10 Words and Phrases to Avoid on Your Resumé


Whether you're using resumé builder software to write your resumé or writing it manually, you want to look your best to any potential employer. You want to show off your experience, your abilities and any specialized skills that can help you get the job you're applying for. But did you know there are certain words and phrases that you're better off omitting if you want to be considered seriously?

Before we discuss which words and phrases you want to avoid, try to think about how you wish to present yourself to a potential employer. Most people want to come across as diligent, trustworthy, reliable, responsible, visionary, creative, effective, high-performance, etc. Essentially, they want to have all the attributes we commonly associate with a model worker and none of the ones we associate with poor performers.

Unfortunately, job seekers often make the mistake of thinking that if they just repeat these key words and phrases enough, that they will be absorbed into a reader or recruiter's head and that they will magically get the job in question. 

Some resumé builder templates will insert these words and phrases automatically, to theoretically improve a candidate's chances of getting a job. In fact, studies have shown that just the opposite is true; the more a candidate uses words to stress the qualities they THINK they have, the more a recruiter will suspect this person actually lacks those qualities. In essence, you want to avoid "saying" you have certain qualities, and PROVE to them that you possess them via your experience and specific examples.

Words to Avoid

A lot of times certain words that people want to use are more or less given for any job. For example:

"Team Player". If you're not a team player, why would anyone want you on their team? In order to get most jobs, you'd better be a team player, since you're going to be interacting with other people in the company, not sitting in a closet. As with other words on this list, you want to avoid stating a qualification that more or less every applicant needs to have in order to be there.

"Hard Worker". If you're not a hard worker, does that mean you're lazy? Are you trying to avoid saying that you actually prefer to slack off? The key here is not to state something that you wish to convey, but to SHOW it through your experience. If you really are a hard worker, how can you demonstrate that with your background, using specific examples?

"Trustworthy" or "Honest". Let's hope you are! If you weren't, would you write "untrustworthy" or "dishonest" on your resumé? Again, this is a quality that everyone in a company is expected to have, and stating it on a resumé actually raises more doubts than it allays. Imagine saying these words directly to people in real life. Would you trust someone who walks around all the time saying "Trust me! I'm honest!"?

"Reliable". Once again, this should be the norm for every employee. What company wants to hire someone who's unreliable? While you may know some people who are not reliable and you may feel like you want to differentiate yourself from those people, you should show it through specific examples rather than just making a blanket statement.

"Highly Motivated". Are you motivated to get out of bed in the morning? Do you need to go to work so you can get a paycheck? If you're not highly motivated, does it mean you don't care? Again, this is definitely a quality everyone in a company is expected to have, and to state it on a resumé raises more flags than it lowers.

Phrases to Avoid

Just as there are words that convey qualities that are more or less given for every job, there are also stale phrases and expressions that job recruiters and managers are tired of seeing over and over again on many people's resumés (possibly due to resumé builder templates), that can be applied to many job seekers. Phrases like:

"Thinks outside the box". What does this really mean? Does it mean you're unconventional? Creative? That you have an imagination? That you like to daydream? Try to avoid using this tired phrase.

"Star performer". If you're really a star performer, would you need to say it? Instead of saying it, why not prove it, through examples and experiences, and let the manager or recruiter make up their own mind.

"Successful" or "successfully". If you did something or completed a task, you were successful at it, correct? This word is redundant, and it will actually count against you, as most people will perceive it as a filler word.

"Assisted" or "participated". What does this mean? If you helped with an effort, state exactly how or to what extent. Using these words leaves a reader with a feeling of vagueness; they won't know exactly what you did and what other people did. It could mean that you contributed one percent of an effort and other people put in 99 percent.

"Communication skills". A terrible phrase. What exactly are "communication skills"? Does it mean you know how to open your mouth and speak? That you know how to use a phone? This is a vague phrase that actually means nothing and degrades your resumé.

One Last Tip

In general, you want to avoid talking about your personality, unless part of your job is dependent on it, such as a salesperson or receptionist. But even in those cases a positive personality may be expected and often goes with the territory. An employer doesn't need to know (nor may they care) if you are "outgoing," "bubbly," "warm," "magnetic," "charming," "confident," "caring," "happy," "thoughtful," etc. 

Unless you're a sports team mascot, you aren't being hired for your personality; you're being hired because a company thinks you're capable of performing certain tasks well. A sparkling personality is a nice plus, but even mean people get jobs if they're top performers.



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