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Securing Interviews and Work - Words To Avoid In a Resume Format

Updated on June 2, 2014
A thesaurus and continuing reading experience will help your language in any form, including on resumes.
A thesaurus and continuing reading experience will help your language in any form, including on resumes.

Words to SKIP On Your Resume

Based on 25 years' effective resume, professional portfolio, and interview techniques instruction and preparation experience.

The wrong word choice can absolutely sabotage your resume. If you sound like everyone else, then the employer will discard your resume -- You want to sound different and better than all the other job candidates.

Old, boring, hackneyed words and phrases make your resume as look as interesting as cheap wallpaper. In order to become more aware of current resume quality, go online and search for resume styles and examples every six months. Notice the words and phrases that sound freshest and strongest while transmitting the most correct impression to the reader.

SKIP These Words and Phrases

  • References Furnished On Request. - Trite and uncalled-for. References from the job seeker are expected on both sides - from job candidates to a company representative, at sometime in the hiring process. If they don't ask for them, you are likely not in the running for the job. A good alternative is to have a set of copies of Recommendation Letters to submit with the resume to companies you eagerly seek, along with a separateReferences Sheet - carry these items with you.
  • Strong work ethic - This may be the worst one, because it was taught in several work readiness classes around the country and mentioned in TV news much too often. In the 1990s you kept hearing news interview statements like, "That kid/man/woman/ has no work ethic; that's why he flunked out of school and got into trouble." The phrase "work ethic" became a buzzword, but in the 21st century it has become nonsense syllables when use don a resume. Employers and HR Interviewers stipulate that you want to make money and want to work, so using "work ethic" on the resume is redundant.
  • Proven track record - This one is getting old -- record of accomplishment or history of achievements is better. Then add specific hard numbers for accomplishments - Raised unit sales by $100,000 in the first month - use dollars and percentages.
  • Assisted - BAD! - Employers want an independent DOER, not a helper.
  • Results-oriented, Results-driven
  • Problem-solver, Proactive problem-solver - Try "Institutes consistently effective business solutions that increase revenues and decrease losses."
  • Goal-oriented
  • Solutions-oriented
  • Demonstrated strengths or abilities
  • Proven ability
  • Multitasker - This has often come to mean that a person can do a lot of things at once, but most of them incorrectly. In fact, there is in the 2010s some discussion about adding this term to the list of symptoms of certain psychological disorders. The good side: If you are able to, for example, oversee more than one building project as a project manager, mention the specific number and include hard figures to show cost savings, effective time management, and similar benefits.
  • Successful experience - This is really old and elementary. Try "effective", "proactive", "independently undertaken cost-saving contributions"...
  • Broad-based experience - It could be broad-based and all bad.
  • Seasoned professional - Very old style. It may trigger a red flag that the job applicant is "too mature."
  • Dynamic leader or professional - Dynamic means vigorous and purposeful or active and changing ; make sure to say exactly what you mean.
  • Dedicated professional
  • Accomplished professional
  • Highly adept
  • Highly skilled
  • Team player - TRITE! This was also over done in work readiness programs and workplace employee reviews for at least 10 years. What does it really mean? Talk about how you contribute substantially to or lead a team.
  • Innovative thinker - Are the ideas any good?
  • Technically savvy - Be specific.
  • Strong analytical skills - For what, how, when, and where?
  • Outstanding interpersonal skills - Which ones?
  • Highly organized - speak about cost savings and streamlining production, saving time and money.
  • Detail-oriented - obsessed with details and unable to see the big picture, or able to focus on details while using them to the best advantage for the company?
  • Good communicator - what does this mean? Does it mean that you can talk a lot with a well modulated voice, or does it mean that people understand your words, take what you say to heart, back you up, and follow your instructions?

Bad, ineffective, just-loading-words-onto-the-page resume writing is pregnant with modifiers: adjectives and adverbs. These modifiers may be piled together in a long line: Detail-focused, team-oriented, results-driven, highly motivated, no-nonsense manager. That manager wastes too much time writing adjectives.

In reviewing your resume, go through a hard copy and scratch out all of the adjective and adverb modifiers. Now, read it again and see if other, fresher words and phrases can placed that are more clear, accurate, and strong.

Add Character to Your Resume

Personal Phrases to Skip

These words are all trite and many of them void EEO regulations if you bring them up. Once you bring up age, race, sex/gender, or anything else personal, you can be declined a position because of these characterstics without being told so, without any recourse. Job seekers as well as employers must preserve the standards and regulations of EEO.The sole exception of which I am aware is the CV for a University or College teaching position -- this often includes date of birth, marital status, and nationality (not used on resumes and job applications).


  • responsible for - use "Directed" or "Managed" or other stronger words.
  • duties included - Skip duties on a resume and go for accomplishments.
  • "served as" - Change the phrase to use an appropriate active verb.

Language Fun - The Squinting Modifier

Tips for Effective Business Communications


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Don't forget to review your resume when looking for summer jobs, too - March is not too late to find summer work.

    • mishel ronld profile image

      mishel ronld 

      9 years ago from New York, NY

      Resume is important part in career. this is nice article about words to avoid is provided here which is helpul in good resume building.

    • daisynicolas profile image


      9 years ago from Alaska

      This hub nudges me to polish my resume since I just got laid off.

    • profile image

      Maria Payroll 

      10 years ago

      Great post. I love your hub. Those are words that really needs to be avoided when writing a resume. Instead of using those words, you can just cite examples. You can share experiences wherein you were able to use a good trait, like leadership skills.

    • prasadjain profile image


      10 years ago from Tumkur

      This is really a good hub. Gives helpful information about CV writing. Let youngsters make use of this.

    • stars439 profile image


      10 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Great hub. Information necessary. GBY

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      10 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Great tips. Thanks!

      It's funny that so many of the words and phrases you list are still used by employers in job descriptions. We applicants are just as tired of reading them. I still

      "team player" all the time. We know enough to leave them off the resume, but HR still can't come up with better boilerplate.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 

      10 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Wow, you can certainly wield the words!

      Those are good ideas about what not to write. It gets one thinking.

    • profile image

      Steve W 

      11 years ago

      Very informative and thanks for the great tips.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      How wonderful! The sun is shining on his life brightly and he is sure to accomplish much in his new students. It is joy to have such people in the world.


    • MrMarmalade profile image


      12 years ago from Sydney

      You have picked his path clearly. He has had some excellent pupils, who more than dome him proud.

      Now he has the Headmaster and the Math's Head pushing him.

    • annemaeve profile image


      12 years ago from Philly Burbs

      Patty, thanks for sharing a beautifully written and informative hub. I've been at the same job for over 6 years now, and my resume is a bit stagnant. This hub has inspired me to go over the resume again - because you never know what might knock on the door tomorrow!

    • greathub profile image


      12 years ago from Earth


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      MrMarmalde - I am glad you visited! - Head Teaching in Maths in Hong Kong is quite impressive for your Son and very valued in education! Perhaps he will highlight how he has increased the successful test scores of his former student, or how many have gone on to post secondary schools with success. Maybe some will become mathematicians because of his good teaching. Much success to him!

      greatrhub -

      There is a Vertical Team in which each person works alone and is under some measure of supervision of the one above - that would work. You can state that you consider the entire organization a team and that you would be a valued member of it, even if you work alone in a study.

      All the Best


    • greathub profile image


      12 years ago from Earth

      i have a question.

      do companies hire an engineer who is not a team player?

      i mean i have very bad experiences when i worked in a ny team.

      I am much more productive when i work alone. e.g. in studies, in making projects etc.

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      12 years ago from Sydney

      I have printed out for Son three who is writing his Resume for a head teaching in Maths for Hong Kong.I have printed out for him to read with a degree of earnest. I hope he gains some great information

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      12 years ago

      Wow, great tips! I'll bookmark this hub for future reference. Thanks a lot, Patty.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Shadesbreath - that's why I loke Haiku - lots of meaning, few words.

      Loni L Ice - thanks for the comments. A cluster of adjectives certainly does hide a lack of specifics.

    • Shadesbreath profile image


      12 years ago from California

      Yeah, great hub. I'll have to go back over mine now just to be sure some of these didn't slip past me. Frankly, adjectives and adverbs are over used in most writing, not just resumes, so I always suggest plucking them out like the weeds they are most of the time. If you read really amazing poetry you'll see it's about nouns and verbs carrying the brunt of the load. I reckon a resume works the same.

    • Loni L Ice profile image

      Loni L Ice 

      12 years ago from Lawrence, KS

      Thanks! I'm a professional copywriter so I get asked to edit people's resumes from time to time. I can't tell you how many times I've seen the exact same things you just listed as bad ideas, but the alternative ideas you're giving are going to help a lot. It looks like employers caught on that these words are most often used to puff up a career history that's so bad or new that it offers no concrete details or stats.

      This hub's going to be a lifesaver for me, my clients, and anyone trying to get a job in today's tight market. I wish I'd read this before my husband put in his two resumes last week!

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 

      12 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Wow. Doesn't leave a whole lot, does it? Glad I'm not submitting resumes right now.

    • Andromeda10 profile image


      12 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you. I was especially interested in the "If YOU tell your age, race etc..." then all bets are off. This information can now be used against you. Very interesting. I will refer back to this article when updating my resume.


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