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Job Hunting, Resumes & Cover Letters

Powering Up a Resume: Action Verbs vs. Accomplishment Verbs

Anyone who has refined a resume is probably familiar with the term action verbs. Resumes should be full of them. They make a plain document more powerful, right?

Consider the following example:

“Sue got out of bed, went to the breakfast table and sat down.”

While there is nothing wrong with the construction of this sentence, it lies flat. I could enliven it thus:

“Sue bounded out of bed, skipped to the breakfast table and plopped down.”

“Sue dragged herself out of bed, staggered to the breakfast table and sank down.”

Volumes more information is related.

And yet how many resumes come across my desk (or my desktop) with work histories that start with:

  • Responsible for/ Duties include
  • Helped
  • Made
  • Worked (with)
  • Was
  • Led

After all, what statement gives more UUMPH to a work history?

  • Worked with sales staff on credit issues

-OR-

  • Shared information with sales staff in negotiating and resolving credit issues.

True, one is a little longer—but it says something.

How about this one:

  • Responsible for conducting staff training

-VS-

  • Facilitated staff training, or
  • Trained staff, or
  • Identified need for training, developed curricula, researched, and trained staff

The latter example shows something important: action versus expectation. The first example shows what was expected of the employee; the second example show what the employee really did.

Action goes further than this, however: it is not just about using fancier words. It is about painting a clear picture of the body of work a jobseeker has and the value he or she can add to the employer.

There are many sources for lists of action verbs online. Here are a few:

http://www.quintcareers.com/action_alpha.html

http://rfptemplates.technologyevaluation.com/list-of-action-verbs.html

http://workbloom.com/resume/action-verbs-a-z.aspx

Accomplishment Verbs

I like to break down actions verbs even further. Some words just are so powerful that they can not only say what you did but how beneficial you were to your job. Here’s an example:

  • Doubled  annual subscription revenue in both 2007 and 2008 to $26 Million
  • Lowered company costs by $50,000 the first year through process changes
  • Earned International Association of Workforce Professionals Administrator of the Year in 2010, and Award of Excellence in Leadership in 2011
  • Realized $80 million in cost savings by introducing new organizational structure.

By themselves the verbs don’t do much—but put in context they show fantastic accomplishments.

In short, when empowering your resume, ensure that you are not just showing action, you are also showing accomplishment.

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About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.

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