If you’re in the job market (or you might be soon) it’s worth taking a fine-tooth comb to the verb choices on your resume. And while humility is a valuable soft skill that conveys emotional intelligence in the workplace, it has no place on a document highlighting your career accomplishments. Your resume is your one brief shot to stand out among hundreds of other candidates, and it needs to be filled with powerful action verbs that convey agency and impact — not those that put you in a “helping” position.
Why you shouldn’t say you “helped”
Recruiters and hiring managers may receive hundreds of applications for the same position. According to a 2018 “Eye Tracking” study conducted by Ladders, Inc., “The average initial screening time for a candidate’s resume clocks in at just 7.4 seconds.” With such little time to make an impression, it’s imperative your work achievements leap off the page. Using weak or passive verbs (think: assisted, utilised, contributed, held) can “undermine the strength and effectiveness of your resume” and cause an HR manager to toss your resume quicker than you can say you “participated in best-of-breed initiatives.”
Why you should use powerful action verbs instead
In an Instagram post, Brooklyn-based tech recruiter Alicia Whitney implored job seekers to “stop downplaying” the important things they’ve done in their careers and gave examples of “verbs to use on your resume instead of ‘helped’ or ‘assisted’ because you did way fucking more than that…We often naturally undercut ourselves and downplay our accomplishments, but your resume is the time to brag.”
Among her top picks were: Executed, overhauled, identified, produced, instituted, incorporated, achieved, delivered, partnered, spearheaded, analysed, incorporated, completed, advocated, and resolved. She emphasised that this was only a short list, but a quick Google search on “verbs for resume” would yield thousands of results. (It did, and our favourites include: Developed, launched, boosted, leveraged, chaired, enacted, established, outperformed, supervised, and pioneered — among countless others.)
Indeed echoed the sentiment, saying not only do action verbs help the application shine, “They can also help job applicants get past software scanners that filter for the top candidates.” Consider this example:
Lacks strength and clarity: “Held weekly status meetings to share client updates.”
Empowered and detailed: “Spearheaded weekly status meetings to communicate agency revenue growth.”
The switch to a power verb and more detailed description (with facts, data, numbers, and symbols like ‘$’) make the contribution sound stronger and more impactful. Because why say that you “handled daily activities and long-term projects” when you could say that you “leveraged key data points to boost monthly sales by $10,000”?
A note on verb tense
It’s also important to maintain a consistent verb tense throughout. Past tense is acceptable for all verbs, though you can describe your experience in a current job using present tense. Be sure not to mix and match verb tenses within a single set of bullet points — all verb tenses should agree for any given role.
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