Words To Avoid and Include on a Resume
You only have a short time to make an impression with your resume. In those moments when a potential employer is scanning your resume for your skill set and experience, it is important to choose words that will communicate the value you’ve added in previous roles.
Using common business terms like “wheelhouse” or “go-to person” can seem like the best way to get your qualities across efficiently. Yet, words like these have become so overused they have lost meaning and won’t help you stand out from other applicants. Instead, choose action-oriented phrases that show rather than tell why you should be considered.
In this article, we list the words you should avoid including on a resume, along with the words you should include to help you stand out and get your job application noticed.
"Resume Format" is the title of this infographic that shows an image of an example resume.
On the left side of the infographic, a numbered list points to each section of the resume.
Name and contact information
Summary or objective
a. Company name
b. Dates of tenure
c. Description of role and achievement
Optional (Awards & Achievements, Hobbies & Interests)
On the right side of the image is a sample resume with the name Janet Chobot and lines representing text underneath. Then the headlines Summary, Professional History, Educational History, Skills, and Awards & Achievements. Under each section are lines representing text.
Words to avoid on your resume
Here are some categories of words you should avoid including on your resume:
Choosing overused business jargon can weaken your resume. Using plain, clear language that explains how you’ve delivered value is much more effective. Here are some more examples of business lingo to leave off your resume:
Move the needle
General phrases of self-promotion
Though your resume is a space to showcase your skills and abilities, broad terms and phrases to explain your value can be ineffective. A term like “self-starter,” for example, is a generality that doesn’t specifically explain why or how you might bring value to the role you’re applying for.
Instead, try showing an example of a time you self-started, like “Identified time-waste and implemented a new CMS system, cutting time spent on cleaning customer records in half.” Here are more examples of self-promotional phrases to avoid:
Best of breed
Think outside the box
There are a few words and phrases you should leave off your resume because they don’t add any new or differentiating information. You don’t have much time or space to make hiring managers understand why they should consider you as a candidate, so avoid taking up space with words like “people person.” Nearly every job will require you to work with other people, so unless you have a specific example that shows you’re exceptionally skilled in this area, it’s not worth including.
If this is a critical asset in the position you’re applying for, try using an action statement that shows how you work with others. For example, “I established a monthly workshop that led to increased team collaboration, and which resulted in three completed projects in the past quarter.”
Here are a few additional examples of phrases hiring managers will expect without needing to see them on your resume:
Related: How Hiring Managers Review Resumes
Words to include on your resume
Examples of your past work give employers clear evidence of how you’re different from other applicants. They’re looking for examples of times you delivered value, and whenever possible, with numbers to support them. For example, instead of saying you’re a “results-driven team player who delivers impactful results,” hiring managers want to see something like, “I developed a streamlined delivery process that reduced revenue slip by 20%.”
Consider the following list of words that can be helpful as you develop a resume with action statements that clearly show the value you’ll bring to their team:
Delivered under budget
When it comes to the interview process, from resume to final interview, hiring managers want to be able to understand the specific value you’ve provided to predict how you’ll drive value at their company. Your first touchpoint with hiring managers is the resume. So, in place of cliches and generalities, leverage action words to give examples of how exactly you fit the description they’ve written.
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