21 Overused Resume Words Recruiters and HR Managers Really Hate

Whether you are fresh out of college or updating your resume for a new job, if you are using the buzz words everyone else is using, then don’t be surprised if your application ends up in the NO pile. Instead, link your skills to show that you are an employer’s next star employee.

Here are 21 words and phrases to avoid on your resume.  You may want to consider how many you regularly use or are currently in your resume.

  1. Ninja – Programming ninja or marketing ninja… just simply wrong! Enough said.
  2. Rock Star – Is this your resume or your Facebook (or dating app) profile?
  3. Dynamic – good word but way overused
  4. Guru – (see Ninja)
  5. Problem Solver – Instead, tell me how you would solve a problem and the skills you have to do so.
  6. Goal Oriented – so 80s and please be more specific
  7. Self-Starter – so 90s and actually expected of you… What are you getting paid for?
  8. Stubborn – Seriously? Try resilient instead.
  9. Effective – You’re kidding?! Shouldn’t this be a given?
  10. Quick Learner – Oops… for example?
  11. Responsible – mmmm, instead discuss why or demonstrate why.
  12. Capable – another ouch… Most employers see this as a meaningless filler.
  13. Creative – not a bad word to use, but be creative and come up with something else.
  14. Results oriented – Soooooo overused… Instead please replace with a phrase like, “making sure results are achieved or met.”
  15. Communication skills – Oh really? You better elaborate because the other 500 applicants claim the same.
  16. Motivated – I know, I know but its overused. See point 5.
  17. Hard working – that is so 80s and yes, I only want hard working.
  18. Scalable – Huh? What are you actually trying to say?
  19. Innovative – I suggest you find another way to impress. The election is over!
  20. Familiar with – Oh, ok, so you seriously expect to be hired for below average knowledge, experience or skills?
  21. Try – my personal favourite. People, there is no try, only do.

There you have it. 21 annoying and useless words and phrases.

So how do you stand out with the right words?

Stop being so subjective

With a simple Google search you can easily pull up a list of some of the most overused words on resumes and on LinkedIn.

The issue here is that these words break a common rule of personal branding: stay objective. These overused words by themselves are very subjective. That is to say, you are essentially stating an opinion of yourself instead of a factual account of your work history.

Essentially, if you have “Responsible and motivated individual with extensive experience” on your resume or profile a recruiter’s immediate reaction will be one of two things:

  • This one Googled how to write a resume and must have copied and pasted the results; or
  • Who says you are all of these wonderful things?

You can avoid this by describing what you actually did at the job. How can you support that you are a responsible individual? What is your extensive experience, exactly? Do you have an example that shows how you’re motivated?

Deliver proof and back up your statements

If the only word to describe what you did is “creative” then so be it. The issue is that most people don’t back it up with evidence.

What you need to do is show how you were creative by using achievements-based bullets.

For instance, if you are a creative Human Resources Executive Vice-President, you can outline how you created an evaluation system for a 200 person organisation that resulted in an 11% drop in turnover and a 25% increase in internal staff being promoted.

This provides a picture for the person reading your resume so they no longer have to guess what “creative” means. Furthermore, this is a results driven example that would be totally unique to you as a candidate.

Use facts and numbers

Numbers are perhaps the most compelling way to demonstrate your skills.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of those small things most people forget to put on their resume or LinkedIn profile.

Start writing your resume and LinkedIn profile with numbers in mind and you’ll easily avoid falling into the trap of fluffy buzz words. Did you increase revenue? Do you have percentages to prove how you solved a problem? How many projects did you create?

If you are interested in working with us to achieve the exposure and land the job interviews you want, join us at our Sydney or Perth Job Hunter Bootcamp and learn about how you can help yourself to the next job. So, try out my tips or join us for a coaching session and in the meantime remember to hunt wisely!