Most people’s attempt to “stand out” with their resume action words look like this:
Candidates are all using the same buzzwords and catchphrases like “results oriented team player” or “passionate growth marketer” that they copied and pasted in a weak attempt to be seen.
Recruiters have been seeing this for years now, to the point where resumes that don’t include these vague buzzwords are actually the ones that stand out.
If you want to make a great first impression that lands you the job interview, you’re going to have to do more than just use some fancy resume action words. You need to understand the science behind weaving those actions words into your resume bullets in a way that immediately grab’s the hiring manager’s attention and conveys your value.
This post has 175+ examples of resume action words you can use to improve your bullets. But it’s also going to walk you through the methodology behind writing great resume bullets so your action words actually get results instead of turning into another frame in that gif at the beginning on the post.
How do I know this works? Because I applied this strategy to my resume which landed me job offers at Google, Microsoft, & Twitter despite having no traditional experience or connections at those companies. It’s also helped people in my audience (just like you) go one to land jobs at Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Amazon, Apple, and more!
By the end of this article, you’ll have an exact framework for writing highly effective bullets that pop off your resume and grab the recruiter’s attention. You can easily skip to any section using these links, but I’d recommend you start from the top down:
- The Data-Backed Strategy For Making Your Resume Pop With Action Words
- 50 Examples of Emotional Resume Words
- 60 Examples of Power/Action Words For Your Resume
- 10+ Action Words To Use If You Managed People
- 10+ Action Words To Use If You Increased Something (Sales, Revenue, Efficiency, or a Specific KPI)
- 10+ Action Words To Use If You Eliminated Issues Or Reduced Problems
- 10+ Action Words To Use If You Spearheaded A Project Or Initiative
- 10+ Action Words To Use If You Designed, Organized, or Planned Something Big
- 10+ Action Words To Use If You Updated, Changed, or Restructured Something
When you’re ready to incorporate these action words into your resume, check out my guide on writing resumes that will actually get you hired.
Most people think that resumes are a summary of their job history, and those people would be very wrong. Resumes are actually marketing “brochures” focused on selling a single product: YOU!
Let’s take a quick step back.
In the world of online marketing and advertising, headlines are absolutely critical. Why?
According to a recent study at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59% of posts shared on social media have never actually been clicked. Another study by the Media Insight Project found that roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week.
A marketer’s post could be amazing, but if they don’t have a great headline, it doesn’t matter. Nobody’s reading beyond that.
Now you may be thinking, how is this at all relevant to my resume?
When something as specific as a headline becomes this important, people begin to study it. Marketers at places like CoSchedule, Neil Patel, and Buzz Sumo have combed through hundreds of millions of data points to discovery exactly what language, format, and tactics lead to the most catchy headline (and thus, more traffic and more money).
The great news for you is that the science behind catching someone’s attention doesn’t just apply to headlines, it works just as well for resume bullets too!
Before we dive into the examples of resume action words and phrases, let me break down the data behind highly effective resume bullets and how they’re written. If you understand that (instead of simply copying and pasting) your bullets will be much more effective and your chances of scoring an interview will increase substantially.
The Anatomy Of A Highly Effective Resume Bullet
When it comes to bang for your buck, the word balance of your resume bullet matters most. Most every word or phrase you’re going to use will fall into one of four buckets:
- Industry-Specific Terms
- Common Words
- Action / Power / Emotional Words
- Measurable Metrics
Combining the marketing data mentioned above with the split tests I’ve run with the job seekers in my audience, resume bullets that grab the most eyeballs (and land the most interviews) are broken down like this:
While marketing headlines tend to be short and sweet, resume bullets need to be a little bit longer to accurately convey your value. Sticking with the balance above will help ensure that you’re not swimming in the same boring buzzwords that appear on everyone else’s resume.
To help you understand exactly how to leverage each word category, let’s break them down with some examples:
Industry-Specific Resume Words
Industry-specific words and phrases add substance to your bullet and prove out your skills. They include the names of tools/platforms, jargon, skills, or other language that specifically relates to the industry you’re targeting.
I work in digital advertising so I’ll share some examples of what that looks like in my industry:
Adding a good mix of these will also increase your chances of matching with terms the Applicant Tracking Software is looking for and getting your resume into the hands of a real person. Because of that, you should aim to have industry-specific terms make up around 45% of your bullet’s word balance.
Common Resume Words
Common words are the ones you use every day. Their purpose is to fill the gaps between your action words and industry terms in a way that make sense for the reader.
Common words should make up about 25% of your total bullet, but you can include more if it improves readability (as long as you’re not sacrificing value from excluding additional industry terms or skills). Aim to use these in your bullet the same way you’d use them if you were speaking.
Here are a few examples of common words:
Now we’re getting to the good stuff! Emotional words catch your reader’s attention and pull them in. This is what keeps reading and get them excited about your experience. Overusing emotional words can make your bullets sound cheesy and unprofessional though, so you only want to use a few of them in each bullet.
Here are some examples of emotional words:
50 Emotional Resume Word Examples
Like emotional words, action words are attention grabbing and authoritative. They will hammer home the value you bring to the table with an air of confidence that the hiring manager can’t ignore. Action words are best used as a punchline so aim for one to two per bullet!
Here are some examples of action words for your resume:
60 Action Word Examples For Your Resume
Finally, measurable metrics are the icing on the cake. Anyone can say they saw a “gigantic increase” or they “rejuvenated the business,” but what exactly does that mean?
Was your “gigantic increase” a 50% increase from five memos sent per month to 10? Or was it closing a deal worth $250,000 that shot you 164% above your quota?
Was your “rejuvenation” slightly increased morale because you secured funds for a few cases of beer at the next happy hour, or did you create a three month plan for developing deep relationships with four separate teams at your client, leading to a stronger relationship and avoiding a canceled contract worth $80,000/month?
Using power words is an awesome way to make your resume stand out, but pairing them with measurable metrics is what’s going to get you hired because it conveys the exact value you bring to the table.
If you’re not sure what measurable metrics you can provide, ask yourself these two questions:
- Why is my company paying me to do this? What result do they want that makes it worth their money?
- How are they measuring success? What metrics or criteria are they using to decide whether I did this thing well?
If you’re not sure about either of those, schedule some time to chat with your manager to get clear on how you’re measured. Chances are good that hiring managers at other companies are using the same criteria for their employees.
Putting It All Together (Real Resume Bullet Examples)
Let’s take a look at examples of great resume bullets that leverage the balance outlined in the previous section.
Our first example focuses on a customer support representative who reworked her company’s ticket triage process to reduce their backlog:
This bullet is a nice length (16 words) and its word balance comes out to:
- 13% Action Words (developed, eliminated)
- 38% Industry Terms (tiered, triage, system, JIRA, ticket, backlog)
- 38% Common Words (that, of, in, less, than, weeks)
- 11% Measurable Metrics (40%, 8)
Our next example is a marketer who leverage customer data to refine targeting on the company’s digital advertising, increasing sales and lowering cost-per-lead:
This bullet is 18 words long and balances out to:
- 17% Action Words (overhauled, comprehensive, shot)
- 39% Uncommon / Industry Related Words (digital, ad, targeting, customer, data, analysis, CPA)
- 33% Common Words (based, on, up, while, dropped, sales)
- 11% Measurable Metrics (37%, 18%)
Both of these examples match our word balance almost perfectly. See how the right information pops off the page and the overall bullet is quick and easy to read? That’s what we’re going for.
Examples of Resume Action Words For Different Skills
Now that you know how to leverage the right word balance, let’s walk through some examples of action words you can use for different skills, jobs, and accomplishments to supercharge your resume.
If you’re a people manager, it’s easy to say “managed a team…” or “led a team…” but that’s what everyone else has on their resume too. If you want to stand out, try swapping in these action words:
If you’re in a “skill position” like sales, marketing, support, etc. then your performance is likely judged on specific metrics. Instead of saying “I helped increase…” or “I drove…” try using these action words to amplify the impact of your results:
On the flip side of skyrocketing sales, many roles specialize in “reduction” — eliminating issues, decreasing expenses, etc. If that’s you, consider using these action words when writing your bullets:
Projects are one of the best ways to convey value in your resume because they let you show off the skills you used as well as the results you saw. Instead of saying “Led an initiative where…” try using these action words to emphasize your accomplishments:
It’s one thing to execute on tasks that someone handed to you, but companies love to hear about candidates who took the initiative to dream up and plan a project or initiative that led to major results. It could be an idea for a new product, a plan to increase customer retention, or a new design to better connect the brand to its customers. Whatever it might be, if you dreamt it, designed it, and planned it, use these action words to describe it on your resume:
Pretty much every company has processes that need to be improved, or things that simply need a complete restructure. If you came in and improved something, made a positive change, or simple changed the way things were done, these are the action words to help you describe it:
Two Additional Marketing Tactics You Can Use To Take Your Resume Action Words To The Next Level
Now you know the general formula for writing effective bullets and you’ve got 175+ resume action words to help convey your value. That’s a great place to start, but there’s still more meat on this bone.
If you really want to take your resume writing to the next level, here are two more data-backed tips that will set you head and shoulders above the competition for your dream job:
Tip #1: Write at least 15 versions of your most important resume bullets
About 5 years ago a site called Upworthy practically invented “virality.” They were the first company to leverage “click bait” headlines and, while click bait is pretty much dead, their advice on creating amazing bullets and headlines is still widely used today.
In their report on The Science of Virality they recommended writing 25 headline variations for each article. Why? Because anyone can come up with one, or five, but once you hit the double digit mark the easy ones are gone. That means you have to get creative, and when you’re forced to think outside of the box, that’s where some of the best results are born.
Check out the 25 headline brainstorm that Garret wrote for a post on the death of Facebook:
Image courtesy of CoSchedule
See how the final third of his headlines are the most unique, creative, and attention grabbing? That’s the idea!
In your case, writing 25 unique resume bullets will be hard so I challenge you to try for 15. Use different phrasing and test out different resume action words. You’ll be surprised at how much better and more creative your resume looks in the end.
Since this process can be time consuming, I’d recommending doing it for every bullet in your resume objective, as well as the first bullet of your last two jobs.
Tip #2: Include links in your resume bullets to highlight your best experience
The days of walking into your company’s local HQ and handing them a folder with your resume are over. Resumes are pretty much 100% digital in today’s job market, which affords us plenty of opportunities to go above and beyond.
When you’re submitting your resume, a PDF version will allow you to include clickable links. While everyone else is competing on their 8.5×11″ pieces of paper, you can send your hiring manager to an amazing resource, case study, or blog post that illustrates just how awesome you are as a candidate.
For example, one student of mine was applying at Giphy and created a fully animated deck to convey 5 unique ideas for monetization:
This is an awesome value-add that she could link to in her resume. One of the most effective ways to make this happen is to use your resume action words plus your measurable metrics as the link text (you can even call out “click here to learn more”). For example:
- Spearheaded an initiative to increase user engagement and monetization through gamification. Our game-based UX system led to a 16% spike in retention (click here to learn more).
This will give your hiring managers a chance to see the “real you” on your terms. Just make sure to remove the “click here” and the link for any physical resumes you bring into their office. You can always print out a version of your value-add deliverable to bring in as well.
Next Steps For Your Resume Bullets & Action Words
If you’ve made it this far down the post, congrats! You’re now armed with all the knowledge you need to write some killer resume bullets. Now your immediate homework is to:
- Re-write your resume bullets using the right word balance from part 1 of this post
- Make sure to include relevant action words and measurable metrics using the examples above
- Write 15 different versions of your most important bullets to ensure they are the best you have to offer
- Get creative with links to resources that illustrate additional value, make sure to include calls to action like “click here to see how we did it”
- When you’re done with all the above, read this guide on writing resumes that will actually get you hired to make sure the rest of your resume is bulletproof and ready to go!
Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he helps people land jobs without connections, without traditional experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, & Fast Company and has helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, & more.