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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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