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25 words you should instantly delete from your résumé

Jessica Yun
·4-min read
Hit backspace on the following words and phrases. (Source: Getty)
Hit backspace on the following words and phrases. (Source: Getty)

With Aussies competing against hundreds and even thousands of candidates per job application, your résumé or CV is crucial if you want to stand out.

But using the wrong words – even if it sounds ‘good’ – will hurt your chances at securing an interview, let alone a shot at the job, experts warn.

“If jobseekers find themselves using a word because it ‘sounds right’, regardless of their meaning and without being specific, then they’re in buzzword territory,” recruitment firm Robert Half director Nicole Gorton told Yahoo Finance.

“Candidates might think these words are what an employer wants to read, but they need to be careful as these buzzwords might actually negatively impact their chances of landing the job.

“Buzzwords can be an indication how little effort we put into writing our résumé, usually at the expense of clear meaning.”

Classic examples of these buzzwords include ‘enthusiastic’, ‘energetic’, ‘loyal’ and a ‘people person’.

But there are a few more words and phrases recruiters are tired of seeing:

  • ‘Effective’

  • ‘Responsible’

  • ‘Strategic’

  • ‘Innovative’

  • ‘Think outside the box’

  • ‘Results-driven’

  • ‘Detail-oriented’

  • ‘Proactive’

“As more and more people add the word to their résumé to describe themselves, in increasingly less-deserving ways, it becomes harder for recruiters to identify the ones who use it correctly and distinguish them from everyone else,” said Gorton.

If everyone described themselves that way, how would employers tell the difference between them?

What to do instead: Let the results – that is, data and numbers – speak for themselves. Quantify your successes, experts advise.

“Don’t say it, display it,” said Gorton.

“How were you strategic? How were you innovative? Jobseekers should evidence their achievements instead of reverting to buzzwords.”

Business jargon to delete

While your résumé should demonstrate you have the relevant experience, executive coach Erica Bagshaw said job applicants should assume that the person reading your résumé could be from HR, not your field of specialty.

“Populating résumés with industry jargon and acronyms alienates some readers and over complicates your message. Remove these and be clear about what you mean,” she told Yahoo Finance.

According to Bagshaw and Indeed head of career insights Jay Munro, if these words are in your résumé, get rid of them:

  • ‘Synergy’

  • ‘Passionate’

  • ‘Pivot’

  • ‘Unprecedented’

  • ‘Bottom line’

  • ‘Buy-in’

  • ‘Ecosystem’

  • ‘Thought leadership’

  • ‘Value add’

According to recruitment firm Adecco Australia managing director Kelly Van Nelson, it’s best to stay away from cliches, too.

“The best advice though, would be to have a succinct resume that is free of unnecessary padding and is directly reflective of experience relevant to the job being applied for,” she said.

Keep the presentation simple; make sure the résumé is free of spelling mistakes; and simply get the application submission process right.

Words to avoid on LinkedIn

According to LinkedIn Australia career expert Shiva Kumar, you should use your online profile and network to your advantage, and create job alerts.

“Whether you’re looking to change careers, get promoted, or launch yourself into the workforce for the first time, a standout LinkedIn profile will certainly help you differentiate yourself from the crowd,” he said.

But keep your LinkedIn profile and your résumé “concise and authentic”, he added, and avoid the following “filler” words:

  • ‘Motivated’

  • ‘Expert’

  • ‘Focused’

  • ‘Ninja’

“Try to use relevant LinkedIn job-search keywords because it attracts recruiters to your profile. Using strong action-oriented words which demonstrates what you achieved such as ‘managed’ or ‘lead’ is recommended.”

What employers already expect you to be

Have you used the following phrases to describe yourself?

  • ‘Self-motivated’

  • ‘Team player’

  • ‘Hard worker’

  • ‘People person’

Don’t bother – employers already expect this of their employees, so including these words won’t add much at all.

“If any of these qualities will be a critical asset to the position you’re applying for, you’d be better off using an action statement with an example that shows how you’ve put it into practice,” said Munro.

According to Bagshaw, outdated skills and experience – like ‘word processing’ or the extracurricular activities you did in high school – aren’t worth highlighting, either.

“Don’t include too much about the past – think critically about what is relevant to the role/s you're applying for,” she said. Senior professionals should just limit their experience to the last 5 to 8 years, and anything older than that should be summarised.”

Words to use instead

All the recruitment and career experts have agreed on one thing, and it’s to concretely demonstrate through numbers and figures what it is that you’ve achieved.

“Employers are looking for examples of times you delivered value, and whenever possible, with numbers to support them,” said Munro.

Mention the depth and scope of your responsibilities and accomplishments, like the size of your budget, team, targets, Bagshaw added.

According to Munro, these verbs will help you demonstrate your value:

  • Achieved

  • Created

  • Developed

  • Established

  • Improved

  • Increased/decreased

  • Launched

  • Managed

  • Negotiated

  • Revenue/profits

  • Trained/mentored

  • Volunteered

Van Nelson also suggested the following:

  • Implemented

  • Influenced

  • Won/secured

  • Initiated

More stories on Careers, here.