Resumes & Cover Letters

Words To Avoid and Include On a Resume

February 15, 2021

You only have a short time to make an impression with your resume. In those moments when a potential employer is scanning your skills and experience, it is important to choose words that will communicate the value you've added in previous roles.

Choose action-oriented phrases that show rather than tell why you should be considered. For example, instead of saying that you're a “results-driven team player that delivers impactful results,” hiring managers want to see something like, “I developed a streamlined delivery process that reduced revenue slip by 20%.”

Let's look at specific words you should avoid and words to include that will make your resume stand out.

Words to avoid on your resume

Here are some specific words to avoid including on your resume and what to say instead:

Business lingo

Choosing overused business language can weaken your resume. Using plain, clear language that explains how you've delivered value is much more effective. Here are some more examples of business lingo to leave off your resume:

  • Bottom line: Instead of using the term bottom line, try quantifying how you were able to do this. Using numbers will not only help to prove this, but they will also help your resume stand out. Numbers are easier to scan for a hiring manager, so including them could help get your point across more effectively.
  • Buy-in: This term is typically used to replace the word support. Instead of saying you received buy-in or support from the leadership team on a particular project, try proving how this was done. For example, you could say, "Presented research findings to the senior leadership team with tangible evidence of why there was a drop in numbers, helping to gain their support for more marketing spend."
  • Core competency: Core competency will typically refer to a set of skills or expertise. Instead of using the term core competency on a resume, try going into detail about what those skills are. For example, "I have seven years of experience working with Salesforce and other CRM systems."
  • Ecosystem: The term ecosystem in business usually refers to a network of departments. Instead of using the term ecosystem, try listing out the specific departments you worked with and how. If you have worked with a number of different departments, try only listing the most important or the most impactful.
  • Move the needle: In business, the term "moving the needle" generally refers to the process of changing something by a considerable amount. Instead of saying that you moved the needle, try going into detail about how or what the results were. For example, you could say, "Introduced the use of a web chatbot to help service customers, increasing the average customer served per day from four to 15."
  • Synergy: Synergy in business will typically refer to the merging or combination of departments. If you were responsible for helping to create synergy between departments or businesses, use details on how this was achieved. For example, you could say, "Initiated quarterly meetings between the sales and marketing team to help share gaps in the customer experience to improve business revenue."
  • Thought leadership: This word is typically overused in business and, as a result, has lost its true meaning. If the intention is to prove you have helped formulate new and creative ideas for an organization, find ways to prove it. Include a phrase such as "Created an original hashtag for the marketing campaign that was picked up by audiences and the media."
  • Value add: This is another place where numbers can help you prove your point. Instead of stating that you added value, express the ways you did this. If applicable, showcase how you were able to keep a project under budget or how you helped to increase company revenue.
  • Wheelhouse: Make sure to go into detail on what subject or subjects you are an expert on. You can prove this by using things like certification or training programs completed.

General phrases of self-promotion

Your resume is a space to showcase your skills and abilities. However, broad terms and phrases that explain your value can be ineffective. A term like “self-starter,” for example, is a generality that doesn't specifically explain why or how you might bring value to the role you're applying for.

Instead, try showing an example of a time you self-started. An example of this could be, “Identified time-waste and implemented a new CMS system, cutting time spent on cleaning customer records in half.”

Here are more examples of self-promotional phrases to avoid:

  • Go-getter or proactive: A go-getter is someone who takes initiative and action. To prove this on a resume, consider listing additional certification or extracurricular activities. This can also be proven by showcasing ways you've reached out to other departments to help achieve overall goals. Consider using a phrase such as, "Initiated conversation with accounting team to determine where the biggest revenue losses were to help devise a strategy."
  • Go-to person: Be sure to showcase your subject matter expertise by proving why you were the go-to person for a particular topic or department. This can be stated by saying something such as, "Lead lunch-and-learn programs on digital marketing for knowledge transferring sessions with other departments."
  • Strategic thinker: A strategic thinker is someone who comes up with successful plans and puts them into action. Using this skill can help save a company time and money. For certain positions like those in digital marketing, being a strategic thinker is very important as it enables you to find opportunities to improve and plan out your future campaigns. To prove you possess this skill, consider including language that demonstrates you performed research on a particular subject and implemented a plan. An example of this would be, "Created persona-based social media posts for customers, resulting in 40% growth in engagement."
  • Think outside the box: It is one thing to say you can think outside the box and another to prove how you have done this. Think back on a time that you were able to introduce a new procedure or creative marketing campaign for a company. Include specific examples of how this was able to be achieved.
  • Results-driven: There are particular roles like sales, where being results-driven is of particular importance. To prove this on a resume, try showcasing how you have exceeded targets or goals. Using numbers here would also be incredibly beneficial. An example of this would be "Exceeded sales quota by an average of 6% year over year."
  • Detail-oriented: Paying attention to detail is incredibly important in roles such as content creation, accounting, engineering, or any medical field. Besides handing over a meticulous resume, be sure to include examples of how you have been detail-oriented in the past. An example of this could be, "Reviewed all work at least twice before handing in ahead of schedule."

Givens

There are a few words and phrases you should leave off your resume because they don't add any new or differentiating information. You don't have much time or space to make hiring managers understand why they should consider you as a candidate, so avoid taking up space with words like “people person.” Nearly every job will require you to work with other people, so unless you have a specific example that shows you are exceptionally skilled in this area, it's not worth including.

If this is a critical asset in the position you're applying for, try using an action statement that shows how you work with others. For example, you could say, “I established a monthly workshop that led to increased team collaboration, resulting in three completed projects in the past quarter.”

Here are a few additional examples of phrases hiring managers expect without needing to see them on your resume:

  • Hard worker
  • Self-motivated
  • Team player

Words to include on your resume

Examples of your past work give employers clear evidence of how you are different from other applicants. They are looking for examples of times you delivered value, and whenever possible, with numbers to support them. Consider the following list of words that can be helpful as you develop a resume with action statements that clearly show the value you'll bring to their team:

  • Achieved
  • Created
  • Developed
  • Established
  • Ideas
  • Improved
  • Increased/decreased
  • Influenced
  • Launched
  • Managed
  • Negotiated
  • Resolved
  • Revenue/profits
  • Trained/mentored
  • Under budget
  • Volunteered

When it comes to the interview process, from resume to final interview, hiring managers want to be able to understand the specific value you've provided to predict how you'll drive value at their company. Your first touchpoint with hiring managers is the resume. So, in place of cliches and generalities, leverage action words to give examples of how exactly you fit the description they've written.

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