Resume and Cover Letter Action Verbs
It’s always a good idea to use keywords and action verbs in your resume and cover letters. Using the right words not only shows what you have accomplished in previous jobs. These words also help your resume, cover letter, and other application materials get selected by the software and hiring managers who screen your documents.
What Are Resume Action Verbs and Keywords?
From the job seeker perspective, keywords are the words job seekers use to search for available positions.
For the employer, keywords are the terms that hiring managers use to screen resumes and cover letters to find applicants that are a good fit for a job.
There are different types of keywords. Job keywords are words that describe your skills and qualifications. They describe the hard skills you have that qualify you for a job.
Action verbs show your ability to succeed. For example, words like accomplished, developed, managed, and handled describe what you have achieved.
Keywords are used to match an applicant with an available job. The closer a match the keywords in a resume are to a job description, the better a candidate's chances of being selected for a job interview.
Why and How to Include Action Verbs in Your Resume
The keywords in your resume will help you get selected for a job interview. Hiring managers search by keywords to find resumes that match the job qualifications they established when they listed the job.
In addition to listing keywords specific to your occupation (like software or sales skills) include action words that show you what you have accomplished. Rather than just stating a list of duties, include action keywords in your position descriptions.
Here's an example:
- Proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel
- Specialized in product order management
- Helped manage associates on the sales floor
List of Resume and Cover Letter Action Verbs
Review these tips for how to get your resume past the applicant tracking systems employers use, and this list of action keywords to use to get your application noticed when applying for jobs.
Achieved, accomplished, acted, adapted, addressed, analyzed, authored, authorized, assessed, assisted, appraised, amended, advised, allocated, altered, accelerated, acquired, aided, assembled
Budgeted, built, brainstormed, balanced, blended, boosted
Compiled, combined, challenged, chaired, committed, communicated, coordinated, calculated, contributed, commissioned, confirmed, customized, created, challenged, critiqued
Decided, developed, disclosed, documented, discovered, designed, determined, demonstrated, deferred, distributed, directed, devoted, drafted, doubled, diversified, designated, dedicated, discussed
Exercised, expected, earned, elected, engaged, entered, engineered, employed, edited, evaluated, entertained, eliminated, exchanged, ended, estimated, exempted, endorsed, expedited, experienced, enforced, explained
Facilitated, focused, financed, fueled, figured, fit, formed, fortified, functioned, formulated
Guided, grouped, gave, garnered, granted, generated, guaranteed, gathered, graphed
Hired, handled, helped, headed
Improved, identified, installed, inspired, interviewed, issued, invested, illustrated, implemented, incurred, innovated, inspected, invented, interpreted, inaugurated, informed, induced, instilled, incorporated
Judged, joined, justified
Located, lectured, launched, litigated, lobbied, led, listened
Mastered, managed, merchandised, modified, met, minimized, modeled, measured, moderated, motivated, multiplied, marketed, maximized, moved, mediated
Negotiated, noticed, navigated, networked
Operated, owned, observed, oversaw, organized, obtained, oriented
Participated, printed, proposed, pursued, persuaded, perceived, preserved, processed, produced, promoted, planned, performed, pioneered, passed, prioritized, proficiency, provided, profiled, polled, presented, procured, purchased, placed, permitted
Quoted, qualified, questioned, queried
Ranked, resolved, received, rewarded, revised, revitalized, revamped, responded, restored, rejected, reinforced, reinstated, rehabilitated, remedied, redesigned, recruited, recovered, recorded, reduced, replaced, retained, retrieved, reversed, ran, raised, reached, reviewed, researched
Saved, secured, stabilized, scheduled, screened, settled, separated, sent, selected, shaped, shortened, showed, signed, simplified, sold, specialized, staged, standardized, steered, stimulated, strategized, surveyed, supported, supplied, substantiated, set goals, supervised, studied
Trained, tabulated, took, traveled, transformed, tested, transferred, tailored, targeted
Utilized, uncovered, united, updated, undertook, unified, upgraded
Verified, valued, validated, visited, visualized
Witnessed, worked, weighed, wrote, won, welcomed
Lists of Keywords
Read More:Cover Letter Keywords | Resume Keyword Examples | How to Use Resume Keywords
The 3 things every job seeker needs to know about keywords
You need a strategic balance that makes your resume appealing to robots and humans.
When you submit a resume online, you probably feel like you’re sending your materials into a giant maw full of thousands of other resumes—where it will most likely be swallowed by the computer and never seen again.
And you're right.
Today's use of applicant tracking systems means that you absolutely need to use keywords to ensure that your resume gets past the robots, and seen by human eyes.
But the wrong tack on this strategy can backfire. Use keywords effectively with the following tips.
1. Be specific
Broad keywords such as “marketing” or “accounting” don’t tell recruiters and hiring managers much about what you’ve done, says Lisa Rangel, founder and managing director of New Jersey-based Chameleon Resumes.
“You could have had any role within those departments and the reader wouldn’t know which position you held,” she says.
Plus, the system is probably programmed to look beyond those words, since just about everybody applying for a marketing position will have marketing on their resume.
Better move: Find ways to incorporate specific terms or titles. “‘Accounts receivable,’ ‘head of market research,’ or ‘digital media recruiter’ are terms that are more specific and increase possibilities of your resume or profile being found,” Rangel says.
2. Provide context
Michelle Robin of Brand Your Career in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, says she often sees resumes that simply list the keywords under a heading of “core competencies” or “key skills” — but this is a mistake.
“Applicant tracking systems are getting smarter and looking for context,” she says.
Instead, strategically work the keywords into stories. Provide examples of what you’ve accomplished around the keyword.
“When you tell the story, the keywords will fit in naturally,” says Atlanta-based career advisor Jacqueline Twillie.
Robin suggests using the keyword as a lead to an achievement bullet. For example: Process improvement: Eliminated redundancies in training logs and reallocated 8+ hours/month for HR generalist to focus more on partnering with the business.
In this example, the keyword “process improvement” leads to a specific achievement that highlights the applicant’s skills and abilities, boosting the keyword’s relevance and providing information beyond the word itself.
If you do include a keyword in your "skills" section, make sure that skill shows up elsewhere on your resume, says Stacey Sykes of Sweet Resumes in Dallas, Texas. Because the more sophisticated applicant tracking systems check for context, using a keyword only once can be a red flag.
3. Don't overdo it
You can overdo it with keywords, Twillie says. Once your materials get past the computer, they have to get past the first reader (maybe someone in HR) who further narrows the options.
If your resume is so packed with keywords that it’s difficult to understand, you’ll need to cut back.
“To find the right balance, write your resume with keywords and ask a colleague to read it,” she says. “If they don’t understand after reading your resume one time, you need to revise.”