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An Important Exercise

Verbs are the lifeblood of the page. Action words are the key ingredient, because at the end of the day, people are hired for what they do.

We will begin this page with an exercise.

Cross out every word on the resume except the verbs:

  • What collection of words is left over?
  • How many are there?
  • Are they exciting words on their own?

Thought experiment: would you be happy to just submit only your list of verbs in your job application?

Next step: cross out every word on the resume except the first verb on each line. Repeat the thought experiment.

The action words are the skeleton of your document. As such, they are the most important words to choose.

Here are the results of an Ivy League resume that I found online:

  • Represent
  • Enter
  • Perform
  • Obtain
  • Advise
  • Provide
  • Retrieve
  • Serve
  • Compile
  • Volunteer

It's not the worst I've seen, but not the best either. I don't love it.

No particular word really stands out. Advisor sounds decent I suppose. Provider is alright. "Obtainer" and "Enterer" are strange.

Also, notice how there are only 10 verbs there. This particular resume had several columns and sections in the layout, so it was difficult to fit a lot of content on one page.

10 verbs per page is solid meh territory. For comparison, my resume has 25.

I argue between 20 and 30 carefully chosen, exciting verbs will pack a solid punch.

Here are the verbs on my page:

  • Study
  • Launch
  • Design
  • Form
  • Implement
  • Close
  • Scale
  • Recruit
  • Release
  • Shape
  • Oversee
  • Conduct
  • Acquire
  • Establish
  • Build
  • Hire
  • Lead
  • Apply
  • Design
  • Present
  • Create
  • Execute
  • Manage
  • Assist
  • Graduate

I am, at this moment, mostly happy with the results. I have my own goals to aim for, but the list has good variety, and I think it represents my work skills broadly.

It can be tricky to come up with a good list of verbs that you really like and that are professionally impressive and are also things you have actually done. Do not be discouraged if this process takes a long time.

My Top Five

In my opinion, these are the 5 best resume words:

  • Led
  • Built
  • Designed
  • Started
  • Grew

No good resume is complete without at least one!

Which verbs do you aspire to? Make a list, and search through your job history to find relevant experiences to apply them to.

You might find new experiences that make it onto the page that weren't there before, just because you chose the verb first.

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© 2020 Ryan Prinz