Top 10 Words / Phrases to Avoid in Your Resume

by Leslie Toth, MBA, CPRW, PHR, SHRM-CP

Avoid in Resume

As a resume writer I know that writing a resume can be a daunting task. You want to make sure you present yourself in the best light possible. The words and phrases you select to describe yourself and your work are very important. Your resume needs to communicate the value you bring to the position while showing your unique expertise.

I have seen thousands of resumes in my Resume Writing and Human Resources careers, and the ones with action words were always the ones that made an impression on me. Action words are a great way to show potential employers your value by highlighting your accomplishments. However, there are many action words that are so overused that they are becoming ineffective.

  1. Innovative – Many people use this word instead of giving specific examples of their accomplishments.

  2. Assisted – Instead of telling someone you assisted in something, state specifically what you did on the project. Use specifics to describe your experience.

  3. Strong Work Ethic – This is not a skill or an asset. It’s your opinion of yourself. In 2015 a strong work ethic is expected of all employees.

  4. Detail-Oriented – Again, another opinion of yourself. Employers expect all employees to be detail oriented. Find a way to show your skills stating how you found errors and corrected them, or solved complex problems.

  5. Responsibilities Include – You do not want to waste prime resume space on this type of phrase. Describe your responsibilities in a way that grabs the reader’s attention and compels them to read further. Nobody is interested in reading a running list of job duties.

  6. Self-Starter – This phrase is too generic and does not make anyone come across as a productive employee.

  7. Good Communication Skills – You don’t need to tell a potential employer you have good communication skills. This is something that will be assessed during an interview. Save this space on the resume to focus on your accomplishments.

  8. Highly Qualified – Everyone thinks they are highly qualified for the position. Don’t use this phrase. Instead, try listing your accomplishments. For example: cost reductions, sales numbers, or process improvements. Anything that will explain to the reader why you are highly qualified.

  9. Hard Worker – Don’t ever describe yourself as a hard worker. Instead, describe how you met deadlines efficiently, or the number of projects / clients you can take on at one time.

  10. Team Player – When you work for a company you are working as part of a team. So it is expected that you are able to get along with other individuals. Try explaining how you have helped a team achieve a specific goal. Talk about your contributions.

Some of the words employers want to see are below. Keep in mind that when using these words you should also state the accomplishment.

  1. Achieved – Achieved President’s Club status for sales exceeding $10 million in a single year.

  2. Developed – Developed regulatory and quality management system strategies and plans compliant with ISO 13485 and 21 CFR Part 820 for FDA.

  3. Pioneered – Pioneered the world’s first FDA-cleared ring transducer and the world’s first FDA-cleared imaging system utilizing sound speed and attenuation transmission data.

  4. Spearhead – Spearheaded and launched improvements to internal controls and processes; implemented next generation technology and effectively managed meaningful change to foster a climate of excellence.

  5. Championed – Championed more than $5 million per year in global partnerships with key accounts.

  6. Established – Established the Electronics/Controls group in response to corporate growth.

  7. Created – Created and implemented a cost center accounting system that enabled management to oversee the profitability and performance of each department and branch as the bank grew.

  8. Implemented – Implemented strategy to increase brand recognition in growth markets by acting upon speaking and publishing opportunities in industry journals, resulting in a significant growth in name recognition and exposure.

  9. Grew – Grew a multimillion dollar opportunity pipeline resulting in ongoing increases in revenue goals that exceeded forecasts and expectations, while managing 45 client accounts.

  10. Collaborated – Collaborated with product management and customers to design software in accordance with Section 508 accessibility law to make software accessible to the disabled.

As you can see, the second list is more compelling to the reader as it uses action verbs while telling a story of your accomplishments. Highlighting accomplishments and unique talents in a meaningful way makes the reader want to learn more about you and your background. Building that interest is a key factor in obtaining an interview.

Also, when writing your resume you will want to use keywords to make yourself stand out from other applicants. Keywords are terms that appear in the job description. They describe duties, qualifications, or certifications and may be used by resume scanning systems to determine which applicants meet the qualifications for the position. Including keywords or phrases from the job description is a good idea, but only if it accurately describes your background. If you are wondering if you should use a word / phrase in your resume, ask yourself if it helps convey the value you bring to the table.

Select the words on your resume carefully. The words / phrases on the page play a critical role in securing an interview. Use the right language in your resume to demonstrate your expertise as well as your experience and soon your phone will be ringing off the hook with interview requests.

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