Other than your work experience, the first thing many hiring managers will notice about your resume is your writing style. Writing in full paragraphs, using personal pronouns, and overusing descriptive language — like adverbs — are all red flags to recruiters.
Here's how to eliminate unnecessary resume adverbs — including examples of what you should do instead.
What are adverbs?
For anyone in need of a quick grammar refresher: Adverbs are words we use to describe how we did something. Generally, adverbs are words that end in "-ly" – for example, quickly, happily, or creatively.
Why you should get rid of adverbs on your resume
Adverbs don't belong on a resume for the same reason that you shouldn't list soft skills in your skills section — because it's completely subjective.
Hiring managers don't want your opinion about what you've done well — they want objective facts so that they can make up their own minds. Saying that you completed a task "efficiently" doesn't prove anything. Using numbers to describe how quickly you completed that task, on the other hand, shows potential employers that you can work efficiently — without you having to say so.
Common resume adverbs
Here's a list of some common resume adverbs:
These all describe qualities that hiring managers are looking for in potential employees — but there's a better way of getting that information across in a resume.
Here's what to do instead.
How to replace adverbs on your resume (with examples)
Here are some examples adverbs that don't belong on your resume — and what to replace them with.
Before: "Creatively redesigned the company logo."
After: "Redesigned the company logo as part of a rebranding initiative that resulted in a 30% increase in brand awareness among the target demographic."
The creativity is implied in the numerical success of the campaign, making the latter a much stronger choice.
Before: "Successfully implemented a new time management system."
After: "Implemented a new time management system, reducing payroll errors by 37 percent in the first quarter."
Always think about how you can replace subjective statements with numbers-backed data.
Before: "Effectively designed a company-wide digital marketing strategy."
After: "Designed and executed a company-wide digital marketing strategy that drove $500,000 in product sales."
This statement plainly shows how much of an impact your strategy had, leaving any subjectivity out of it entirely.
Before: "Significantly decreased uninstallation rate by introducing an interactive tutorial at app launch."
After: "Decreased uninstallation rate by 40% by introducing an interactive tutorial at app launch."
Definitions of "significant" can vary. Eliminate the guesswork by using numbers to describe the impact of your work.
Before: "Efficiently collected and recorded data."
After: "Developed an Excel macro and standardized reporting templates, resulting in efficient data collection and a 35% reduction in turnaround time."
Don't just say that you were efficient — prove it by highlighting how much time you saved.
Before: "Resourcefully identified steps to reduce return rates so that the company could eventually save several thousands in costs."
After: "Identified steps to reduce return rates by 10% resulting in an eventual $75k cost savings."
The second objectively shows your ability to channel efficiency and resourcefulness.
Before: "Enthusiastically participated in student engineering club."
After: "Elected president of student engineering club; facilitated monthly meetings of 25 members."
The second example includes quantifiable achievements — something you should always try to do.
The best way to eliminate adverbs from your resume is to replace them with quantifiable and objective accomplishments. We recommend trying out the tool below to check if your resume has enough uses of numbers, power verbs and quantifiable accomplishments. It’s also a good way to find out if your resume checks all the boxes from a hiring manager's perspective.
Tips for removing adverbs from your resume
Here's a quick step-by-step guide for eliminating resume adverbs:
- Scan your resume for adverbs. Look for words that end in "-ly," like successfully or efficiently.
- Remove these adverbs.
- Read the new sentence. It may already be strong enough to stand on its own, but if not:
- Use an action verb to highlight what you did.
- Briefly describe the task or project.
- Think of some numbers or metrics that you can use to show the impact of your work.
- Run your resume through our free, fast assessment tool, Score My Resume, which uses AI to pick up on any areas that need work.
Fortunately, removing adverbs from your resume and replacing them with hard-hitting, quantifiable, and objective statements is relatively simple if you employ these tips.
Eliminate unnecessary adverbs
Your first step should be to scan your resume and target any subjective statements. Removing adverbs is generally the easiest way to do this — you can even search for "ly" to quickly find most adverbs on your resume.
Use strong action verbs
If you find yourself needing to use adverbs to describe how you did something, chances are that you aren't using a strong enough verb.
Passive: "Answered customer complaints."
Active: "Resolved hundreds of client escalations, leading to a 40% increase in client retention."
"Answered” is too passive — it says what you did, but not what you accomplished. “Resolved” sounds like you took charge and handled the situation.
Passive: "Worked as part of a team to ensure product success."
Active: "Collaborated with developers and product management team to assess 67 project outcomes."
"Worked" is an all-purpose verb that could be used in any situation — it doesn't say anything about what you actually did. "Collaborated" is a far stronger way to start your bullet point.
Further Reading: Resume Action Verbs for 2023
Quantify your resume
Using objective data, hard numbers, or metrics to demonstrate your capabilities is always effective than using buzzwords or "soft" language like adverbs. Use numbers to quantify things like:
- Revenue, profit, or sales generated
- Increased (or reduced) x by %
- Time saving
- Project or data size
With those metrics, you won't need to say that you did something "quickly," "effectively," or "successfully" — because the proof is right there.
Further Reading: How to Quantify Your Resume: What Recruiters Look For (50+ Examples)
When to keep adverbs on your resume
Do adverbs ever belong on a resume? Sometimes — but only in specific circumstances. Adverbs that describe exactly how or when you did something are the exception to the rule. For example:
What's the difference? These adverbs are specific and objective, which means they can help a hiring manager understand exactly what you accomplished.
Not sure if an adverb belongs on your resume or not? Sometimes it helps to get another perspective. One easy way to do that is to run your resume through our free, fast assessment tool, Score My Resume, which uses AI to pick up on any areas that need work.