Words and Phrases to Avoid on a Resume

From our friends at MyResumeShop --

With over a million words, the English language can be hard to navigate. If you tried to use all of them, your resume would be 2,000 pages long. So rather than focus on all of the words you could use, let’s take a look at which ones you shouldn’t.

1) “Responsible For” - Unless you are referring to your dog-sitting skills, stay away from this phrase. If you think about it carefully, you’ll realize that it doesn’t give the reviewer a good idea of what you have actually achieved. Resumes are about accomplishments, not intentions.

2) “References available upon request”- With precious little space on your page, any superfluous word takes away from the room you need for necessary information. Everyone knows you have references; you don’t need to remind them.

3) “Team Player”- Proclamations are not convincing. Instead of saying so, show you are a team player by giving examples of times you worked in teams and the outcomes of such collaboration. It’s a good idea to mention the kind of teams you have experience with. Were they remote? Cross-department? Be specific.

4) “Excellent Written and Verbal Communication Skills” - Keep your bragging to a minimum and let the reviewer make his or her own judgment. If the above is true, there must be an example of excellence in your work history. Use concrete details to demonstrate: “Presented research findings to 5-person board of directors at quarterly meeting” or “Developed internal training binder used for all new hires in on-boarding process.”

5) “Experienced Professional” - The proof is in the pudding. If you are indeed an experienced professional, the reviewer should be able to tell that from the information in your resume. Instead of a meaningless phrase, describe what you are experienced in. Did you manage teams, get promoted ahead of other team members, or XYZ?

6) “Problem Solver” - You want to come across as more appealing than an Excel function.  Discuss a specific instance when you solved a problem. What was the impact of your contribution? How did it help the team? How was success measured?

7) “Creative/Innovative” -  The more you say you are creative, the harder it becomes to believe you. Focus on impact. What kind of unique solutions did you push in your organization? What sort of processes and efficiencies did you create and how was your organization changed as the result?

8) “Helped” -  If you want to be a Helper for a living, this is the perfect word for your resume. If you want to get a high-profile position at Company of Your Choice, help yourself by avoiding it. Instead, focus on what you have actually accomplished. Even if you weren’t the team lead on your project, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate your contribution, just make sure it's specific. Did you write a report? Conduct financial analysis? Research and design marketing strategy?

9) “Familiar with” - This is a tempting phrase for those of us with less than expert skills in Chinese or Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately, you don’t communicate anything useful by using it. It’s not helpful that you are familiar with anything, but a word like proficient can sometimes do the trick. If you are still feeling a little shaky, you may want to leave it off. Nothing is worse than being called in for an interview in a language you don’t actually speak.

10) Abbreviations- Acronyms, abbreviations, jargon and argot should be used with care. Just because certain buzzwords are popular within your organization, doesn’t mean they will make sense to a recruiter.  

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