36 words and phrases you should never include on your résumé

  • Hiring managers are sick of seeing buzzwords on résumés.
  • “Hard worker,” “ambitious,” and other clichés shouldn’t be included on your résumé.
  • Instead, show how you’ll be a good contributor to the workplace.

While many large companies use automated résumé screener software to cut down the initial pool of job applicants, loading your résumé with meaningless buzzwords is not the smartest way to get noticed.

“Nearly everyone is guilty of using buzzwords from time to time, but professionals are evaluated increasingly on their ability to communicate,” Paul McDonald, senior executive director for professional placement firm Robert Half, told Business Insider.

One of the major problems with using buzzwords and terms is they have become so overused that they have lost all meaning, Mary Lorenz, a corporate communications manager at CareerBuilder, told Business Insider.

Another issue is that many of these words don’t differentiate the job seeker from other candidates because they’re so generic. Instead, Lorenz said job seekers should speak in terms of accomplishments and show rather than tell.

“Avoiding overused terms can help job seekers convey their message and stand out from the crowd,” McDonald said.

Here’s what you should avoid:


‘Best of breed’

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WhenCareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,200 hiring managers, it found “best of breed” to be the most irritating term to be seen on a résumé.

“Anyone can say they are ‘best of breed,’ a ‘go-getter,’ a ‘hard worker,’ or a ‘strategic thinker,'” Lorenz said. “Employers want to know what makes the job seekers unique, and how they will add value to the specific organisation for which they’re applying.”


‘Hard’

It might be difficult to get a job if you keep describing your tasks like this.

Job search firm ZipRecruiter hosts a database of more than 3 million résumés, which small businesses, individual employers, and recruiters looking for candidates can rate on a scale of one to five stars (one being the lowest, five the highest).

ZipRecruiter analysed these résumés and their ratings, and found a that certain keywords were major turn-offs for employers.

The word “hard” was found to have a strong correlation with one-star reviews, with up to a 79% greater likelihood of receiving the lowest rating. It’s likely the word gives employers the impression that you’re put off by hard work.


‘Phone number’

Just say “number,” career coach Eli Amdur told Business Insider.

And opt for “email” rather than “email address.”


‘Learning’

ZipRecruiter also found the word “learning” to have a strong correlation with one-star reviews, as it may give employers the impression that you’re inexperienced and require a great deal of training.


‘Results-driven’

Yulai Studio/Shutterstock

“Instead of simply saying that you’re results-driven, write about what you did to actually drive results – and what those results were,” Lorenz told Business Insider.


‘Responsible for’

Superfluous words like “responsible for,” “oversight of,” and “duties included,” unnecessarily complicate and hide your experience.

“Be direct, concise, and use active verbs to describe your accomplishments,” Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of Résumé Strategists, told Business Insider..

Instead of writing, “Responsible for training interns …,” simply write, “Train interns …”


‘Highly qualified’

Using terms like “highly qualified” or “extensive experience” won’t make you seem better-suited for the job, McDonald said. In fact, it could have the opposite effect.

Instead, job-seekers should list the skills, accomplishments, and credentials they bring to the role.


‘Seasoned’

“Not only does this word conjure up images of curly fries, it is well-recognised as a code word for ‘much, much older,'” Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach, told Business Insider.


‘References available by request’

“If you progress through the interviewing process, you will be asked for personal and professional references,” Geldbard said.


‘NYSE’ and all other acronyms

Vicky Oliver, author of “Power Sales Words” and “301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions,” told Business Insider that you should spell out any acronyms first and put the initials in parentheses.

For example, “NYSE” would read “New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).”

“For starters, acronyms are capitalised, and all caps are harder to read than upper and lower case,” Oliver said. “It’s also really difficult to wade through a piece of paper that resembles alphabet soup.”


‘Team player’

Everyone wants to claim they’re a team player. So no hiring manager will be impressed by a candidate who throws out this buzzword.

“Instead, use an example of how you saved a company time, money, and resources on a team project or in collaboration with others,” McDonald said.


‘Ambitious’

“Of course you would never say you’re ‘lazy’ either, but calling yourself ‘ambitious’ doesn’t make any sense on a résumé,” Friedman said.

“It can imply that you’re targeting this job now, but will quickly be looking to move up in the company because you won’t be satisfied in the role, leaving the employer stuck with doing a new job search in the very near future.”


‘Successfully’

Scott Barbour/Getty Images

“It’s generally assumed that you were successful at whatever you are including on your résumé,” Gelbard said. “There is no need to say that you successfully managed a marketing campaign or successfully led annual budget planning.”


‘Microsoft Office Suite’

Well, duh.

It’s assumed that you know how to use Microsoft Word or Outlook, Gelbard said. Unless you’re particularly advanced at, say, analysing data with Microsoft Excel, don’t brag about this one.


‘Interfaced’

“Words like this make you sound like an automaton,” Oliver said. “Most recruiters would rather meet with a human being. Keep your verbs simple and streamlined.”


‘Hard worker’

It’s true that a company is less likely to consider you if you haven’t worked hard or don’t come across as someone who will put in what it takes to get the job done, but that doesn’t mean writing “hard worker” will convince hiring managers of your efforts.

“Give concrete examples of how you’ve gone the extra mile, rather than using a non-memorable cliché,” McDonald said.


‘Honest’

“It’s not as if there are some other candidates out there vying for the job who are describing themselves as ‘duplicitous’ or ‘dishonest,'” Friedman said.


‘Punctual’

Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

Being punctual is great, but it’s also pretty basic to holding down a job. Don’t waste the space on your résumé.


‘Lit’

Avoid slang or casual texting language.

“A résumé is a formal document and is often the first impression a potential employer has of you,” Gelbard said. “Business language should be used to reinforce that first impression and text-style or casual words should be avoided.”


‘Influencer’

Neil Jacobs/Netflix

This might mean you’re savvy with digital marketing – but many influencers aren’t actually that influential.

Show stats about your following and demonstrate your influence rather than dropping this cringe-inducing title.


‘People person’

Recruiters have heard clichés like “people person” so many times they’re likely to feel their eyes glaze over as soon as they see them, Oliver said.


‘Digital native’

Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

It’s your skills, not your birth year, that makes you deserving to brag about your internet aptitude.

“Young millennials’ addiction to all things web doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a digital native,” wrote Gabriela Barkho in Mashable. “Nor is someone who just so happened to grow up in the Internet age.”


‘Hit the ground running’

Cameron Spencer/Getty

“This one is a pet peeve of mine,” McDonald said. “The expression is unnecessary and doesn’t add value. A recruiter isn’t going to be able to place you if you’re not eager to start the job and you aren’t committed.”


‘Growth hacking’

“If you’re experimenting across marketing channels: Just. Say. That,” wrote Zoë Henry of Inc. in her piece on worst buzzwords of 2017.


‘I’

Avoid using personal pronouns like I, me, my, we, or our, Gelbard said.

“A person reviewing your résumé knows that you’re talking about your skills, experience, and expertise or something related to the company for which you worked, so you don’t need to include pronouns,” she told Business Insider.


‘Think outside the box’

“Think outside the box” is a cliché term that irks nearly a third of hiring managers.

Again, show how you are innovative. Tell a story about how you, say, contributed an unusual solution that attracted new clients for your company.


‘Leadership’

According to LinkedIn, “leadership” was the top buzzword on its users’ profiles. And if the word doesn’t help you stand out on your LinkedIn profile, you can bet it won’t make your résumé more eye-catching, either.

Rather than saying you have excellent leadership skills, you’d do better to highlight specific examples of when you demonstrated these skills and what kind of results you saw.


‘Exceptional communicator’

Stating that you are really great at communication is probably communicating the opposite.

Tina Nicolai, who has read more than 40,000 résumés since founding her companyRésumé Writers’ Ink, told Business Insiderthat skills like being an “exceptional communicator” are “baseline expectations in today’s market.”


‘My objective …’

And while you’re at it, don’t bother including your career objectives. All they do is send the message that you’re more concerned about yourself, wrote career and workplace expert J.T. O’Donnell.

“When the first thing a recruiter sees on your résumé is what you want from them, they’re turned off,” TopResume job-search expert Amanda Augustine told O’Donnell.

The exception is if you’re in a unique situation, like changing industries completely.


‘Customer-centric’

All employees should probably be focused on their customers – or else their companies won’t be making it to the next quarter.


‘Innovative’

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Subjective words like “creative,” “innovative,” and “exceptional,” are your own opinion and have little bearing for a recruiter, O’Donnell wrote. Even worse, these words make you sound cocky.

Augustine told O’Donnell that a good test is to ask yourself if you’d say these things when speaking face to face with a recruiter.


‘Extracurricular activities’

Unless these activities are in some way related to the job you’re applying for, no one really cares what you do in your spare time when they’re skimming your résumé.

The exception is when including a hobby adds value to your résumé and helps you stand out in a good way.


‘3.0 GPA’

Once you’re out of school, your grades aren’t as relevant. The exception is if you’re a recent college graduate and you have a stellar GPA.

But if you’re more than three years out of school, or if your GPA was lower than a 3.8, ditch it.


‘Utilise’

Nicolai told Business Insider she hates overly formal words like “utilise” – they’re not engaging and they don’t allow the reader to get a good sense of the applicant’s personality, she says.

And she’s not alone.

As one copy editor told Grammar Girl, she usually swaps out pretentious-sounding words like “utilise” for unimpressive ones like “use,” which get the point across without much fuss.

Sentences that use overly formal words sound fluffy and make it seem like you’re trying too hard, wrote the copy editor.


‘Hustle’

“If you were really doing it, you wouldn’t have time to talk about it,” Henry wrote.


‘Deep dive’

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“Are you conducting this meeting in a pool?” asked Jonathan Parks-Ramage in Refinery29. “Or maybe you’re actually on the Olympic Committee, discussing the next summer games?”
If the answer is no, explain your expertise using a more standard, less jargon-y phrase.

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