Add some BAM, POW, and ZAP with powerful action verbs for your CV

As the world gets smaller and our lives get increasingly busy, it's far too easy to flit from one thing to the next, quickly and without much thought. There's just so much to distract us! What with mobile phones pinging, brightly coloured adverts flashing up on the screen, or the latest dance craze on TikTok, you'll agree that it's far too easy to get distracted… especially if what you're trying to focus on doesn't grab your attention straight away.

It's the same story for recruiters and hiring managers.

If they cast an eye over a CV, and can't immediately see why the applicant would be right for the position they're hiring for, chances are, they'll move swiftly on to the next candidate. And they typically make this choice within just six seconds of viewing a CV.

But don't worry. The career experts at TopCV are here to explain how job seekers can craft a compelling CV full of action verbs that will catch a recruiter's eye. The first step? Knowing what action verbs are, and how you can use them to make an impact. Read on to discover the best kind of action verbs for your CV.

Choose action verbs for CV success

Bam! Pow! Zap! Whilst we don't suggest dotting your CV with the kind of words that you'd read in comics, we do suggest turning to their action-packed counterparts: verbs.

As you're taught in school,  verbs are “doing” words. They're the word in a sentence that describes an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. And they come in pretty handy when you're drafting a CV, because you can use them to show off all the things that you've done and achieved. And what is your CV if not a record of everything that you've accomplished? 

Think about it. Would you rather write a CV that simply explains how long you worked on certain projects, or have a CV that demonstrates how you took charge, hit targets, and achieved deadlines? 

We hoped you'd choose the latter. And you're right.

Here's a list of popular and general action verbs that will certainly come in handy when you have a go at writing your CV:




















Here's an example from the key achievements of an Operations Manager:

  • Enhanced collaboration and networking between business functions, resulting in faster processes

Of course, some action verbs do better than others at communicating hard and soft skills to a hiring manager or employer.

For instance, some helpful CV action verbs that convey analytical skills include:











A Business Analyst should know all about being analytical, so here's a way of expressing an achievement using action verbs for a CV:

  • Analysed data and recommended changes that led to a significant improvement in sales of 11% against target, a market share of 3.5% versus target, and a substantial rise in distributor profitability

Some action verbs that show off communication skills include:











Check out this example from a Journalist's CV:

  • Conceptualised and wrote the department's first major LGBT+ print travel feature, on Pride culture in South America

Leadership skills can be conveyed with action verbs such as these below:














Below is an extract from a Marketing Lead CV:

  • Achieved a 70% conversion rate of customers purchasing AppleCare+

Finally, these action words are helpful for portraying creative skills:











Here's a key achievement from a CV for a Graphic Designer:

  • Designed What is Magazine, Better Digital Photography, Camcorder User, 4x4 Monthly and LandRover Magazine from scratch by styling the text, sourcing images, and creating the page artwork

Active verbs versus passive verbs

Now let's take it up a notch. If using verbs helps you to show off what you've done, choosing active sentence structures over passive ones will help you to add that additional “wow” factor that will really get your CV noticed.

Both passive and active sentences use verbs, but in active sentences, the subject of the sentence is the thing that “does” the action. In passive sentences, the subject is the thing that has the action done to them. Here are two ways of writing the same sentence:

Passive: The project was completed before the deadline and the targets were exceeded

Active: I completed the project before the deadline and exceeded my targets

Which one do you think makes the writer sound like a problem-solving hard worker?

Let's look at another example:

Passive: The profit margins were increased by 10%

Active: I increased the profit margins by 10%

So, active or passive - which one would you rather be? In the world of work, you can either sit passively while things happen to you, or you can be a real go-getter who makes the most of any given situation. Take action and take charge of your career like the superhero you are. The choice is yours.  

Your CV… starring you

So, what does using action verbs on a CV portray about you to hiring managers and employers? Well, it says a lot of things, including:

  • You take ownership of your achievements

  • You're confident in your abilities

  • You're proactive (this one is particularly pertinent if you're a self starter applying for a leadership position)

It also shows how fantastic your attention to detail is. A well-written CV can speak volumes about your communication and organisational skills in general.

In short, what you say about yourself in your CV will tell potential employers what you're like. But using action verbs and active sentences will help you show them what kind of person you are. It's a little bit sneaky, a little bit subliminal, but it works - 100%.

Tips and tricks

Once you've got to grips with using active sentences and action verbs on your CV, there are a few more steps you can take to make sure your CV or cover letter makes a true impact.

Here are a few tips and tricks to try during your job search.

  • Browse relevant job adverts to see what kind of keywords are being used. Chances are, if industry recruiters spot the same kind of terms and phrases in your CV, they'll think that you're a better applicant for the job because you fit the remit.

  • Learn how to customise your CV for each job you apply for. If you see that employers in your field are looking for a strategic thinker, you can make sure that you include an example of how your strategic thinking has led to positive results. Or if you need to be detail-oriented, show that by submitting a CV that is error-free. 

  • Steer clear of the obvious, boring clichés. So what if you're a “team player” or always “complete your work on time?” Everybody does that - or they should. It's part of pretty much every job, so shout about the achievements that set you apart from the rest.

  • Check your CV for repetition. Those action verbs might start to lose their meaning if you use them again and again. Use the verb lists above if appropriate, or think of some of your own.

Now that you've learnt all about the power of verbs and active phrases, it's time to flex those writing muscles and get cracking with adding in relevant action verbs on your CV. Best of luck!

Incorporating a proportionate amount of action verbs on your CV will ensure you get noticed. If you want to improve your CV even more, check out TopCV's free CV review. Our professional writers know what power words and specific skills will make the strongest impact on HR Managers. Submit your CV today, and we'll tell you where you stand.

This article was originally written by Samantha Emmett and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw.

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