12 Words You Need to Delete From Your Resume Right Now

by Kentin Waits on 9 January 2014 13 comments

According to a recent study, recruiters spend an average of 6.2 seconds looking at an individual resume. Working with that kind of attention span and operating with limited space, resume writers need to make every word count. With this in mind, it might be time to a take a critical look at your resume or CV (or even your LinkedIn profile) and root out terms that aren't doing you any favors. And you can start with these 12 vague, cliche, inappropriate, or downright meaningless words. (See also: Get Your Resume Past the Resume Filter)

"I"

Your resume is a chance to showcase how your skills, experience, and knowledge have produced quantitative results for previous employers. Avoid overusing "I" and focus instead on what you can bring to company and role you're interest in. Remember, it's less about you and more about them. A resume peppered with "I"s and "my"s sends the message that you're focused in the wrong direction.

"Microsoft Office"

Amber Carucci of PR Daily says that most employers assume that candidates have basic computer skills, so applicants shouldn't take up valuable resume real estate to point out the obvious. Instead, focus on specific areas of expertise such as HTML coding, SEO/SEM, or project management software programs.

"Love"

Used in business communication of any sort, love (e.g., "Accounting is my first love" or "I'd love to work for your company") is a word that sticks out like a sore thumb. Let's reserve this quite powerful descriptor for our families, our pets, and our smartphones. (See also: 5 Best Smartphones)

"Impactful"

Sure, impactful is a word, but it's not necessarily a good one. It's clunky, awkward, and prompts the question: Was the impact good or bad? Crack open a thesaurus and pick a better adjective (not a tall order since most are better).

"Utilize" and Other "izes"

The "ize" don't have it. Words like utilize, maximize, and optimize not only fail to impress would-be employers, they detract from the flow and clarity of your resume. Skip the business-speak and err on the side of simple, direct communication that quantifies your achievements.

"Passionate" or "Driven"

Employers have fetishized passion so much that applicants feel compelled to litter their resumes with this absurd descriptor. Instead of using terms like passionate and driven, or feeling obligated to perform an interpretive dance showing how aroused you are by actuarial science or call center customer service, demonstrate it through educational achievement, specific career accomplishments, licensures, and participation in professional associations.

"Experienced"

Experienced is so vague and overused that's been rendered nearly meaningless. So, just skip it and get specific. What have you done? What projects have you managed? What results have you produced? Dazzle them with facts; don't bore them with generalities. (See also: How to Get Work Experience Without a Job)

"Responsible"

Responsible, as in responsible for, is the cousin of experienced. Instead of writing a long grocery list of what you've been responsible for in previous positions, get to the point. Use quantitative data to explain what you did, who you did it with, how long you did it, and how good you were at it.

"Results-Oriented"

Results-oriented and the three terms that follow it below are all cliches. Through their ubiquity and generality, they've lost whatever real meaning they may have once provided employers. It just begs to be replaced with quantitative examples of results you've produced, goals you've hit consistently, deals you've closed, and new partnerships you've developed.

"Detail-Oriented"

It's assumed that you'll be detail-oriented, so there's no need to spell it out. Instead, illustrate how your attention has saved a previous employer money, made a team run more efficiently, or kept a project on-track and within budget.

"Team-Player"

If hiring managers collected a dime each time they run across this term, they could retire decades early. Skip the cliche and show how you've worked effectively with teams in the recent past. Even better, provide examples of how you've built strong teams, supervised teams, and motivated teams toward real results. (See also: How to Be Happier and More Likeable at Work)

"Hard-Working"

The content of a well-crafted resume should say this for you. Let your experience, skills, and results speak for themselves.

Remember, while it often seems like getting your resume noticed by the right person takes one part luck and one part black magic, there is a formula for success. Winning resumes are clear, jargon-free, flawlessly written, and ruthlessly edited. Get noticed by trading generalities for specific measurable achievements and resisting the temptation to gum up the works with flowery language. You and your recruiter are much too busy.

How many of these words and phrases are in your resume? Any others job searchers should watch for?

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Guest

Add "literally" and "basically" to the list. Also, ban them forever from your vocabulary. They are almost always misused and even when used correctly, add no meaning to the sentence. They are no different than "umm" or "er".

Guest's picture
Agent

I partially agree with these points. However I would say that many companies still use these meaningless business words in their job openings (especially experienced, responsible, results-oriented and team player)

Guest's picture
Mark J

The point is that companies are looking for those qualities, but it's meaningless to describe yourself with those words ans they are things anybody can say. A resume should be mostly evidence of your accomplishments. Ues of words like that detract from your accomplishments and even worse can demonstrate you don't have significant accomplishments.

Guest's picture
Guest

Since most job postings include many of these terms, and resumes' are typically screened by bots SEARCHING for these key terms, it would be a big mistake to remove them from your resume'. I understand where the author is coming from, but in reality removal of these terms will have the opposite effect of what everyone with a resume' is looking for ... and that is getting their foot in the door for an interview.

Guest's picture
Ruth

Good advice however a resume example would be useful for the reader to support the article.

Guest's picture
Mark J

The article mentions hard working,team player and other qualities. I'd suggest eliminating any adjectives which describe qualities such as self-motivated, responsible etc. In general I'd recommend eliminating most if not all adjectives used in self description.

Guest's picture
Guest

You do realize the majority of the time a resume needs those keywords because a recruiter or HR person is looking at the resume and uses those keywords to set your into a pile that will eventually go to the hiring manager of the department?

Your article could be conceived as dangerous if someone really took this to heart. Maybe if you are sending your resume to a startup company where an actual hiring manager gets your resume first, then your article would be great to follow as I agree with what you are saying.

Guest's picture
Webster

It would be foolish for managers and recruiters to "assume" that any given applicant is "detail-oriented".

The most obvious counter-example is that some people (especially quality senior managers) are "big-picture-oriented" -- it's not exactly an opposite, but it's definitely a positive quality (for some jobs) that is incompatible with detail orientation. Some candidates are task-oriented or people-oriented; neither implies a "detail" orientation.

Guest's picture
Guest

This article seems to be more about how to write well than how to write a good resume. Concrete detail is good, but business still loves these cliches.

Guest's picture

I must edit my resume now, thanks for this! Responsible and detail-oriented are the most used words when it comes to resume.

Guest's picture
Hannah

"Impactful" is not a word.

Guest's picture

Great tips! I just searched my resume now and thankfully I'm not using too many of these at all. I think that's a great point to really look at and improve your linkedin. That's the future!

Guest's picture
Mark Slack

The Ladders study you linked in the beginning has serious methodological problems and may not be credible. It's impossible to tell if the study is scientifically accurate because they were opaque about their methodology. You can read about its problems in depth here: http://resumegenius.com/blog/5-problems-with-the-ladders-6-second-resume...

Nonetheless, the information in this article is well worth taking to heart. Moreover, The Ladders' study may be accurate, but it's impossible to know without looking at their data in a more in depth manner, which has not been released.