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20 action verbs to power-up your CV

You’ve ‘done’ so much in your career, but how can you really communicate this in a job interview or a CV in a second language? In English the right words are particularly important.

Ben Lloyd-James

Ben Lloyd-James

Ben's been teaching English for over 17 years. He didn't move to France for the cheese and croissants, but he's not complaining.

Anglo-Saxon business resumes and CVs usually allow the candidate the space to explain their roles, their actions and the results. But there’s a fine line between selling the candidate and simply listing their skills and experience. We expect more than just dates and job titles, but recruiters don’t like applications that ‘oversell’.

And they don’t have time to read detailed biographies; they prefer short, concise CVs that demonstrate how well a candidate would fit the role.
So how do you stand out from the crowd, and project your strengths in less that 2 pages of brief, concise sentences?

An important part of the answer is ‘action verbs’ – words that accurately and concisely show what you’ve done. Carefully choosing the right verbs will help you to communicate a general dynamism as well as showing self awareness and knowledge of the job you are applying for.

So with this is mind here’s a useful list of 30 of the most useful action verbs, along with some examples so you can see how you could use them.

Maybe you’ve already noticed that in English we don’t just manage people, but we can also manage processes or projects. It’s a verb we use a lot, so you might want to change it for something less basic

Maybe you’ve already noticed that in English we don’t just manage people, but we can also manage processes or projects. It’s a verb we use a lot, so you might want to change it for something less basic:

To lead, to head, to head up 

To direct, to supervise, to oversee 

To deal with, to handle 

‘Headed the after-market sales team’

‘Oversaw the successful transition to a new platform’

‘Handled all aspects of the relationships with our finance partners’

To lead, to head, to head up  : ‘Headed the after-market sales team’

To direct, to supervise, to oversee : ‘Oversaw the successful transition to a new platform’

To deal with, to handle : ‘Handled all aspects of the relationships with our finance partners’

Or maybe to choose verbs that show how you lead or work with others:

To foster

To encourage

To facilitate

To enable

‘Fostered successful commercial relations’

‘Encouraged team members to develop their skills’

‘Facilitated cooperation between different partners.’

‘Enabled significant improvements in productivity’

To foster : ‘Fostered successful commercial relations’

To encourage : ‘Encouraged team members to develop their skills’

To facilitate : ‘Facilitated cooperation between different partners.’

To enable : ‘Enabled significant improvements in productivity’

Obviously you’ll want to mention your excellent performance:

To achieve, to accomplish 

To increase, to grow

To sustain, to maintain 

To generate 

To enhance 

To accelerate 

To advise 

To coach 

To accompany 

To analyse 

To track 

To quantify 

‘Achieved double-digit growth for 5 successive years’

‘Increased sales volumes year-on year’

‘Sustained cost savings despite difficult market conditions’

‘Generated new business leads’

‘Enhanced production capacity’

‘Accelerated the introduction of new recruitment policies’

‘Advised clients on claims resolution’

‘Coached and mentored high potential junior managers’

‘Accompanied loss adjusters in their decision making’

‘Analysed and approved proposals’

‘Tracked market developments’

‘Quantified the impact of political decisions on markets’

To achieve, to accomplish : ‘Achieved double-digit growth for 5 successive years’

To increase, to grow : ‘Increased sales volumes year-on year’

To sustain, to maintain : ‘Sustained cost savings despite difficult market conditions’

To generate : ‘Generated new business leads’

To enhance : ‘Enhanced production capacity’

To accelerate : ‘Accelerated the introduction of new recruitment policies’

To advise : ‘Advised clients on claims resolution’

To coach : ‘Coached and mentored high potential junior managers’

To accompany : ‘Accompanied loss adjusters in their decision making’

To analyse : ‘Analysed and approved proposals’

To track : ‘Tracked market developments’

To quantify : ‘Quantified the impact of political decisions on markets’

Practice using these verbs by working on your personal ‘elevator pitch’. This is a great technique for improving the way you describe your role and for developing your confidence as well.

Imagine you are sharing an elevator with the employer of your dreams – they are trapped with you for the time it takes to reach their office on the 20th floor. How would you explain your job and your skills as concisely (short and informative) as possible? Can you describe your skills in 1 minute?

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