By Kate Lopaze, The Job Network

USA TODAY, January 16, 2018 —

One of the more common phrases you’ll hear from us and others when crafting your resume is, “Show, don’t tell.”

It’s kind of like explaining a joke — if you have to do it, then your audience has most likely missed your point. And keep in mind that your audience is likely reading dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes that say things like, “I’m a natural leader” or “I am detail-oriented.” Anyone can say those things. What they want to see is that you can do those things in a real-life setting. So let’s look at some key words to show, not tell, your leadership skills.

The key element here is using strong, active verbs. You’re doing! You’re succeeding! You’re seizing control! You’re not passive! You’re going for Superman, not mild-mannered Clark Kent here. No matter how forceful you are in person, you won’t get the chance to prove that unless your resume gets past the initial gatekeeper who reads it. Paint a picture with your words and you’ll get to the in-person step where you can wow them with your personality.


If you want to show creativity and innovation, here are words you can use:

  • Transformed
  • Piloted
  • Revitalized
  • Refined
  • Improved
  • Modernized
  • Revitalized
  • Created
  • Originated
  • Devised
  • Implemented
  • Transformed

If you want to show financial leadership, here are words you can use:

  • Streamlined costs
  • Spurred growth
  • Drove growth
  • Negotiated
  • Cut costs
  • Reduced overhead

If you want to show efficiency, here are words you can use:

  • Streamlined
  • Simplified

If you want to show team leadership, here are words you can use:

  • Motivated
  • Coached
  • Led
  • Advocated
  • Supported
  • Mentored
  • Headed
  • Engaged
  • Energized
  • Empowered

If you want to show influential leadership, here are words you can use:

  • Inspired
  • Mobilized
  • Negotiated
  • Influenced
  • Steered
  • Won the support of
  • Lobbied

Vocabulary choices may seem like extra homework, and that five minutes with a thesaurus will do the trick. But really, you should treat it like a chance to make your resume a living document, with real-world examples of the qualities you want your resume reader to see right away. After all, the average resume gets about ten seconds of reading time before the reader either puts it into the “next stage” pile or dumps it in the “next please” pile. Your chance to make an impression is extremely limited, and good word choices will help you stand out from other people in the crowd who may have similar backgrounds or qualifications.

When you’re writing (or revamping) your resume, use these words to come up with more concrete bullet points throughout your resume. Four to six thoughtful, specific examples, combined with these powerful verbs, tell a story much faster and more clearly than six generic bullet points about “responsibilities.” It shows that you have the experience to back up your statements. And in the meantime, you’re not boring the reader with the 47th rendition of “I Have Demonstrated Leadership, Believe Me.” Instead, you’re showing what you’ve done to be a leader.