Action Words for Applications


Using active, positive words (these are normally verbs) in a CV or in an application form can give it additional impact and make a stronger impression on potential employers. Use action words (also called buzz words) to put over what you have achieved in vacation jobs or posts of responsibility - not just the tasks you have carried out.

For example, rather than writing:

"For my final-year project, I had to carry out a survey of patients' attitudes to health care services for the elderly. This involved interviewing patients in hospital and in their homes. A database was used to keep track of data collected. This project was finished on time and was awarded a 2.1 grade."

You should instead write:

"Devised and prepared a survey of patients' attitudes to health care services for the elderly as my final-year project. Interviewed 70 elderly patients and obtained a substantial amount of data. Created a database to analyse and interpret this material. Completed this project three weeks ahead of schedule and achieved a 2.1 grade."

The first example starts with a number of weak and passive verbs (in red) whereas the second example contains strong targeted active verbs (again in red) such as devised and created which suggests a person who has initiative and takes action.

Action words help to give an impression of a positive, motivated person who knows how to present themselves in a businesslike way and will be likely to succeed in a variety of work areas whereas passive verbs such as had to and went suggest the opposite.


Line up the action words to win some (virtual!) money.

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Don't try to use them all at once - but they will help to offer some ideas for a more dynamic CV

Planned Devised Achieved
Developed Liaised (spell it right!) Evaluated
Supervised Co-ordinated Managed
Administered Controlled Selected
Created Instructed Negotiated
Designed Researched Analysed
Discovered Recommended Tested
Diagnosed Budgeted Monitored
Evaluated Examined Assessed
Promoted Sold Advised
Selected Trained Taught
Explained Presented Conducted
Distributed Organised Solved
Represented Persuaded Calculated
Completed Arranged Responsible for


Admissions advisers at the University of Hertfordshire drew up a list of the 10 top words to make a good impression in applications.

The top ten words to make a good impression

  • Achievement
  • Active
  • Developed
  • Evidence
  • Experience
  • Impact
  • Individual
  • Involved
  • Planning
  • Transferable skills

Ten words to make a poor impression

  • Always,
  • Awful
  • Bad
  • Fault
  • Hate
  • Mistake
  • Never
  • Nothing
  • Panic
  • Problems


What action verbs do you like to see in CVs?

(The bigger the word, the more times it was suggested by recruiters.)
From the Orange County Resume Survey by Eric Hilden

action verbs employers liked

What action verbs should be left off CVs?

(The bigger the word, the more times it was suggested by recruiters.)
Also see the most overused buzzwords on LinkedIn

action verbs disliked by employers

Also see our Application and Interview Pages ..... and ..... CV and Covering Letter Examples Home Page