Helpful Action Phrases

In the hundreds of resumes I have critiqued and rewrote over the past 20+ years, a major short coming I encounter is an ineffective past or present tense action verb starting the accomplishment: such as help, assist or worked with. Each of your accomplishment based statements/ bullet points, must have a definitive, descriptive, strong action verb describing your skill. Where possible, use skills that are out of the norm, that stand out, that are very visual.

  • Use design, develop and deliver or execute, all in one statement. It is perfectly acceptable to use two or three skills to describe the action taken.
  • Conducted needs analysis….., or an orchestra, lol
  • Pioneered the first….. When you initiated it
  • Spearheaded a team of…. Sure beats ‘Led’
  • Trail blazed our company into social media… when breaking new ground, similar to pioneering
  • Facilitated strategic meetings… instead of ‘held’
  • Utilized a full range of services… instead of used
  • Developed and implemented…if you did more than manage something tell what you got your hands dirty doing
  • Revamped outdated training materials…
  • Orchestrated the United Way campaign…think of yourself as a maestro, coordinating various departments then use orchestrate
  • Negotiated 15 labor contracts… use numbers where you can
  • Divested five subsidiary companies from…use your thesaurus

Though most resumes are written from an Action + Result perspective, it is also acceptable to start a bullet point with the verb that defines the RESULT.

  • Reduced/Increased
  • Reversed
  • Divested
  • Strengthened
  • Recovered, etc

Stay away from these weak, say nothing verbs:

  • Handled – too vague, use a more definitive verb. You don’t handle people which is where one usually sees this and if you handled money what did you do with the money?
  • Worked – is too generic and doesn’t evoke any vision of the action you actually did to accomplish the task. Eg) Worked with the team…doing what?
  • Assisted – isn’t the accomplishment or action verb, it belongs at the end of the sentence Eg) Did ABC and D, as part of a team or assisting the VP of HR.
  • Helped – what did you actually help do? what more specific action verb would be more definitive? Managed? Directed? Collated? Fine tuned?

After determining what powerful action verb to use you need to add in a strong result. After the action ask the questions HOW? or SO WHAT? to get the result.

Eg) ‘Managed a team of eight sales reps…..’

HOW? doesn’t work here so use SO WHAT.

“Coached and managed a team of eight sales reps SO WHAT? who trail blazed 10 new territories in eight months, acquiring 150 new clients and increasing revenues 80%.”

None knows better than you what you really did from day to day, so help the reader out and blow your own horn.

Colleen Clarke