Employers are often more interested in what you have done, rather than what you just know. Your actions are a key part of your story we discussed in section 7.7.2. A simple technique for emphasising the
action in your stories is to lead descriptions of your projects, education and experience with carefully chosen
verbs, see section 7.7.4 for examples.
Your actions define your impact, see figure 18.1. What stories you can tell of your actions to date? What verbs best describe how you achieved a result or had an impact? What was the context, action, result and evidence (CARE) we discussed in section 7.7.2 of each (short) story?
By the end of this chapter you will be able to:
- Emphasise your actions when describing your education, projects and experience
- Reflect on
- what skills you already have
- what skills you need to develop
- Demonstrate those skills explicitly and quickly in job applications
Let’s pause here. Insert a breakpoint in your
code and slowly step through it so we can examine the current values of your variables and parameters.
* PAUSE ⏸️
Quickly scan your CV, covering letter or application form for VERBS:
- Where are the verbs?
- Are verbs buried deep in long sections of prose or do they prominently lead descriptions of your activities?
- Have you over-used certain verbs (like
assistedfor example) or been repetitive (like
- How can you increase the variety of verbs you have used (without exaggerating or lying)?
- Which verbs are stronger than others and why?
- Are there any categories of verbs you can’t provide evidence for, such as leadership (see section 18.6) or influencing (see section 18.11)?
- What activities or projects could you do that would help you develop these missing skills?
* RESUME ▶️
Some verbs to demonstrate how you have worked and communicated with others in a team.
attended(but show outcomes)
instructed(if you helped others)
shadowed(e.g. work shadowing)
Verbs to demonstrate your engineering and technical skills.
adapted(e.g. new features)
added(e.g. new features)
analysed(e.g. the requirements)
assigned(e.g. bugs to team members)
automated(e.g. builds and tests etc)
designed(e.g. greenfield software development )
debugged(e.g. brownfield development)
implemented(e.g. an algorithm)
integrated(e.g. different systems)
Some verbs to demonstrate how you have used your initiative and taken the lead:
decided(you’ve had the power to make or influence decisions)
mentored(if you’ve helped by sharing your skills and knowledge)
transformed(you changed something for the better)
Verbs that demonstrate how you have improved a situation by taking responsibility for something:
completed(if you finished something)
increased(make sure you quantify it, see section 7.7.2)
saved(money, time, resources etc)
Verbs that demonstrate your analytical and scientific skills
modelled(in a computational or mathematical sense)
quantified(for example in benchmarking)
Verbs for demonstrating your achievements and honours
selected(you were chosen for something)
Verbs to demonstrate your planning and organisational skills:
produced(making things, not just software)
Verbs that demonstrate how you have influenced and persuaded others:
bought(if you’ve had purchasing power)
illustrated(if you have graphical skills for example)
influenced(could even include social media influencing)
sold(an idea, product or service)
Too long, didn’t read (TL;DR)? Here’s a summary:
Actions speak louder than words, or as suffragette and political activist Emmeline Pankhurst frequently said “Deeds not Words,” see figure 18.2. Your CV needs to emphasise your deeds and actions using words. Those words are
Leading with verbs is a simple but powerful technique that enables you to provide evidence (rather than assertion) for the skills and knowledge you have. Choose your verbs carefully. Which verbs are missing from your CV? These verbs can help you identify gaps in your professional and personal development.