30 Words and Phrases to Avoid Using in Your Résumé

Writing your résumé can be an overwhelming task, to say the least. After all, you’re supposed to compress your professional skills and achievements into one or two pages in a way that makes employers want to hire you on the spot.

But, no matter how awesome your experience, qualifications and accomplishments all look on paper, the language you use to present yourself as a viable candidate can do more harm than good.

Here are the 30 worst, most overused, and inappropriate words and phrases you should never put on your résumé!

1. Motivated

What exactly is it that motivates you to get out of bed each morning, go to work and do your job? Is it the money, perhaps? You know, the money you need to pay your rent and bills?

Saying that you’re a “motivated individual” gives hiring managers no insight whatsoever into your work ethic, which is probably what you were hoping to highlight here. A much better way to do this would be to say something along the lines of: “Motivated to expand my learning horizons and competencies”.

2. Creative

Yawn. Words like “creative” have been so overused that they’ve lost all meaning. Besides, describing yourself this way is your opinion and allows an employer to learn nothing about you.

Sure, having creativity is a good thing, but you don’t have to be so cocky about it. A much better way to use this word would be: “Worked alongside a team of creative people” — this essentially links you to creativity without tooting your own horn so loudly.

3. Results-driven

One of the main reasons employers hire people is because they expect them to see a project through to the end and accomplish the results that they had set out to do. Otherwise, why bother? Why hire someone who only does their job halfway and then gives up?

In other words, this particular phrase is redundant on a résumé. You could, of course, talk about a target you exceeded or an important deadline you met, but whatever you do, try to avoid saying you’re “results-driven”.

4. Extensive experience

Saying that you have “extensive experience” or that you’re “highly qualified” won’t necessarily make you seem better suited for the job you’re applying for. On the contrary, it might have the opposite effect.

Generally speaking, these are filler words and don’t add any value to your professional background. Another phrase you should avoid is “seasoned professional” — it makes you seem much, much older than what you probably are and it also conjures up images of barbequed steak.

5. Team player

Employers want to hire people who are easy to get along with and who are able to collaborate and communicate effectively with others. In other words, they’re looking for team players.

The trick here, though, is to show — not tell — you are one. You can do this by using real-life examples and success stories about collaboration — for example, how you and your team were faced with a looming deadline and came together to deliver the project in a timely and efficient manner.

6. Detail-oriented

There are two main reasons why you should never put this on your résumé.

One, it doesn’t really say much, unless it’s supported by actual achievements. And two, it becomes all the more comical when your résumé is riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes. Essentially, it opens you up to criticism, and this can be a very bad thing for you.

7. Microsoft Word

Mentioning how proficient you are in software that’s pretty much been around since the dawn of the internet and used by practically everyone is far from impressive.

As technology is constantly changing, you’ll want to show how up to date you are with all the latest software, so try to use other examples of more specialized programs that are related to the role you’re applying to.

8. Track record

Doesn’t your résumé essentially act as an overview of your track record for your professional experience and accomplishments?

You need to be a little more specific about your “proven track record” by actually providing cold, hard evidence about your outstanding work performance — and you can do this by adding statistics and tangible results to your job descriptions.

9. Honest

Mentioning you’re an honest individual does not quite elicit trust in you. On the contrary, it might make employers suspicious of you and think you’re trying to hide something. Remember that honesty should be a given and not a special talent.

10. Hard worker

Words like “hard worker” or “hardworking” are simply subjective. Even if you really are a hard worker, stating so on your résumé is not enough to convince an employer to hire you. Besides, it could come across as a gross exaggeration and, therefore, impact your job search in a negative way.

11. Funny

Unless you’re applying for a standup comedian job, you should never put “funny” on your résumé. It’s not professional in the slightest, and it will most likely ruin your chances of job search success.

12. Punctual

Being punctual is pretty much expected of everyone who has a job and who wants to keep it. There’s really no need to highlight basic things like arriving to work on time. It’s silly, meaningless, and a complete and utter waste of space.

13. Unemployed

If there are any unexplained gaps in your employment history, employers will deduce that you were unemployed during that time — and there’s really no point drawing more attention than necessary to the fact you were out of work for X amount of weeks or months.

14. Best of breed

While applying for jobs may often feel like you’re in a dog show, in which you and dozens of other applicants flaunt yourselves in front of a panel of judges in the hope you’ll win the grand prize (in this case, the job that’s being offered), one way to avoid describing yourself is “best of breed”. Besides, anyone can say that they’re “best of breed” — it doesn’t prove anything.

15. Hobbies

By “hobbies”, I mean including unrelated personal interests and activities. Remember, this is a professional document whose sole purpose is to provide recruiters with insight into your skills and achievements — it is no place to talk about your love of hiking or, worse, socializing with friends.

Unless they’re relevant to the job you’re applying to, you should leave your hobbies off completely.

16. Communication skills

Your résumé should be as different as possible from that of the competition. That means avoiding overused words and phrases like “communication skills” which appear on practically every application a recruiter comes across.

And what exactly does “excellent communication skills” even mean, anyway? Does it mean you can type an email? Does it mean you’re able to speak? Remember: a well-written résumé will demonstrate your communication abilities, so there’s really no need to highlight them under a heading.

17. Duties include / Responsible for

Your résumé shouldn’t be a rundown of all your duties and responsibilities. It should, rather, highlight the things you’ve accomplished in the jobs you’ve held. Remember, employers don’t want to read plain, old job descriptions — in fact, they’re most likely familiar with what exactly each position entails.

18. Salary negotiable

The word “salary” should not be used anywhere on your résumé. It’s just tacky. And combined with the word “negotiable”, it’s even tackier.

Leave talk of salary expectations for when you receive a job offer — otherwise, you might not even receive one at all. It’s one of the worst things you can ever put on your résumé.

19. References available upon request

It used to be standard protocol to include references or the phrase “References available upon request” in your résumé. Nowadays, however, it’s generally discouraged. In fact, it’s viewed as wasting valuable real estate which could instead be better utilized by elaborating on your professional skills and career achievements.

Besides, recruiters expect you to have two or three references on standby, so there’s no need to mention that they’re “available”. Remember to only supply them when you’re asked for them, though!

20. Curriculum vitae / Résumé

Who would have guessed that the document you submitted along with your job application is your curriculum vitae or résumé, and not a cooking recipe?

(On a related note, a certain Heather McNab accidentally attached a Jamie Oliver chili beef recipe to her application rather than her résumé back in 2015 — needless to say, she did not get the job.)

21. Reliable

Career experts everywhere, including our own, advise jobseekers not to use generic adjectives to describe themselves, but rather to stick to facts and figures.

Although it is a fact that reliability is an important soft skill to have, anyone can claim to be dependable with no proof to back it up with.

Remember the golden rule: show, don’t tell!

22. Loyal

Unless your prospective employer is looking for an animal companion, the word “loyal” isn’t going to stand out for them for the right reasons.

Employers know that job hopping has been becoming increasingly more common in recent years. In 2022, for example, around one quarter of all workers aged 20 and over kept their jobs for one year or less.

Plus, if the average tenure on your résumé is one year with each employer, you’ll come across as either lying or lacking self-awareness.

23. Passionate

Passion for your work is something that every employer will want to see. And they won’t want to see it stated blatantly on your résumé — rather, they’ll want to see it displayed through proof and examples.

In other words, your academic and professional achievements should reflect a passion for your career on their own. If the dates on your document indicate, for example, that you completed a degree relevant to your career while also working a full-time job, that alone will show your love for what you do.

24. Fast learner

There is a quote that says: “The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg.” What does this have to do with résumé buzzwords? It goes to show that everything is relative.

What you consider “fast”, in other words, may not be what your manager considers fast. The adjective on its own means nothing when you have nothing else to compare it to — so, instead, try to incorporate an achievement that indicates how you picked up a new task or project and completed it successfully within a specific timeframe.

25. Strong work ethic

Ah, work ethic: two words that get thrown around a lot when we talk about our performance, discipline and integrity in the workplace. And yet most of us will check our social media whenever we feel like we need a mental break from work. Or we will do just a little bit of eavesdropping on what our desk neighbor is saying, even if it is none of our concern.

Our point here is that your work ethic will speak for itself. So, including this phrase on your résumé won’t achieve much.

26. Proactive

Sharing an example of when you acted proactively is the best way to convey that you’re observant and able to take initiative. For example, a sentence like the following could convey what you’re trying to say: “Identified inefficient working methods and implemented new ATS, speeding up candidate screening process by 60%.”

27. Go-to person

You may be tempted to use this term as it could imply that you’re approachable, reliable, knowledgeable and eager to help. But all those terms describe a person in relation to others, and (whether we like it or not) other people are the ones who decide whether we are, in fact, friendly and helpful to them.

Instead of claiming to have those qualities, share examples on your résumé and in your cover letter of how you consistently provided support to your team.

28. Innovative

If you thought about including the word “innovative” in your document, it’s likely because you want to demonstrate your ability to think creatively and critically to solve problems. However, there’s a better way of showcasing that important quality: by describing real problems you’ve fixed in the workplace.

29. Ambitious

Being ambitious is a personal quality that, for the most part, reveals a desire to set and achieve your own goals. While these may align with your employer’s, that won’t always be the case; sometimes, being ambitious can cause people to resign from a position, want to do things their way, or act selfishly.

Instead, what you’ll want to do is communicate the ability to keep on learning, meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations.

30. Successful

Another buzzword to avoid on your résumé at all costs! Professional success is something that shows; the same stands for confidence. So, it’s best to let your prospective employer decide whether they think your career has been a success so far.

It’s always good to bear in mind that the person reading your résumé may have a different definition of what “success” means. The same applies to phrases like “hard work”, “fast learner” and “extensive experience”, as we explored earlier. Instead of using words that can be up to interpretation, share specific, measurable evidence that is not debatable.

Final thoughts

Can you think of any other inappropriate words and phrases that should be avoided at all cost? Perhaps you’ve learned the hard way and have some résumé tips and tricks you think will help fellow jobseekers? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts and experiences with us!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out what other mistakes you should avoid making on your résumé.

This article is a partial update of an earlier version originally published on August 16, 2017, and contains contributions by Electra Michaelidou. In the update, we added 10 additional entries to the list of words to avoid using on a résumé.

Source link
All Materials on this website/blog are only for Learning & Educational purposes. It is strictly recommended to buy the products from the original owner/publisher of these products. Our intention is not to infringe any copyright policy. If you are the copyright holder of any of the content uploaded on this site and don’t want it to be here. Instead of taking any other action, please contact us. Your complaint would be honored, and the highlighted content will be removed instantly.

Leave a Comment

Share via
Copy link