Resume Vocabulary

!!! Active verbs act.

The Value of Simplicity and Clarity

If you want people to read your CV, your language must be simple and clear:

  • Use short words and short sentences.
  • Do not use technical vocabulary, unless you are sure that the reader will understand it.
  • Talk about concrete facts ("I increased sales by 50%"), not abstract ideas ("I was responsible for a considerable improvement in our market position").
  • Use verbs in the active voice ("I organised this exhibition"), not passive voice ("This exhibition was organised by me"). Generally, the active voice is more powerful, and easier to understand.

The Power of Action Verbs

Certain words are used frequently by recruiters in their job descriptions. You can study recruiters' advertisements and job descriptions and try to use these words in your CV and covering letter.

The most powerful words are verbs. And the most powerful verbs are action verbs. (Action verbs describe dynamic activity, not state).

  • verbs of action: sell, manage
  • verbs of state: be, exist

So you should use plenty of action verbs matched to your skills, and use them in the active form, not the passive form. Which of these two sentences do you think is the more powerful?

  • active form: I increased sales by a hundred percent.
  • passive form: Sales were increased by a hundred percent.

British / American English

There are sometimes differences between British and American English and conventions. Here is a guide to some of the most important differences for your CV/resume and covering letter. But remember, this is a guide only - there are no strict rules. For example, some British people like to use "American" words, and some American people like to use "British" words.

British American
CV/curriculum vitae resumé
covering letter cover letter
covering letter
Standard paper size:
A4 (210 x 297 millimetres)
Standard paper size:
Letter (8 1/2 x 11 inches)
Mrs Ms
Dear Sirs Gentlemen
Yours faithfully Yours truly
Yours sincerely Sincerely
Sincerely yours
Yours truly
Managing Director (MD) Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
General Manager
date format: DD/MM/YY
example: 30/12/15
30 December 2015
date format: MM/DD/YY
example: 12/30/15
December 31st, 2015
labour labor

List of Action Verbs for Resumes