That interview just isn’t ‘to be’.

With all due respect to Shakespeare, ‘to be’ plays little role in landing interviews for that job you want.

No, it’s all about ‘to do.’

When viewing your resume, employers want to see your values, skills, and experience demonstrated through specific actions you have taken and tasks you have accomplished—not just titles you have held.

Take, for example, the case of an engineer looking to move up to a supervisory position. In his resume’s ‘Experience’ section, he might have written something like, ‘Design for new automotive engine.’ (I have seen resumes with bullets like this.) What does this statement tell us about the job seeker as a supervisory candidate? What does it say about the skills and strengths that might suit him well for the job?

Not much. It just tells us that he was there doing … something … related to the engine design.

Starting an experience section bullet point or sentence with a noun often makes for a weak point, indeed. Does reading ‘Design for new automotive engine’ invoke any strong action image in your mind?

How about ‘Designed a new automotive engine’? Does that call up a picture? To me, it does.

Thanks to the simple change of the first word from noun to verb (‘Design’ to ‘Designed’) alone, I now at least picture the candidate taking action—rolling up his sleeves, taking responsibility, and designing the engine.

But can we do even better?

What if that engineer had written instead, ‘as part of design team, conceived and drafted plans for new, more fuel-efficient throttle system,’ or ‘suggested to team leader new design that reduced emissions by 20%’? What does that tell us?

To me, it suggests strong analytical and creative thinking (when he designed the new throttle system) and initiative (when he drafted the plans and made suggestions to the team lead). It suggests he took action and got things done—and tells us exactly what he got done, allowing us to picture his work in our head clearly and decisively.

Pairing specific details with precise, powerful action verbs (that is, verbs other than forms of ‘to be’) brings your experience to vivid life in the employer’s mind before they even meet you. It impresses them. And if they are impressed, they are curious. And if they are curious, they just might call you in for a job interview.

But what if you are looking to advance in some field other than engineering? Or if you are just starting out and don’t think you have done anything that impressive? (You have, by the way. Trust me!) Can simply rewording your resume’s experience section by adding details and action verbs really make a difference?

Try it. Think of moments or even ‘little’ accomplishments that you remember with pride and/or that coworkers, customers, and supervisors might have complimented you on. (For more on that, see my ‘Compliment Bucket’ article.) Then, weave one or two of those feats into the description, pairing them with verbs that conjure up images of you doing something.

Now take a step back. Look at the description as an employer would.

Would you want to talk to the person with that resume?

Experience alone impresses. But, expressed in the right words, it amazes.


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Keywords: resume writing, cover letter writing, job search