7 Verbs Leaders Need on Their Resumes

Published: May 28, 2019

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It can be difficult to summarize your leadership expertise on your 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 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.

1. Built

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,” says Donovan.

Built is one such verb that does it all. Using it allows applicants to talk about what 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.

2. Championed

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 says. “Leaders need to be able to get buy-in from their teams and pair it with a successful outcome.”

3. Collaborated

Debra Boggs, executive resume writer and co-founder of D&S Professional Coaching, recommends using the verb “collaborate” on candidate resumes because it shows you can work well with others. She also says it's a stronger verb to use than the standard “worked with” or “communicated with” often spotted on resumes.

4. Generated

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 explains. “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.”

5. Led

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. He says, “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.’”

6. Spearheaded

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 says. “Using the verb ‘spearheaded’ is a great way to take ownership of the success on initiatives you deserve most of the credit for.”

7. Transformed

Unanimously, Boggs, Donovan, and Tom all agree 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. He says, “Transformed is a great way to talk about how you successfully led positive change within a department, division, or team.”

Don’t forget numbers

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," says Donovan. “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.”

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.