10 Words to Avoid on Resumes

Do you struggle deciding which words to use on your resume? Many people do, which prompted me to write this article.

I did another post on impact words for resumes, and also one about how powerful words can be in all of your writing. Today, we’ll explore the opposite side, and talk about the words you want to avoid on resumes.

Resumes are rife with clichés and tired words that mean nothing. When gatekeepers read a resume, they gloss over those words as they try to find something interesting. If you don’t believe me, do a search on the internet for “words to avoid on your resume” or something to that effect. You’ll find a fairly long list.

What’s the Problem

The problem with these words/phrases — besides the fact that they find their way into almost 80% of all resumes — is that they aren’t believable. That’s right. No one will put any faith in what you say about yourself. And for good reason — what else would you say?

This subject could take up several chapters in a book, but I think the chart below should give you a good example of why I say this. You should get the gist of it.

10 Worst Words to Put on Resumes

Phrases Used on ResumesWhat Do You Expect Them To Say?results-orientedI get nothing donemotivatedlow energyself-starterI need to be proddeddetail-orientedI let things slip through the crackshardworkingI’m a slackerteam playerimpossible to work withexcellent communication skillsbarely literatestrong leaderineffectual oafout-of-the-box thinkercan’t think my way out of a boxinnovativehaven’t had an original thought in years

Didn’t like my ideas of what to say instead?

If that didn’t suit you, perhaps you should consider a new strategy. After all, you said you were a out-of-the-box thinker. I’ve included a few examples to give you an idea. (We don’t have enough space to go into detail for all of them.)

Team player

Besides being a tired, old phrase, this falls into the “show, don’t tell” rule. You can tell someone all day long that you’re a team player, but if you don’t know them they’re not going to believe you. You have to show that you’re a team player through your actions. So instead of saying you’re a “team player” show the gatekeeper something you did demonstrating that you are a team player.

Developed and set up a program to train new engineers in the use of SolidWorks.

Results oriented

Instead of telling the gatekeeper you are “results oriented,” show her.

Designed and implemented a new quality system that improved yields by 13% in less than six months.

How to Fix Your Resume

  • A good rule to remember is this:
  1. Unless your resume backs up the words you’re using to describe yourself, don’t use them.
  2. And if your resume backs up those words, then you don’t need to use them, because you’ll be redundant.
  • In other words, don’t use them.
  • A better rule to remember — don’t use adjectives to describe yourself.
  • And an even better rule — don’t ever describe yourself. There’s no reason to.

You should never have to describe yourself on a resume. It’s far better to let your accomplishments show who you are. State your name at the top then detail your work history and accomplishments. That’s it.

BTW: If you use these words because you think they’ll function as good keywords and help you with the ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems), think again. The technology that drives the systems is moving forward, and the AI (Artificial Intelligence) is becoming so advanced that it not only recognizes which keywords are useless, it also takes into account the words surrounding real keywords to counteract the common practice of “keyword stuffing.” (I’ll be covering that in another post.)

If you enjoyed this post, please share. And if you really want a resume that won’t get tossed in the trash, check out our resume services.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

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