Producing impact through your words is crucial in a resume. Knowing which action verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to use and how to use them will significantly strengthen your resume. This section will cover all of these points and show you how to bring it together in your resume.

aCtion worDS

A resume should sound alive and vigorous. Using action verbs helps achieve that feeling. “I changed the filing system” lacks punch and doesn’t really indicate if the system was improved. “I reorganized and simplified the filing system” sounds much better and provides more accurate information.

Review the sentences below to get a feel for action words. Then quickly scan the words in the following list and check any you think you might want to use in your resume. Don’t try to force them in; use them when they feel right.

Conducted long-range master planning for the Portland water supply system.

Monitored enemy radio transmissions, analyzed information, and identified enemy strategic and tactical capabilities.

Planned, staffed, and organized the intramural sports program for this 1,200-student college.

Produced daily reports for each trial and made sure documents and evidence were handled properly.

Presented seminars to entry-level secretaries and worked to increase the professionalism of secretaries in the county system.

Improved the coordination, imagination, and pantomime techniques of adults through mime and dance training.

Allocated and dispensed federal moneys to nine counties as board member of the JTPA Advisory Board.

For a more complete list of effective verbs see Appendix B

aCtion VerbS

accelerated constructed equipped interpreted prioritized serviced
accomplished consulted established invented processed settled
accumulated contributed exceeded investigated procured (disputes)
achieved controlled executed launched produced shaped
acquired converted expanded led programmed simplified
acted (as) convinced expedited lifted projected sold
activated cooperated explored lobbied promoted solidified
adapted coordinated expressed lowered proposed solved
adjusted counseled extended maintained proved sparked
administered created fabricated managed provided spearheaded
advised culminated in facilitated marketed purchased specified
advocated cultivated finalized mastered quadrupled stabilized
aligned customized focused maximized raised standardized
analyzed cut followed up mediated realigned stimulated
applied decreased forged mentored received streamlined
appointed delegated forecasted minimized recognized strengthened
approved delivered formed mobilized recommended structured
arbitrated demonstrated fostered moderated reconciled succeeded
arranged designed founded modified recruited supervised
assessed detailed fulfilled monitored redesigned supplemented
assisted determined galvanized motivated reduced supplied
attained developed generated negotiated reevaluated supported
authorized devised grew nurtured refined surpassed
automated diagnosed guided observed regulated taught
awarded directed halved obtained rehabilitated tested
boosted discovered handled offered reinforced took over
broadened distributed headed opened rejuvenated tracked
built documented helped operated remedied trained
carried out doubled identified optimized renewed transferred
centralized drove implemented orchestrated reported transformed
championed earned improved organized represented tripled
clarified effected improvised originated researched troubleshot
coached eliminated increased overcame resolved turned around
collaborated employed influenced overhauled responded uncovered
communicated empowered informed oversaw restored unified
compiled enabled initiated perfected restructured united
completed enacted innovated pinpointed resulted in updated
conceived encouraged inspired pioneered revamped upgraded
concentrated endorsed installed planned revised utilized
conceptualized enforced instilled positioned revitalized validated
concluded enhanced instituted prepared revived verified
conducted enlarged instructed presented safeguarded won over
consolidated ensured integrated prevented saved wrote

 

DeSCribing reSultS with KeY aCtion VerbS

The typical resume merely lists duties and does little else to sell the person. One of the best ways to sell yourself is to describe accomplishments in terms of results. While duties are often represented by phrases such as “Responsible for . . .,” results are frequently conveyed by using the verb developed. For example, one might say, “Developed a manual for administrative assistants that explained hundreds of procedures and significantly reduced clerical errors.” This person’s duties were typing, filing, and answering phones, so to show that she stood above the rest she demonstrated results.

When describing projects and results, one of the best words to use is develop. More than any other word, it seems to be both useful and effective, and it clearly expresses what a person wants to convey. But while develop is an excellent word, when used three or four times in a resume it becomes overworked and loses impact. You’ll need substitutes. The most useful are:

built implemented created instituted designed introduced established set up

Other verbs that may be appropriate substitutes for develop in certain circumstances would be:

composed enhanced installed prepared
constructed fabricated organized produced
coordinated fashioned originated refined
cultivated formed perfected revamped
devised formulated pioneered
elaborated generated planned

Here are examples that demonstrate how to describe results in various situations. In parentheses are words that could have been used instead of develop.

Developed (devised, prepared, produced) a creative financing/purchasing package to obtain 1900 acres of prime California farmland.

Pioneered a mime program for gifted children aged 8–12.

Developed (designed, established) training programs for new and experienced employees and supervised the new employee orientation program.

Set up apprenticeship programs for five skilled trades at the Physical Plant Department.

Developed and implemented an information and referral service for consumer complaints and human rights issues.

Coordinated the company marketing effort, including advertising and promotions.

Another set of action verbs is particularly useful when you are describing a

result and plan to quantify it:
achieved cut doubled eliminated increased produced reduced saved tripled

 

Verb tenSeS

Describe your current job in the present tense. For all previous jobs, write in the past tense. You may need to describe an event in your current job, such as a project, that has already been completed. In that case, use the past tense to describe the project while using the present tense in the remaining portions of your current job.

Example:

Store manager – 6/99–Present. Oversee total operation of the store, supervise and schedule employees, and complete monthly profit and loss statements. Designed a new inventory system, which has saved over $10,000.

Since the inventory system was designed over a year ago, it must be described in the past tense.

uSing aDjeCtiVeS anD aDVerbS

Adjectives and adverbs are words that describe things and actions. Used appropriately, they can enliven a resume and more accurately describe what you did. While adjectives and adverbs can add sparkle to a resume, if overused, they can actually weaken a phrase. Notice how they change the tone of the sentences below. In each example the second sentence has more impact.

  1. Worked with industrial engineers. Worked closely and effectively with industrial engineers.
  2. Initiate and develop working relations with local, state, and federal agencies. Initiate and develop outstanding working relations with local, state, and federal agencies.

3. Establish rapport with customers. Quickly establish rapport with customers.

Here are more examples of how to use adjectives and adverbs effectively:

Dealt tactfully and effectively with difficult customers. Presented technical material in objective and easily understood terms. Consistently maintained high profit margins on projects. Significantly improved communications between nursing administration and staff. Continually streamlined policies and procedures to create a more reasonable work

schedule.

A list of adjectives and adverbs is given below. Review the list and check the ones you think may be useful to you. Try to include them but don’t force it. Don’t use a word or phrase unless it really fits your personality and strengthens your resume. After writing each draft, go back through the list to see if still another word or two might be useful.

aDjeCtiVeS anD aDVerbS

accurate/accurately effortless/effortlessly outstanding/outstandingly
active/actively enthusiastic/ particularly
adept/adeptly enthusiastically penetrating/penetratingly
advantageously entire/entirely perceptive/perceptively
aggressive/aggressively especially pioneering
all-inclusive/all-inclusively exceptional/exceptionally practical/practically
ambitious/ambitiously exciting/excitingly professional/professionally
appreciable/appreciably exhaustive/exhaustively proficient/proficiently
astute/astutely experienced profitable/profitably
attractive/attractively expert/expertly progressive/progressively
authoritative/ extensive/extensively quick/quickly
authoritatively extreme/extremely rare/rarely
avid/avidly familiar with readily
aware familiarity with relentless/relentlessly
beneficial/beneficially firm/firmly reliability
broad/broadly functional/functionally reliable/reliably
capable/capably handy/handily remarkable/remarkably
challenging high/highly responsible/responsibly
cohesive/cohesively highest rigorous/rigorously
competent/competently high-level routine/routinely
complete/completely honest/honestly secure/securely
comprehensive/ imaginative/imaginatively sensitive/sensitively
comprehensively immediate/immediately significant/significantly
conclusive/conclusively impressive/impressively skillful/skillfully
consistent/consistently incisive/incisively solid/solidly
constructive/constructively in-depth sophisticated
contagious industrious/industriously strategic/strategically
continuous/continuously inherent/inherently strong/strongly
contributed toward innovative/innovatively substantial/substantially
decidedly instructive/instructively successful/successfully
decisive/decisively instrumental/instrumentally tactful/tactfully
deft/deftly integral thorough/thoroughly
demonstrably intensive/intensively uncommon/uncommonly
dependable/dependably intimate/intimately unique/uniquely
diligent/diligently leading unusual/unusually
diplomatic/diplomatically masterful/masterfully urgent/urgently
distinctive/distinctively meaningful/meaningfully varied
diverse/diversified natural/naturally vigorous/vigorously
driving new and improved virtual/virtually
easily notable/notably vital/vitally
effective/effectively objective/objectively wide/widely
effectually open-minded
efficient/efficiently original/originally
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