Resumes & Cover Letters

Words to Avoid and Include on a Resume

May 26, 2021

You only have a short time to make an impression with your resume. In those moments when a potential employer is scanning your skills 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. However, words like these have become so overused that 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. For example, instead of saying that you’re a “results-driven team player that delivers impactful results,” hiring managers want to see something like, “I developed a streamlined delivery process that reduced revenue slip by 20%.

Resume Format
Image description

Resume Format
1. Name and contact information
2. Summary or objective
3. Professional history
a. Company name
b. Dates of tenure
c. Description of role and achievement
4. Education
5. Skills
6. Optional (Awards & Achievements, Hobbies & Interests)

Let’s look at specific words you should avoid on your resume, and words to include that will make your job application stand out.

Words to avoid on your resume

Business lingo

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:

  • Bottom line
  • Buy-in
  • Core competency
  • Ecosystem
  • Move the needle
  • Synergy
  • Thought leadership
  • Value add
  • Wheelhouse

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 be 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:

  • Go-getter
  • Go-to-person
  • Strategic thinker
  • Best of breed
  • Think outside the box
  • Results-driven
  • Detail-oriented
  • Proactive


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 are 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 expect without needing to see them on your resume:

  • Hard worker
  • Self-motivated
  • Team player

Words to include on your resume

Examples of your past work give employers clear evidence of how you are different from other applicants. They are looking for examples of times you delivered value, and whenever possible, with numbers to support them. 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:

  • Achieved
  • Created
  • Developed
  • Established
  • Ideas
  • Improved
  • Increased/decreased
  • Influenced
  • Launched
  • Managed
  • Negotiated
  • Resolved
  • Revenue/profits
  • Trained/mentored
  • Under budget
  • Volunteered

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out

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 driven 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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