You’ve heard it before: “use action-oriented accomplishment verbs when you build a resume.” It’s solid advice, and you need to do it right to impress employers. But it’s no easy task, and it involves a lot more than just conjuring up a few clever-sounding words.
We’ll show you a proven technique for dealing with this crucial part of your resume (or cover letter), which will be useful throughout your job search.
First, know what your accomplishments are.
As you get started, it’s vital to understand one thing. More than anything else, accomplishments are what employers are looking for on your resume. They’re not interested in the things you did just because they were your job responsibilities. They want to know what your contributions were that helped your team be successful and achieve its business goals.
More to the point, accomplishments tell hiring managers and recruiters three things about you that will get you hired:
- You are clear about who you are and what you can do
- You are focused on the employer’s needs and not your own
- You have a pattern of getting results
Then, choose the right verbs to describe your accomplishments.
Describing accomplishments is the hardest part of the resume for many job-seekers. We’ve all been there, stuck in the weeds, looking for that one right action verb, then trying to make everything else follow. That’s going about things all backwards. But when it happens, your resume loses its sparkle and comes off stilted.
You’ll never make that mistake again if you master this formula for accomplishment verbs:
Accomplishments = actions + results
In other words, accomplishments are the actions you took and the results you achieved through those actions.
And that’s the key: every action verb needs to sync up with a result. You can’t select a good action verb in isolation. Good action-oriented accomplishment verbs are precise, capturing the expertise and unique strengths you applied to a business challenge. And the result describes the positive impact of your actions.
More than anything else, accomplishments are what employers are looking for on your resume. They’re not interested in the things you did just because they were your job responsibilities.
Follow the below four steps to get the right action-oriented accomplishment verbs on your resume. It might sound complicated, but it’s quite straightforward. Here is a proven technique that top-flight job coaches teach their job-seeker clients to ace the job search:
1. List your top challenges
Make a list of the top three challenges you had on your most recent or relevant jobs. Not problems, challenges. Think of it this way. Delivering the goods isn’t easy for any business. Challenges are the things that stand in the way of delivering the goods or making money. They are the things that must be done well, or the job doesn’t get done.
2. Describe the actions you took
Select one of those challenges, and come up with one sentence that describes the things you did to address it. This should come fairly easily, so don’t force it. Use language that would flow naturally when chatting with your coworkers about a job done well.
3. Describe the results of your actions
Next, describe in one sentence what happened for the organization when you did your job well and you were successful in addressing the challenge. Try to use numbers or quantities, and always in terms of business outcomes. That may include generating revenue, saving money or time, reducing scrap/risk/loss, driving growth, serving customers, producing goods, creating customer satisfaction, or generating website traffic.
4. Finally, select a verb that links #2 with #3
If you've come this far, you are already a lot smarter about what employers are looking for on your resume. Now you have the ingredients to bring it all together with the right action-oriented accomplishment verb. Here are a few links to some excellent action verb lists to help you through this last step, especially with mapping what you did to what you accomplished, or including more positive language.
Maybe this turned out to be a little more work than you expected. But it’s that extra effort that usually separates top candidates from also-rans. You now have in your hands one of the techniques perennial winners on the job market use on their resumes and cover letters to land great job after great job.
And be sure to check out our full list of action verbs, organized by skills categories.
Are your resume and cover letter in good shape? Check out our additional resources to get more help with perfecting these crucial documents.