It can be tougher than it looks to sum up your leadership expertise in a resume. What’s the best way to describe your leadership style without sounding as though you’re bragging? Are certain verbs more effective than others? Which words do human resources professionals want to see on resumes? How can these words, like our actions, speak louder on our behalf?
I pooled a few HR pros to get their take on the eight best leadership verbs for any resume. Here’s why including these verbs gets your resume noticed by all the right higher-ups in an organization.
This verb was an extremely popular choice with the HR professionals I spoke to, including certified resume writer Kelly Donovan. The verbs you choose for your resume must be strong, according to Donovan.
“They bring your experience to life, engage your reader, and convey the leadership traits you want to be known for,” Donovan said.
Built is one such verb that does it all. Using it allows applicants to talk about they have created or grown. This may include anything from building a division, new stream of revenue or a new program within their department or company.
Doesn’t looking at this verb already make you feel invincible? This is another one of Donovan’s favorite verbs to include on a resume.
Donovan loves it because it shows that the applicant strongly advocated for an idea, project, or program within your organization. And, like a true superhero, they were able to find success in doing so.
“Being able to sell concepts within a matrixed organization is a critical skill today,” Donovan said. “Leaders need to be able to get buy-in from their teams and pair it with a successful outcome.”
Debra Boggs, executive resume writer and co-founder of D&S Professional Coaching, recommends using the verb “collaborate” on candidate resumes. Why? Boggs says that it shows you can work well with others. It’s also a stronger verb to use than the standard “worked with” or “communicated with” often spotted on resumes.
Adrienne Tom, certified executive resume master at Career Impressions, advocates for using compelling verbs like “generated” on resumes. Tom notes that results speak louder than simply listing off bulleted tasks or duties.
“Employers read resumes to decipher 'What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)' if they hire a candidate.” Tom explained. “They need proof of results to support the decision. Candidates that have held leadership positions should use a verb like ‘generated’ in their resume to kick off valued-enhanced statements centered on big business wins.”
This simple verb can be incredibly effective in conveying leadership through resumes, according to Donovan. Using “led” better highlights someone with leadership qualities than verbs like “managed” or “directed."
Donovan’s only major rule of thumb to follow? Use this verb in small doses.
“Led is a good verb to use as long as you don’t use it too frequently, like having consecutive bullets or sentences that start with ‘led.’”
Steph Cartwright, certified professional resume writer and founder of Off The Clock Resumes, is a big fan of dropping in the verb ‘owned’ in resumes. Cartwright recommends using it to replace less impactful phrases like “responsible” instead, as it better demonstrates action and impact.
According to Donovan, “spearheaded” has the best impact when it is used sparingly. No more than once or twice in a resume is effective due to the verb’s dramatic nature.
“This verb conveys a sense of you leading the charge on an initiative,” Donovan said. “Using the verb ‘spearheaded’ is a great way to take ownership of the success on initiatives you deserve most of the credit for.”
Unanimously, Boggs, Donovan and Tom all agreed that there is one must-include verb to show off your leadership skills in any resume. That verb is… Transformed!
Boggs recommends using this word over a verb like “improved” to show the impact you had on an organization.
For Donovan, everything around this verb is an excellent conversation starter.
“Transformed is a great way to talk about how you successfully led positive change within a department, division or team.”
Don’t forget numbers!
This article may be about the value that leadership verbs bring to resumes, but remember that verbs are only one part of the equation. Donovan says the other part is about results achieved in past leadership roles.
“Whenever possible, quantify the results with a number," Donovan said. “Even if some results can’t be measured with numbers, you can still make it impressive by highlighting what had to be overcome to achieve it, or the benefit of the outcome you achieved.”