Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Go verbs!

When you're writing your cover letter, you have to rely on the power of verbs to tell your story: what you have done and what you can do. Verbs tell us about abilities and, when used effectively, can provide power for your cover letter.

For example, when applying to this post at McMaster:

I am an effective team player and collaborator on projects, including a proposal for an immersive worlds project.

Too many nouns. Yes, they are in the job description, but you haven't explained what you have done. Collaborator also has some not nice connotations, so watch out for nouns that can have a sinister, or slightly silly, sound.


For my capping project, I developed a conference in Second Life, a popular immersive world, to introduce librarians to the environment. During the project launch, I trained the initial team of conference volunteers and managed the Help Team which monitored participants and dealt with in-world problems. I also compiled the evaluation data and presented it to the conference organizers.

Yes, the first is stilted and simple and the second has more information, but the verbs are powerful: develop, train, manage, monitor, compile and present. Though the nouns are all present in the first, they don't really explain what you did on the project.

Sometimes, we give up on verbs because they take up so much space because you have to do something with the noun, instead of just, noun, like the toot of a horn. However, verbs do appear in job postings, so you are hitting the keyword high notes, or nouns have a verb form that you can capitalize on. Do more in your sentences: it just gives your paragraphs more power.

If you need help finding so-called action verbs (aren't verbs about an action?) you can use this list from QuintCareers or just do a search in Google for verbs for resumes.

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