ATD Blog

Never Use These 5 Words or Phrases in Your Resume

Friday, August 17, 2018

Clichés. Jargon. Buzzwords.

These monsters turn your outstanding professional resume into mediocre content recruiters won't even read. It's that very moment when the saying “You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression” comes into play. Struggling for a dream job in today's super-competitive market, you can't afford to slip up here.

“The language or content of a resume can definitely tank a job seeker’s chances of landing their dream job,” says Jamie Hichens, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Glassdoor. Words and phrases you use do matter, and can help you stand out from the crowd of other candidates as well as kill your chances to be invited to the interview. So scan your resume right now to make sure you don't use any of these:

“Hard Worker”

Sure enough, you are a hard worker. The problem is, dozens of other candidates are hard workers too, and they don't forget mentioning this detail in resumes. With a multitude of hard-working candidates applying for any position, recruiters get lost.

Give real-life examples rather than stating the obvious. Cheryl Palmer, career coach of Call to Career, suggests using the word “achieved” to prove you're hard-working without saying that directly. “For example, you could say, ‘Achieved sales goal for three consecutive years with a reduced staff,’” Palmer advises.

Other language to avoid: “go-getter,” “results-driven,” and “accomplished.”


“If you were creative you would find a less vague word to phrase it,” says Samantha Engman, content strategist and career specialist behind Bid4Papers. “What you want to show is the ability to come up with new ideas, but the word itself says nothing. You need to specify it.”

Share examples of how you succeeded in a creative field. Any awards or specific achievements at work for your unique ideas and their implementation? Mention them in your resume. A better word to use is “created”: a verb, it demonstrates that you've produced something original.


Other phrases to forget: “think outside of the box” and “thought leadership.”


Be careful with this word in your resume. After writing it, you’ll need to prove it during the interview, answering the trickiest questions regarding your expertise. Even if you can do that job with your eyes closed, you’d better avoid claiming “expert.” True experts don't scream about their status; their job and reputation speak for themselves.

Again, give examples of your expertise and be specific: Use active verbs such as “produced,” “delivered,” or “published” to show your professionalism.

Other language to avoid: “seasoned,” “growth hacking,” “rock star,” and “best of breed.”


This one is too vague and tells nothing of your skills or professional achievements. When recruiters see this term on resumes, they picture an employee who fulfills job requirements mechanically and with no inspiration. Instead, use specific terms like “managed” or “directed,” and clarify your contribution to the project.


Other words to avoid: “honest,” “punctual,” “results-oriented,” and “strategic thinker.”


This word is a part of office jargon we all love to hate because of its pervasiveness, yet we use it in resumes and everyday conversation. Recruiters are human beings too (surprise surprise!), so don't make them sad by sending these buzzwords for their review.

Other language to avoid: “team player,” “ambitious,” “proactive,” “self-motivated,” “problem-solver,” “dabbled,” and “synergy.”


The golden rule of writing a fresh and contemporary resume is “show, don't tell.” Check your language when creating or updating your resume to make sure you say something valuable for hiring managers to notice and separate you from other candidates.

Give examples of your skills and achievements, avoid clichés and buzzwords that make your resume sound vague, and consider strong verbs instead of generic adjectives to describe your professional strengths.

About the Author

Mike Hanski helps small businesses develop their content strategies and occasionally writes for various online publications.

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