By Jeff Gillis
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Let’s be honest here…
Who doesn’t love the idea of time travel?
So in order to discuss action verbs, let’s take a step back in time and take you on a little trip down memory lane to a favorite game we all used to play in school.
You remember it…the silly stories where you’d have to come up with a list of words using a form that would ask you for specific types of word, like noun, or adjective, or even a number?
Then you’d take that list of seemingly random words and use them to fill in the blanks in an otherwise normal story..but because you had no idea what the words were being used for, you’d end up with wacky stories about things like the time you babysat 200 purple watermelons, or that time you went to the zoo to see the dancing pizzas with your crazy rainbow Mohawk wearing uncle?
You remember those games!
The great thing about these games was it got you thinking of words in fun and new ways and the more you played, the more outrageous you’d try to make them. If you’d just gone straight to the story and filled it out normally it was pretty much guaranteed that you’d end up with a fairly boring, run of the mill tale.
“Okay, so what’s the darn point Jeff?“
Well in a (perhaps slightly forced…guilty as charged!) roundabout kind of way, this ties into the language that you use on your resumes and cover letters.
Now, we’re not suggesting you start filling out your resumes and cover letters using this exact technique, but what we want you to do is start thinking outside the normal box and expanding your vocabulary using our favorite type of words, action verbs!
Using Action Verbs to Enhance Your Resume & Cover Letter
Verbs are words that help to describe an action, such as ran, threw, jumped, just to name a few. Go ahead, take out your resume and cover letter and take a good look at it.
Can you find all the verbs?
I bet it’s peppered with words like ‘led’ and ‘organized.’ You might even have a ‘spearheaded,’ or ‘delegated’ in there.
Now think back to your last job interview.
How many times did you use verbs in your conversation with the hiring manager? Did you tell them you ‘led’ your team or that you ‘improved’ a method? These are great verbs, but they’re also really really…
Why are they tired?
Because odds are, if you asked for the resume for 50 other job seekers, read the cover letter for 100 other applicants, or even sat through 200 interviews, you’re going to come across these exact same words over and over again.
Instead of using boring old verbs, try using cover letter and resume action verbs (also known as resume action words) instead.
What Are Action Verbs?
What are action verbs? Well, they’re basically verbs on steroids! They’re words that aren’t used as often as the old tried and true verbs we see in resume after resume and rather than simply describing an action, they’re a dynamic and powerful way to describe an otherwise normal activity.
Don’t be. Here, we’ll play another game to make this a little easier to understand.
There’s a bunch of hiring managers in a bar pouring over piles of cover letters and resumes they’ve picked up from past job applicants. They’re so tired from reading the same stuff over and over again that they decide to turn it into a drinking game.
Every time they come across an old and tired verb, the group takes a shot. Verbs that are particularly overused are verbs like ‘motivated’ (take a shot), ‘innovated’ (take a shot), managed (take a shot) and ‘organized’ (take a shot).
Now, go back and look at your resume and cover letter again. How many shots would our tipsy hiring manager barflies take just looking at yours alone? Ouch.
Luckily it’s easy to go through and replace these tired old verbs with action verbs that will help shake up the status quo (and give our tipsy barfly hiring managers a break from their drunken shot fest).
Implementing Your Action Words Correctly
Before we go any further…a few words of warning: you have to make sure you’re using words that are appropriate, not just flashy.
You always want to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants – as long as it’s for the right reasons.
Remember, you want to make a good impression, and turning in a resume or cover letter full of insane verbs just because you want to stand out might get you a job at the silly story factory writing future scenarios, but not many other opportunities.
Be sure to be thoughtful when you use action verbs. Too many and you’ll have a resume that reads like one of those crazy stories we talked about earlier.
It’s okay to leave in a few of the old verbs.
You want to come across as knowledgeable and enthusiastic…not mad.
So how do you know which action verbs to use and which ones to save for your story writing class?
We’ve put together a list of scenarios where you might be tempted to use old tired verbs and followed that with some alternative action verbs.
The Best Scenarios For Using Action Verbs
Go through these scenarios and action verbs lists and see where you can kick your own resume and cover letters up a notch…and then take those some powerful action verb phrases in with you when you sit down face to face for your interview!
List Of 68 Dynamic Action Verbs
(Includes scenario & action verbs you should shy away from)
Scenario: You’re a manager.
Scenario: You work directly with clients.
Scenario: You’re a corporate time/money saver.
Scenario: You’re an innovator.
Scenario: You’re a communicator.
Putting it All Together
See where we’re going with this?
So, take that old resume and that old cover letter and give them a good once over, being careful to identify the “tired” verbs you’ve been using.
Pull out those tired and worn verbs and kick it up with a few well placed action verbs!