Have you ever been reading a job posting and stumbled across the line, “we’re looking for a highly motivated, driven candidate who can take initiative?” Probably — but what do those words actually mean?
Ignore the buzzwords in the job ad. Recruiters want to see facts, not opinions, which means it isn’t enough to just say that you’re driven. Because it’s a soft skill, you need to do more than just pay lip service — you need to prove it.
Wondering exactly how to do that? Let this guide walk you through it.
The step by step guide to showing initiative on a resume
- Brainstorm any time you’ve shown initiative at work. Did you lead a project? Suggest a new strategy? Seek out and share best practices with your team?
- Read over the job description. Target your resume by matching at least one accomplishment to every key responsibility listed.
- Keep the focus on what you did by starting with a strong action verb. Use an action verb that emphasizes your initiative or drive skills, e.g. "Spearheaded", "Drove" and "Directed" are all good action verbs.
- Next, emphasize the benefit to the company by including hard numbers and metrics.
- Use our free resume scanner which will tell you if you've shown enough drive and initiative on your resume.
Here’s an example of how to structure bullet points on your resume and emphasize skills like initiative and drive:
How to say you take initiative on a resume
In your work experience section
The best way to prove that you’re driven is to highlight accomplishments that show drive and ambition. Choose examples from when you have:
- Led a team or project
- Manage other employees
- Suggested or spearheaded a new initiative
- Identified and solved a problem
- Sought out professional development and passed it on to your team
- Gone above and beyond what was required
- Earned a promotion
Here’s an example of what that might look like in your work experience section:
Your work experience section can also include examples from self-employment, freelance work, or side hustles. Here’s an example:
In a projects section
Creating and following through on projects is another great way of showcasing initiative. As long as they’re relevant to the specific job you’re applying for, personal or academic projects can be used to shore up any skills missing from your formal work experience.
In an additional resume section
Extracurricular activities and volunteer work can be used to showcase drive and ambition on a resume
Find out if your resume shows initiative and drive
A good way to find out if you’ve shown initiative and drive through your work experience accomplishments, projects section or additional section is to upload your resume to the tool below — it’ll let you know if you’ve shown initiative as well as other soft skills such as problem solving, teamwork and adaptability.
Skills that show initiative
Not sure exactly what recruiters are looking for when they ask for candidates who show drive and initiative? Here are some specific skills to highlight on your resume:
- Work ethic
- Problem solving
- Conflict resolution
- Ability to work without formal direction
- Setting your own goals
- Acting decisively
- Adapting quickly to change
- Anticipating business needs
Like drive and initiative, these are all soft skills you shouldn’t list directly on your resume. Instead, use action verbs and bullet point accomplishments to demonstrate when you’ve used those skills. Not sure how? We’ve compiled some real resume examples below.
Synonyms for drive on a resume
If you’re looking for ways to say that you have drive on your resume without just saying “I’m highly driven,” try these action verbs instead:
Resume bullet point examples that emphasize initiative and drive
Now that you understand what employers are looking for, it’s time to put it all together. Here are some examples of resume-ready bullet points to get you started with demonstrating your initiative and drive:
- Created a pipeline of $4M in the first 5 months by leveraging partnerships spawned from 15+ trade shows.
Capitalizing on opportunities is a key aspect of taking initiative. Choose an example like this that explains exactly how you seized an opportunity and what impact it had.
- Led cloud services startup strategy that directly resulted in 4x increase in sales.
Working for startups or small businesses requires a lot of drive. Choose examples of similar accomplishments where you’ve helped a company grow.
- Developed a contingency plan during tough economic conditions to save $540K per year.
Planning for emergencies and interruptions before they happen is a core example of taking initiative. Use your bullet points to talk about a time when you foresaw a potential issue and solved it before it became an actual problem.
- Spearheaded the development of an improved mobile app, driving record downloads +250% YOY.
Identifying opportunities for improvement is another side of the same coin. Use your accomplishments to highlight a time when you suggested, led, or followed through on a new development, especially if you can back that up with quantifiable metrics.
- Created knowledge base of 80 internal resources, improving employee onboarding and reducing time spent per project on administrative tasks by 40%.
Being driven often means seeking out opportunities to do what nobody else has done — or wants to do. Taking the initiative to optimize tasks or centralize resources can be a valuable addition to your resume, especially if you can point to real time or money savings.
- Organized and conducted monthly meetings with city council executives and other community leaders to raise funds for city recycling initiative.
Organizing large-scale projects or groups of people is rarely easy, and doing it well often requires taking initiative. Use your bullet points to outline exactly what you did to keep things running smoothly for your organization, without the need for hand-holding.
- Onboarded 4 new clients over a period of 2 years, surpassing customer service requirements and exceeding annual revenue target by 30-32%.
Another aspect of taking initiative is the willingness to go above and beyond. Highlight times when you’ve exceeded expectations to show that you’ll put the effort in to achieve more than the bare minimum.