft an impressive document.

The Role of Action Words in Your Resume

Action words, also known as action verbs or power words, are words that convey a sense of purpose, achievement, and impact. They bring your experiences to life, painting a vivid picture of what you’ve accomplished in your professional life. The careful selection of these words can make your resume come across as dynamic, engaging, and impactful.

Here’s why action words matter:

1. They Add Punch to Your Accomplishments: Action words transform mundane descriptions into compelling narratives. Instead of merely stating that you “managed a team,” you can say you “orchestrated a high-performing team to deliver exceptional results.” The latter paints a vivid picture of your leadership skills and the outcome of your efforts.

2. They Convey Skills and Qualities: Action words not only describe your past achievements but also indirectly indicate your skills and qualities. When you use words like “initiated,” “innovated,” or “pioneered,” you showcase your proactive nature. On the other hand, words like “optimized,” “streamlined,” or “maximized” demonstrate your ability to enhance processes and outcomes.

3. They Capture Attention: In a stack of resumes, those with vivid, action-packed descriptions are more likely to capture the reader’s attention. Action words make your achievements and contributions jump off the page, enticing the reader to delve deeper into your resume.

4. They Present a Strong First Impression: Your resume is often the first interaction a potential employer has with you. Using action words from the beginning establishes a strong first impression and sets the tone for the rest of your application.

5. They Adapt to Different Fields: Whether you’re in sales, healthcare, tech, or any other industry, action words are versatile. They can be tailored to match the specific requirements of your field, making them universally valuable.

Now that you understand the importance of action words let’s explore how to use them effectively in your resume.

Where to Use Action Words

The beauty of action words is their versatility. You can incorporate them into various sections of your resume, including:

1. Resume Summary or Objective: Kickstart your resume with impactful action words that encapsulate your professional identity. For instance, “Dedicated and results-driven project manager with a proven track record of delivering complex projects on time and within budget.”

2. Work Experience: This is the core of your resume, where action words shine. Use them to describe your roles, responsibilities, and achievements. For example, “Led a cross-functional team to develop and launch a new product, resulting in a 20% increase in sales.”

3. Skills Section: Although brief, your skills section can benefit from action words. Instead of listing skills blandly, you can say, “Proficient in data analysis, with a demonstrated ability to interpret complex datasets and drive data-driven decision-making.”

4. Accomplishments or Awards: When highlighting awards or noteworthy accomplishments, action words can emphasize the significance. “Achieved the ‘Employee of the Year’ award for consistently exceeding sales targets.”

5. Cover Letter: Action words should not be confined to your resume; they can elevate your cover letter too. A well-placed action word in the opening sentence of your cover letter can set the tone for a compelling narrative.

How to Choose the Right Action Words

Selecting the right action words involves a blend of creativity and alignment with the job description. Here’s how to choose them effectively:

1. Match the Job Description: The job description is a goldmine of potential action words. Use the same language and keywords found in the job posting to make your resume resonate with what the employer is looking for.

2. Highlight Relevant Skills: Choose action words that reflect your core skills and competencies. If you’re applying for a role that requires leadership, words like “directed,” “supervised,” or “guided” will be invaluable.

3. Prioritize Achievements: In your work experience section, focus on your achievements and outcomes. Action words that convey results, like “achieved,” “exceeded,” or “surpassed,” help quantify your contributions.

4. Be Honest: While action words are meant to impress, they should also be honest. Stretching the truth will come back to haunt you during interviews.

Example Application of Action Words

Let’s examine how action words can transform a typical resume bullet point:

Before: Responsible for managing a team and coordinating projects.

After: Led a high-performing team and orchestrated project coordination, resulting in the successful completion of all deliverables ahead of schedule.

The difference is clear. Action words add depth, energy, and clarity to your accomplishments. They breathe life into your resume and help employers visualize your contributions.

Beyond Generic Action Words: The STAR Technique

While action words significantly enhance your resume, the STAR technique takes your accomplishments to the next level. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Each bullet point in your work experience should follow this structure:

Situation: Describe the context or challenge you faced. Task: Explain what your role was and what needed to be done. Action: Detail the steps you took, including the action words. Result: Quantify the outcomes of your actions.

Let’s apply the STAR technique to a bullet point:

Situation: The team faced declining sales and needed a strategy for improvement. Task: As the sales manager, I was responsible for turning this situation around. Action: I conducted a comprehensive market analysis, identified key trends, and devised a new sales strategy. Result: Within six months, our team reversed the declining trend, resulting in a 15% increase in sales revenue.

The STAR technique not only incorporates action words but also tells a compelling story of your achievements, making your resume even more captivating.

Tailoring Action Words to Your Field

Action words should be tailored to the specific requirements of your field. Here are examples of how action words can be customized:

1. Technology and IT Roles: Roles in technology often require problem-solving and innovation. Action words like “developed,” “programmed,” “debugged,” and “optimized” are highly relevant.

2. Sales and Marketing: For roles in sales and marketing, words like “generated,” “captured,” “convinced,” and “pitched” can effectively convey your skills.

3. Management and Leadership: Leadership positions benefit from words such as “directed,” “coordinated,” “motivated,” and “strategized.”

4. Research and Analysis: Roles that involve research and data analysis can use words like “investigated,” “examined,” “evaluated,” and “interpreted.”

5. Customer Service: Customer-oriented roles can use words like “assisted,” “supported,” “resolved,” and “responded” to showcase their skills.

6. Finance: The finance sector values skills related to budgeting and analysis, so action words like “audited,” “forecasted,” “analyzed,” and “calculated” are pertinent.


Your resume is a dynamic reflection of your professional journey. Using action words, you can breathe life into it, making it engaging and compelling for potential employers. Employ action words not just as an embellishment but as a strategic tool to convey your skills, competencies, and achievements. Remember that action words should be accurate, relevant, and tailored to your field. With the right action words, your resume becomes a powerful tool to communicate your potential, leaving a lasting impression on hiring managers.

The choice of words may seem like a minor detail, but it’s often the minor details that make the most significant impact. Make your resume count with action words that communicate your qualifications, experiences, and ambitions effectively. Your next career move may be just a few action words away.

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