Words And Phrases To Avoid Putting On Your Resume

By Abby McCain
Sep. 28, 2022

You’ve packed your resume full of your professional accomplishments and qualifications, and now it’s time to polish it until the hiring managers who receive it can’t help but notice how awesome you are.

You might be tempted to do this by adding bullet points and fancy words, but cutting out unnecessary elements is just as, if not more, powerful.

While deleting your carefully crafted phrases can sting a little, it’s worth the pain if it means your application gets a second look.

Key Takeaways:

  • Avoid using any words or phrases that are vague, instead explain using action words.

  • Don’t write your resume in third person.

  • Try not to lie on your resume, even if you are just stretching the truth because it can come back to haunt you.

Words And Phrases To Avoid Putting On Your Resume

Words and Phrases To Avoid Putting On Your Resume

  1. Hard Worker. You might not be lying when you tell hiring managers that you’re a hard worker, but that phrase means nothing to them when every other applicant has also said they’re a hard worker.

    Replace this phrase with an example of a time you put in the extra effort to meet a goal or took on an extra task without being asked. This paints a picture of you as an employee in recruiters’ minds instead of leaving them with a question mark about your definition of hard work.

  2. Outside-the-Box. This is an example of a buzzword that started out as an interesting way to describe creative thinking but is now a worn-out and meaningless phrase.

    Even if you are full of outside-the-box ideas, potential employers want to see the specific ways you’ve used those ideas to improve the company you currently work for.

    Say that you “Replaced alphabetical organization system with a color-based system to allow younger students to organize their supplies by themselves,” instead of simply mentioning that you “Bring outside-the-box ideas to classroom management.”

  3. Experienced. This is another word that raises more questions than answers.

    Is the extent of your event planning experience that one lunch meeting you helped your boss create programs for, or did you run the annual company fundraiser for five years straight?

    Be specific, and allow hiring managers to come to their own conclusions about whether you’re truly experienced or not.

  4. Team Player. There is no reason for hiring managers to believe you are a team player unless you back up your claim with an example.

    For example, talking about how you “Volunteered to train under other team members to be able to cover for them during the busy season” shows that you’re willing to help out your team any way you can.

  5. Dynamic, Enthusiastic, or Energetic. These and other adjectives used to describe your personality are best left off a resume for a couple of reasons.

    One is because it can quickly cross into braggy territory. Talking about your professional accomplishments is one thing, but detailing how awesome a human you are is another.

    The other reason is that these adjectives are subjective. You might think you’re outgoing and enthusiastic, but in reality, you may just be a little more talkative than the rest of your current coworkers.

    Let your personality shine through in your cover letter and interview, and save the adjectives for when your interviewer asks you to use three of them to describe yourself.

  6. Expert. It’s best to stay away from the word expert, unless you truly are an expert in a field. If you end up including it, be prepared for all kinds of questions relating your expertise, and don’t get upset when you don’t know an answer.

  7. Reference available upon request. This phrase can just take up space on your resume. If you are putting a reference down, it’s to be understood by the hiring manager that they should be available.

  8. Go-to person. This can be a vague phrase that the hiring manager won’t understand. Instead of using this phrase to describe yourself, think of what it really means. Were the person who delegated tasks for a team or were you the person people went to for help. It’s best to describe what you did instead.

  9. Self-motivated. Pretty much anyone can state that they are self-motivated on a resume but it doesn’t prove anything to the hiring manager. Explain how you were self motivated instead of just using the phrase.

  10. Results drive. Hiring managers want so see what you have done instead of just being told that it happened. Include examples of results that you got from a project or assignment. They will be more impressed with the actual results instead of you saying you are results driven.

What You Shouldn’t Include in Your Resume

Here’s a list of the first steps you should take when you’re revising your resume. Or, if you’re writing it for the first time, use this list as a guide for what not to include.

  1. Get rid of your objective statement. It’s long been a common practice to open your resume with a statement explaining what your objective is in applying for the job.

    This may sound great in theory, but most of these sections sound the same and show nothing unique about the applicant. As a result, they simply take up valuable space that you could be using to sell yourself to the hiring manager.

    Replace your objective statement with a summary about who you are and what makes you the best candidate for the job, kind of like a mini cover letter. This allows you to start sharing your unique skills and experiences right off the bat.

    Always tailor this section to the job you’re applying for so that it doesn’t sound generic and so that it speaks to what recruiters are looking for in a candidate.

    Here are some titles for this section that you can use in place of the classic “Career Objective” or “Objective Statement”:

    • Executive Summary

    • Summary

    • About Me

  2. Don’t write in the third person. If your resume has your name anywhere besides the header, start warming up that delete key.

    No one enjoys listening to someone talk about themselves by saying, “John doubled his sales last year,” or “Alyssa manages her own blog,” and the same goes for a resume.

    Plus, using pronouns at all takes up precious space. Write your resume in the first person, but cut out all of the pronouns so that your bullet points say something like, “Received over 100 customer service calls a week.”

  3. Leave out any interests that could potentially offend someone. Suppose you include a hobby or interest that’s potentially polarizing or may seem odd to people whose only interaction with you is through your resume. In that case, it could be the one reason they need to remove your application from consideration.

    Keep the information on your resume job-related or, if you need to fill up space, make sure everything you include sounds professional and could be used in a job setting.

    Your photography hobby, for example, may be a good thing to include if you’re working for a creative industry. However, the fact that you study cults in your free time, while an interesting conversation starter, should probably be left off your resume.

  4. Don’t use your current work email address in your contact information. Not only is it uncomfortable for hiring managers to send information to a candidate’s current company email address, but it also raises red flags about you as a potential employee.

    If you’re applying for other jobs while you’re on the clock at your current one, that doesn’t bode well for your next company. They’ll want to know that you’re going to stay on task when you’re at work and take care of your personal business during your time off.

    If you don’t include your personal email because it’s the same sk8ergurl15@hotmail.com address you’ve been using since you were 13, it’s time to get a new one anyway.

  5. Ask yourself if you really need to list every job you’ve ever had. Remember, the purpose of your resume is to show why you’re qualified for the position you’re applying for.

    Instead, list only the jobs and volunteer experience you’ve had that prepared you for this new position.

    If you need to include additional positions to fill space, just make sure you share any relevant skills you gained from them as well.

    Listing that you were a lifeguard and hoping hiring managers will pick up on your hint that it shows work ethic and responsibility isn’t enough. You have to explain that you were at the pool at 5:00 a.m. every morning before school and on the weekends for them to see how this experience matters.

  6. Never lie. Don’t even stretch or bend the truth a little. Sure, word your accomplishments so that readers can understand their magnitude, but make sure you can back them up with examples.

    Part of hiring managers’ jobs is to make sure candidates are who they say they are, and they will bring your lies to light in an interview or a call to a reference. Once they discover that you haven’t been telling the truth, it’s all but guaranteed that they won’t offer you the position.

    Instead, show the significance of your accomplishments by sharing details about the results of your efforts.

    “Reorganized the department’s supply cabinet” doesn’t sound very interesting, but “Saved the company over $600 in unnecessary purchases by reorganizing the department’s supply cabinet during lunch breaks” shows that you saw a way you could help the company and took the initiative to do it.

  7. Cut out any pompous or vague language. While your resume should sound intelligent and professional, including big words for their own sake can make you sound like you take yourself too seriously. It can also muddy up your resume, so it’s more difficult for readers to figure out what you’re trying to say.

    Make sure everything you’ve written you’d say in real life. If you find yourself looking up a word in the thesaurus, pause and make sure you really need to include it.

  8. Avoid vague buzzwords. Whenever possible, stick to the writers’ adage, “Show, don’t tell.”

    Explaining your specific accomplishments makes you stand out far more than cookie-cutter buzzwords ever will. They might sound good, but since they’re the same words that everyone puts on their resumes, they’ll just make you blend in with all the other applicants.

    In the next section, you’ll find five examples of these meaningless words that you should leave off of your resume.

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Abby McCain

Abby is a writer who is passionate about the power of story. Whether it’s communicating complicated topics in a clear way or helping readers connect with another person or place from the comfort of their couch. Abby attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in writing with concentrations in journalism and business.

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Topics: Get The Job, Resume