Action verbs in your resume and cover letters increase the strength of your writing and make you sound dynamic to employers.
Luckily, there is no lack of sources for lists of action verbs; you can find them all over the Web (including Quintessential Careers’ Job-Seeker Action Verbs) and in nearly every resume and cover letter book.
Almost as important as using action verbs is avoiding weak verbs:
- Do. Try “conduct,” “perform,” or “orchestrate.”
- Forms of the verb “to be.” Instead of “was,” say “served,” “functioned,” “acted.”
- Work. Everyone works. Be more specific. Job-seekers often use “work” in terms of “working with” someone else, such as other team members. In that context, “collaborate(d)” is often a good substitute.
- Received. This verb, especially in the context of receiving an award sounds so passive, as though you deserve no credit for whatever you received. Always say you “earned” an award or honor rather than “received” it.
Ideas for identifying Resume Keywords:
- Look for job descriptions in books and job-description software.
- Visit the meetings and Web sites of professional associations in your field to look and listen for current buzzwords.
- If you are working with a recruiter or headhunter, that person can be an excellent source of keyword tips.
- Consult government publications such as The Occupational Outlook Handbook at libraries or online.
- Visit company Web sites. See The Quintessential Directory of Company Career Centers
- Imagine you were writing an ad or job description for the type of job you seek; what keywords would you use?
- Research and incorporate into your keywords the company culture and values of employers you are targeting. Read our article Uncovering a Company’s Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers. Note especially the company’s mission statement and look for ways to quote it in your resume and/or cover letter.
- Scrutinize news stories in trade magazines relevant to your work. Read cutting-edge magazines, such as Fast Company.
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