career development

Make your CV stand out: use action verbs


Women Returners Mar 26, 2019

If you’ve taken a long career break it could be many years, and possibly even decades, since you last wrote a CV. Don't just redo an old version, as CVs are now written in a very different way.

One of the major changes is the shift from talking about your past responsibilities to highlighting your achievements. Gone are the days when simply describing your previous roles was enough to secure an interview. Now you need to explain what you achieved in previous jobs which made you stand out.

We suggest you aim for 3-5 bullet points for each of your previous roles (and for your career break if you have done any work/volunteering/studying or developed skills in other ways such as relocation).

Beginning your bullet point with an action verb is a great way to start off.

What are action verbs?

These are some examples:

achieved | completed | conducted | implemented | improved | negotiated produced | secured | created | established | launched | developed | organised | revitalised | evaluated | restructured | simplified | drove

Why are action verbs important in your CV?

  • Action verbs describe your past achievements in a compelling way that highlights your strengths and suitability for the role you’re applying for.

  • Action verbs keep bullet points short - particularly important if you have lots of past experience and are trying to keep your CV to the recommended maximum two sides of A4. For example, ‘Delivered XYZ project on time and within budget’, reads better than ‘I was responsible for delivering XYZ project on time and within budget.’

  • Action verbs have more impact. They are specific, strong and powerful. If a recruiter has lots of CVs to sift through, action verbs make your achievements stand out. They also help if employers use applicant tracking software programmed to look for specific words to describe the experience needed for a role.

  • Action verbs help you to be specific in describing what the results of your actions were and how you achieved them.

  • Action verbs can highlight your relevant skills/competencies (see below)

Which action verbs should you use?

  • Scan the job advert and job description, similar job ads in the same industry, and the company's website to see which verbs they use. Describing your past experiences using these words will give you the best chance of making your CV fit the bill.

  • Look at this action verb list which groups action words by skills group. Think about which skills you want to demonstrate - again, matching this back to the skills/competencies asked for on the job advert

  • Don't use the same action verb more than twice. Use an online thesaurus or the action verb list to avoid repetition and keep the recruiter's interest.


About the author

Women Returners

We know that returning to work after a career break can be a daunting prospect. You may be feeling low in confidence, unsure about which way to go, how to get there or whether it’s even possible. We can help.


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