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Get out the red-pencil - get rid of resume buzz words

No more buzz words please

Please avoid the old standard ‘resume stock phrases’


We all have been taught that in order to land that dream job – we need to create a positive and upbeat resume. Well…that is still true but from what we hear from employers and recruiters, there are a number of trite phrases and words that are likely throwing your resume in the reject pile.  The times have changed and this is what we know.   If you are lucky enough to have landed that interview and are asked to describe yourself – the following is for your consideration as well. 

No more buzz words please.   Employers are now so used to reading resumes that have the same old buzz words with no back up, that they can actually make some employers think that you have just put them in to try and build your resume and may think that you don’t actually have the traits you’ve written.

We do acknowledge that many job postings and recruitment ads will include these very phrases - however think about how they are used in your resume and in your job interviews and consider some of the suggestions below.  

Here are some examples of words that are too commonly placed into resumes without any evidence of why you use them.

1. Well Organized. There is nothing wrong with being well organized, however on your resume you should not just throw the words in. You should make more of a statement to back up that ARE well organized, such as writing “Capable of prioritizing workloads” or “Excellent at keeping paperwork in order”.

2. Team Player. Being a team player is a must in almost all jobs, but it is one of the most overused phrases on a resume, and employers are wise to it. It is better to write “Capable of working as a team or alone” or “loves assisting colleagues and clients”, rather than using this stock phrase.

3. Successful. Success should be defined by your employer or backed up by grades or awards, it shouldn’t be something you decree yourself. You may be better to phrase this as “I give 100% and always exceed my goals”.

4. Self-Motivated. This phrase can give the impression that you may be a bit of a maverick or difficult to take direction. A better way to phrase this would be “I am capable of managing my own workload to ensure that I exceed my targets, but I am capable of taking direction.”

5. Resourceful. This is a skill that you are better off referring to and giving an example, such as “I once signed up five new customers by seizing an opportunity at a social event.” If you truly are resourceful, you should be able to give a good reason why on your resume.

6. Reliable. This is one of the most overused words on a resume. It may be better to write “I pride myself on always carrying out my duties to the best of my ability, and I am always punctual.”

7. Professional. Again, another highly overused word.  It is often better to demonstrate this trait than just say it. Think of an example of when you may have had the temptation or opportunity to lose your temper but retained it. “I feel I can treat customers with professionalism no matter what, I once dealt with a customer that hit me, however I managed to continue my duties towards him with professionalism.”

8. People Person. This is best phrased “I find it easy to build rapport with others, which makes me very easy to get along with.”

9. Meticulous. This is best phrased as “I take pride in ensuring that every aspect of my duty has been covered with diligence.”

10. Motivated. This should be a word you don’t need to use on your resume. Everyone should be motivated; you don’t need to add the word to your resume. If you want to write something similar try “I enjoy my job so much I find it effortless.”

11. Logical. This is another word that requires back up. Don’t just say you are logical, explain why. Try adding an example of a time you have found pattern in randomness, or a time you have solved a complex issue.

12. Knowledgeable. Most companies like their employees to continually learn and evolve, so while knowing what you are doing is fine, it’s important to add to your resume that you don’t feel you know it all. Maybe try “I have a vast knowledge of my field however I enjoy learning new things and staying ahead of the developments.”

13. Innovative. Some companies don’t like employees to make changes to their set ways of working. If you think you are capable to changing things, word it in a less aggressive way such as “I like to try and find new and improved ways of doing things and enjoy discussing these techniques with my superiors.”

14. Independent. Being independent is a strong trait and may be read as being difficult to work with, it is better to state this trait as “I am capable of working alone if so required, although I enjoy working alongside colleagues.”

15. Hard Working. This is another ‘ Resume Stock phrase’ that should be avoided unless you can back it up with an example such as “I once worked 4 hours overtime as I knew a client was close to signing a large contract and I wanted to secure it for my company”.  Otherwise we don't know what that even means. 

16. Goal Oriented. This phrase can actually state that you may stop once you achieve your target, and should be phrased such as “I enjoy setting targets so that I can challenge myself to exceed them time and again”.

17. Flexible. The word flexible itself suggests that you are willing to bend for a company, you would be better to phrase this with a little more insight, such as saying “I am aware that in an ever changing workplace it may be necessary to amend my working pattern and I will be happy to accommodate that where possible.”

18. Experienced. This is another resume standard. Back this up with your experience in a concise matter, such as “I have worked in the sector for over 15 years” or show that the experience you have can be easily transferred to another type of job.  Avoid using the phrase "25 years experience" or "20 years experience."  The rule of thumb is to state you have 15+ years experience or over 15 years experience.  

19. Efficient. This should also be backed up with more information, such as “the normal target for completion of a chart or report is 60 minutes, however I have developed an efficient method which takes approximately 20 minutes”

20. Determined. Being determined is a strong trait to put across in your resume, it is much better to use a less aggressive phrase such as “I am always keen to succeed in my role and will do what is necessary to achieve that.”

21. Detail oriented. This phrase should be elaborated on, as anyone who is detail oriented should be able to provide details about it! So use a phrase such as “I like to ensure that all of the details of a proposal are correct to ensure that the most accurate information is presented to a client.”

22. Creative. Again, this should be backed up with an example that you can offer, such as “I headed up an advertising campaign on a very low budget, and it increased sales by 30%.

23. Competent. This word should be used in a resume with caution as ‘Competent’ could be seen as setting a ‘lower bar’ to the job you do. It is much better to say “I have the skills and experience to carry my job out, but I always strive to learn more and stay ahead of my peers.”

24. Ambitious. This word can appear competitive, so it is best to phrase as “I enjoy my role but I am always looking to improve upon myself”.  And please never ever suggest that you might be after the hiring manager or CEO’s job even if it’s a joke.  No one considers that a joke anymore. 

25. Aggressive. This is a phrase you should never use in a resume. No employer requires aggressive staff. It is usually used in an ‘old school’ sales setting, and it is much better to write “I enjoy exceeding my targets” than to say you are aggressive.

Try these new ideas and tell us how you did.  

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