The type of words that kill your resume

Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. D’oooooh wrong. That is so old fashioned that it hurts just reading it and it definitely does not apply to your application documents.

The right words are the name of the game when it comes to your tools, and you need to be smart in choosing them.  So, if you recently checked over your resume or online jobsite profile, ensuring it’s typo free, grammatically correct, and highlights your best skills then you are almost done. However, it still may be riddled with the very things that can make hiring professionals eyes roll or glaze over in boredom: buzzwords and cringe words. So how do you know which words to choose and which ones to avoid at all cost?

The 5 types of words that kill your resume which you have to remove from your application vocabulary



You might think that saying you “liaisoned” with top execs sounds great but ‘liaisoned’ is not actually a word. Stick to words that are actually in the dictionary. There are plenty of good ones in there such as, for example, ‘liaised’.


Some words are so overused that they’ve lost their meaning. Unless there’s a compelling reason to pepper your resume with words like disrupt, utilise, optimise or monetise, ditch them. Use clear, simple language and tell people what you actually did using task descriptions, examples and, most importantly, results. Stringing together sentences of meaningless words isn’t fooling anyone, even if you think they sound good.


You’ve heard them: world-class; foremost; cutting-edge; or, worse, bleeding edge … eww. They’re rarely quantifiable and don’t help your appeal. Stick to the facts, figures and numbers to substantiate who you are and what you have achieved.


You might have a MLA and leading a symposium of other MLA and MArch professionals, but most people who are tasked to review applications aren’t going to have a clue what that means. Please, spell it out in the first instance.  If your resume lands in the hands of a more generalist recruiter, he or she will better understand what you’re trying to say.


You may be a team player who gives 110%, 24/7, but those kinds of clichés demonstrate lazy writing and show an alarming lack of original thought. You want your resume to sound like an authoritative version of you, not like some snooze button corporate video from the 80s.

To provide a bit more insight, here is

A brief list of some of the most overused words on resumes.


Accomplished.  Yes, we all know every job seeker is accomplished.  If you had never accomplished anything you would have been fired from every job you’ve ever had.

Results driven.  We all know that practically everyone’s professional resume starts out with results-driven “insert your job title here”. The only problem is, in the job search game you don’t want to sound like everyone else.  You want to stand out from the crowd.

Successful.  This is one of the most overused words.  We all want to communicate how successful we’ve been so that a prospective employer will think highly of us. But let’s look at some alternative wording versus just coming out and saying, “Hey there, I’m a success.”

Skilful or Skilled.  These are so boring. I cannot even tell you how incredibly dull these words are.  I’m sure you can come up with something much more creative for your resume.

Problem solver. Let me just say that this is a given.  We are ALL problem solvers.  If you are human, you are a problem solver.  It is just a part of human nature.  Does it really need to be said on your resume?

Dedicated and Dependable. Again I have to say boring, boring, boring.  Spice up your resume with something more creative.

 Competent. This word is as weak and ineffectual as it’s making you sound. Again, think about the message you’re really trying to convey. Do you have a working knowledge of InDesign or WordPress? Remove the word “competent” and briefly summarise your competencies instead.

Hardworking. Anyone can say they’re hardworking. Indeed, who wouldn’t say they’re hardworking? If you’re trying to say that you always go above and beyond, such as taking on new assignments or volunteering to work extra hours, provide brief examples of how you’ve done that.

Detail oriented. Have you ever said a word over and over until you’ve said it so many times that it begins to lose its meaning? Detail oriented is a term that has appeared on so many resumes that it has begun to mean nothing at all.

Responsible. No one would refer to themselves as irresponsible on a resume so that generally means calling yourself responsible is equally useless.

Highly organised. Granted, ‘air-head’ doesn’t really work on a resume either, but you can’t just say that you’re an organised person. Organised is a snooze-inducing word, which means it’s taking up valuable space you could be using to say something unique about yourself.

Creative. If you really were creative, you wouldn’t be using a word like this on your resume. Unleash that gifted brain of yours and find a splashier way to describe your talents.

Best. Avoid hyperbolic words like best, most, and greatest (unless you really did win some kind of “Most Valuable So-and-So” award — then go ahead and toot the heck out of your own horn). For the most part, they’re unprovable, and they can also carry you across the thin line that separates confidence and arrogance.

Awesome, rock star, kick-butt, guru and the like. Unless you’re applying for a job in a very, very creative industry, you should avoid using casual lingo at all costs. You’re a grown-up now, so you need to write and talk like one.

You don’t have to be a Booker prize winner to make an impression with your resume. Avoid silly jargon and fluff and keep your resume honest with these Powerwords if you want to impress your reader and secure an invitation to a job interview. Stick to the facts and use words that truly represent you and your achievements. Double check your application tools and remember to hunt wisely!