30+ Words To Avoid Writing In A Resume And Why
“Why should we hire you?”
This is the underlying question recruiters are asking themselves when they review your resume.
If your resume uses some power words and responds with:
- “I’m responsible.”
- “I’m capable.”
- “I’m confident.”
It is not answering the question; rather it provides a subjective description of who you think you are.
Recruiting and hiring managers have seen it all before. They go through hundreds of resumes every day. Every person who applies for a position in the company says he or she is responsible, capable and confident.
If you put yourself behind the lens of the hiring manager, one question will pop in your head every time you go through the same litany of adjectives:
“Why should we believe you?”
The Monotony of Words
For years, hiring managers have privately lamented the death of the resume. It was not a statement of fact but largely voicing out their collective frustration on how the resume has become a by- the- numbers production.
If you go through the same descriptors, adjectives and phrases the resume does not become representative of the individual but a subset of the entire job market. Everyone is mass producing essentially the same resumes under different identities.
Resumes remain a valuable document to help you land the job. But it has to answer the important questions. It has to clearly communicate your message to the hiring manager on why they should hire you over everyone else.
Remember that your resume has to initiate conversation; it must communicate with the hiring manager and communication is a 2- way avenue:
Hiring Manager: “What made you think you are cut out for the job?”
You: “I’m responsible.”
Hiring Manager: “What can you do for the company?”
You: “I’m capable.”
Hiring Manager: “Why should we be interested in what you have to offer?”
You: “I’m confident.”
In this conversational thread, you are not telling the hiring manager what you can do or what you are capable of. You are merely giving self- serving answers that do not differentiate you from others.
When writing your resume keep that conversation going and provide the answers hiring managers are looking for.
4 Types of Words and Phrases You Should Not Use in Your Resume
Hiring managers are experienced enough to easily identify these 4 types of words which offer no value to your resume. In fact, it could send your resume to the trash bin.
If you think using buzzwords or industry jargon is a good way to impress the hiring manager, think again. Consider this buzzword- heavy phrase many hiring managers encounter in a sales resume:
Goal-oriented team player who consistently meets or exceeds established sales quotas.
All it shows the hiring manager is how highly you think of yourself.
“But what can you do for us?”
Let’s re-write the phrase to this:
Designed a scheduling system which reduced the hours spent by each sales team member on sales calls by 50% to help improve focus, presentation and thus improve total productivity by an additional 11 hours.
Clearly, the re-write tells the hiring manager what he or she wants to know.
2. Filler Words
These are words and phrases which are unnecessary in a resume because they can be repetitive or exaggerated.
For example, the following phrases are repetitive because the meaning is implied once you are required to state your duties and responsibilities:
- “I was responsible for…”
- I was tasked with…”
- “I have extensive experience in…”
Go straight to the point and tell the hiring manager what your tasks and responsibilities were.
A phrase such as “I worked hard to…” or “I single-handedly resolved…” are exaggerations because the hiring manager has no direct knowledge of the degree of difficulty covering the specific tasks.
3. Unsubstantiated Words
These are claims often made on the resume but have no evidence to support their validity.
Here’s an example:
Created a software program designed to improve efficiency.
The hiring manager reads your claim but has no idea on its authenticity. Now if it were re-written to read as:
Created a software program which introduced scheduling shifts based on the net productive hours of every employee over an 8 hour period that led to an overall increase in output by 72% within the first 6 months of implementation.
By simply adding more depth to the statement, you have made a truly compelling and believable claim which will increase interest in your overall value proposition.
Lying in any shape, way or form is unacceptable. In a resume there are no half- truths or white lies. A lie is a lie.
Yet according to a 2015 survey, 56% of employers have identified lies in a resume.
If you worked in a company for 1 year and 4 months, not 2 years as stated in your resume, those “un-credited” may not be worth it if you are caught. There is no “rounding off” when it comes to work experience.
30 Words You Should Avoid Using In Your Resume
This is a short-list of words you should avoid using because these do not add value to your resume:
- Capable – The hiring manager expects you to describe yourself as “capable”, why shouldn’t you? You are after all applying for a specific position.
- Scalable – Candidates often use this word because it is standard business jargon but for hiring managers its meaning is vague at best.
- Hard-Working – An overused, highly subjective word that could be perceived as an exaggeration.
- Problem-Solver –It connotes dynamism but has a negative connotation to it. The implication might be your work history has been inundated with problems and you were asked to correct them.
- Creative – An overused word that would work better if used as a phrase that implies application such as “worked with a team of creative people”.
- Innovative – This word used to carry weight especially when technology became a significant contributor to business. Today, it is overused and so often re-hashed it only carries dead weight on your resume. Instead of using “innovative” use a phrase such as “introduced a contemporary approach”.
- Motivated – Instead of using this as a singular descriptor, why not include it within a phrase to inform the hiring manager what you are motivated about? An example would be, “motivated to expand my learning horizons and competencies.”
- Skilful – Redundant because everyone has skills. Your proficiency is subjective; unless you can substantiate it with facts and figures.
- Communication Skills – Another example of a self- serving, unsubstantiated claim without any clear parameters to validate your case.
- Highly Qualified – Similar to “capable”; it would only lead the hiring manager to ask “who isn’t?”
- Results Focused – A strong claim that needs to be substantiated. Unless you have the statistics to back it up, you may end up embellishing your resume.
- Effectual Leader – Self- serving, strongly worded phrase which reeks of nothing except a bold claim that needs facts based evidence. Can the hiring manager speak with your followers? Otherwise, the hiring manager will just think you like patting yourself in the back.
- Energetic – How would you qualify one as energetic? It is a vague descriptor with a highly subjective meaning.
- Confident – Shouldn’t everyone be confident especially when applying for a job? It does not differentiate you from anyone.
- Professional – A descriptor that will only cause the hiring manager to roll his or her eyes and think, “That remains to be seen.”
- Successfully – An adverb that begs proof of validity.
- Team Player – This phrase has become cliché; everyone wants to call themselves team player but includes no proof to the claim.
- Including but not limited to – Redundant; including means “not limited to”.
- Responsible for – Highly repetitive and redundant when discussing your scope of work.
- Entrepreneurial – If you plan to work within a corporate environment, be judicious when using this word because the connotation with entrepreneurs are “risk takers” and concerned only with their self- interests.
- Best of Breed – Rated by many hiring managers as the most annoying term in a resume. Hiring managers want specific reasons and examples not general terms.
- Detail oriented – Highly subjective and leaves you open to criticism if your own resume lacks detail.
- Seasoned – Definitely not recommended for young candidates, this word conjures images of a much older person.
- References available by request – An outdated and unnecessary term as you will be asked to submit references if you make it to the interview.
- Ambitious – Self-serving adjective that can only be proven in real, hands-on experience.
- Honest – This is a quality that is best proven not told.
- Punctual – Punctuality is a characteristic that is expected of everyone who works.
- Go-getter – Another highly annoying term for hiring managers; implies someone who acts before thinking.
- Synergy – A word candidates like to use to sound technical but end up sounding vague.
- Strategic Thinker – Another self-serving word which needs proof through actual experience.
There are other words and phrases that you are probably familiar with. What you need to keep in mind is that the resume as a career marketing tool needs to connect with the hiring manager right away.
Instead of focusing on the words that trigger familiarity with the hiring manager, you should try another approach. Find a way to bring the hiring manager behind your lens.