Your words can either be an asset or a liability.
An asset because they have the power to achieve the desired effect on certain people and sway a person’s views. Or a liability because it could do the opposite by downgrading the impact of the message you’re trying to communicate.
It’s the same for your resume.
Weak action verbs on a resume make your skills and experience less meaningful. In reality, you might have what the company is looking for except it doesn’t quite come off that way.
To prevent this mistake, we’ve researched precisely 102,944 resumes and made a list of the top 30 weakest verbs to avoid. We’ve also made a list of alternatives to use, including examples for different industries.
Let’s get started, shall we?
What Is a Resume Action Verb?
Action verbs are words that portray what the subject of a sentence is doing physically or mentally.
But we’re mainly talking about resumes here. So in this context, it implies work-related activities or behaviors. In the following sentence, “I designed websites for small businesses”, the action verb would be the word “designed”.
The purpose of a resume action verb is to show how you carried out a job responsibility. It adds more value to your contributions by highlighting the impact you’ve made.
What Is a Weak Action Verb?
A weak action verb on a resume is a verb that is vague, overused, or does not paint a clear picture of what you’re doing or show any accomplishments in your previous roles, such as: worked with, studied, tired, explained, and show.
To create a more impactful resume, it's important to use strong and specific action verbs that clearly communicate your achievements and contributions. Here are some examples to illustrate the difference between weak and strong action verbs:
- Weak Action Verb: "Responsible for managing a team of employees."
- Strong Action Verb: "Led a team of employees, achieving a 20% increase in productivity within six months."
- Weak Action Verb: "Helped with customer inquiries."
- Strong Action Verb: "Assisted customers by resolving complex inquiries and maintaining a 98% customer satisfaction rate."
Top 30 Weakest Action Verbs Based on 102,944 Resumes
These are the verbs to avoid at all costs if you don’t want to send a bland resume to your employers. Using any of these to start your sentences won’t win your reader’s attention nor keep them engaged.
Anyhow, we’ve analyzed over 100,000 resumes from a range of different industries. Of all those applications, we compiled a list in the infographic below of the top 30 weakest action verbs.
Why Are These Action Verbs Weak?
The top 3 weakest action verbs from the list are:
Now, why is each of these bad?
It’s because they’re incredibly vague and unclear. It doesn’t say or show much about what you’re truly capable of. Same thing for the rest of the verbs listed in the infographic.
Alright Then… What Are Strong Action Verbs for a Resume?
Well, there’s a lot of different verbs out there that you could use for your resume. But we’ll start by giving you alternatives for each of the weak action verbs listed earlier.
Here’s some suggestions:
More Powerful Verbs for Resumes
Good Resume Action Verb Examples for Different Industries
Let’s dive a little deeper by looking at examples of action verbs for different industries.
However, it doesn’t mean the words suggested are limited for use in that particular sector. As long as they’re written in the right context (which we’ll get into a bit later), they can be used for all sorts of job positions.
We’ve taken a range of action verbs from this library of 300+ optimized resume samples.
Action Words for Design
Action Words for Finance
Action Words for IT
Action Words for Marketing
Action Words for Software Development
How to Use Action Verbs in a Resume
Each of your how many bullet points per job on resume should start with an action verb. It hooks recruiters in by getting straight to the point, which immediately highlights the importance of the role you played. Prove your level of skill and expertise through the actions you’ve taken.
Plus, it makes your efforts and accomplishments carry more significance. Not only did you “share a business report”. You also “interviewed” and “collaborated” with other experts.
With that in mind, follow the steps below to write a more compelling resume.
1. Don’t Be Vague
Ambiguous sentences don't paint a picture in your reader’s mind let alone make an impact.
Vague words won’t help readers understand the point you’re trying to make. They don’t really mean anything and don't say much about you.
The solution? Be specific. Look at it as either you did or you didn’t. There’s no in-between.
Playing it too safe by trying to stay in the middle ground makes you come off as doubtful or uncertain, which makes your application less convincing. So instead, use words that demonstrate exactly what you did and how.
2. Avoid Generic Words
Nothing’s entirely wrong with using generic words. The only issue is that everyone uses them.
Hiring managers have seen these same words over and over again. If you use them like everyone, it might make you seem like everyone else too. Meaning that you’re not too different from other candidates.
And that makes it difficult to stand out.
Try to use less generic words by expanding your vocabulary. Or at the very least, try to use them in a different way.
3. Ensure Verbs Are Written in the Right Context
Don’t make the mistake of using a word in a sentence where it doesn’t belong.
It might be tempting to include a random verb because it sounds smart and looks cool but it has to make sense. When it doesn’t fit into the context of the point you’re making, not only will it not make sense. It won’t flow well. The same concept applies to including resume keywords too.
Read through each of your bullet points carefully as you’re proofreading and how to edit resume. Double-check the definition of words or phrases you’re not entirely sure of. Look at examples of how they’re used in a sentence to ensure you’re using them correctly.
Ask a friend or family member for their opinion too. They might offer a suggestion on how to rephrase a point that doesn’t seem as clear as it could be.
4. Make Your Sentences Results-Oriented
Your sentences don’t revolve around the verb. It revolves around the outcome of the verb and what the action has led to.
Action verbs are used to showcase your skills and what to write in a resume for work experience. Think of them as a way to complement your achievements. It boosts the significance of previous job duties you carried out and creates a stronger sense of accountability.
Making your sentences results-oriented is an effective way to position yourself. Those who can prove they’re capable of helping companies reach their goals are usually the most desirable.
Common Wording Errors: Here’s What Makes a Weak Resume
Aside from choosing bad action verbs, there are common mistakes on resumes that can lead to a weak resume such as:
• Filler words
• Generic buzzwords
• No keywords
• Lack of emphasis on impact
Filler words are extra words in a sentence that aren’t necessary. It doesn’t convey any real value since it doesn’t offer any new information. They’re only used to fill the space on a resume.
Here’s some examples:
• Responsible for
• Tried to
• I was responsible for
See what words and phrases could be removed as you’re reviewing your application. Another option is to cut them down by finding an alternative word that has the same meaning.
Overused resume buzzwords are distracting. They’re even annoying and irritating to the core for some employers.
Sending a resume full of clichés in the first place is one of the top reasons why applicants get rejected. Be wary of the nuances behind the meaning of some words and phrases. If you can be more specific rather than summarizing a whole point with only one word, do just that.
We’ve also analyzed the top 30 most overused buzzwords from 100,000+ resumes resume buzzwords to avoid.
No resume keywords, no invitation for a job interview.
Most companies don’t have time to review hundreds or thousands of resumes individually. To narrow down the options of who to interview, they’ll use what’s known as an applicant tracking system (ATS). All that’s needed to get past this is to ensure you’re mentioning the right keywords the system’s looking for.
How do you know what those keywords are? The long way is to refer to the company’s job description. The faster way is to use a resume keyword scanner.
Lack of Emphasis on Impact
Anyone can list what they’ve done throughout the day.
Listing your day-to-day responsibilities lets employers know what you’re familiar with. However, it won’t effectively help them determine what sets you apart from the other candidates. What will though is seeing the impact you’ve made. That means showcasing the results of the responsibilities you carried out.
Good action words can help you create this impression. This is especially important for manager and executive resumes.
Use an AI Writer to Easily Avoid Weak Resume Action Verbs
There are different ways to phrase your sentences.
One sentence could put more emphasis on one thing whereas the other sentence could put more emphasis on another. In terms of writing a resume, good phrasing alongside good action verbs makes each of your bullet points pack more of a punch.
But what exactly is the best way to phrase your points and ensure you’re not using any weak action verbs?
Well, for one you could read through your application again and then edit it carefully…
The other option to complete your resume faster is to use an AI writer so that it automatically:
• Generates sentences for you following the best practices
• Tailors your resume to the company’s job description
• Includes keywords naturally
If that seems interesting, you can sign up here for free to get started with an AI writer at no cost.
Or if it seems too good to be true (we don’t blame you), watch the short clip below to see how it works.
Clarity Is More Important Than Trying to Sound Smart
Action verbs are a writing tool. They help recruiters get a clear understanding of where you excel and what you’ve achieved throughout your career.
Good words alone won’t guarantee a powerful resume. It’s also about how you use them to highlight your accomplishments and relevant experience. While some verbs provide more clarity than others, they’re misleading when used incorrectly.