Words to Avoid and Include on a Resume

By Hanne Keiling

Updated 26 June 2022 | Published 29 June 2020

Updated 26 June 2022

Published 29 June 2020


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 have added in previous roles.

Using common business terms like “go-to person” can seem like the best way to get your qualities across efficiently. However, words like these have become so overused that they have lost meaning and would not help you stand out from other applicants.

Instead, choose action-oriented phrases that show rather than tell why you should be considered. For example, instead of saying that you are 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 us look at specific words you should avoid on your resume and words to include that will make your job application stand out.

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a Resume (with Examples)

Words To Avoid On Your Resume

Business lingo.

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

  • Bottom Line

  • Buy-in

  • Core competency

  • Ecosystem

  • Move the needle

  • Synergy

  • Thought leadership

  • Value add

  • Wheelhouse

General phrases of self-promotion.

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

Instead, try showing an example of a time you self-started like, “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

  • Go-to person

  • Strategic thinker

  • Best of breed

  • Think outside the box

  • Results-driven

  • Detail-oriented

  • Proactive

Givens.

There are a few words and phrases you should leave off your resume because they do not add any new or differentiating information. You do not 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 is not worth including.

If this is a critical asset in the position you are applying for, try using an action-statement that shows how you work with others. For example, “I established a monthly workshop that led to increased team collaboration, which resulted in 3 completed projects in the last quarter.”

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

  • Hard worker

  • People-person

  • Self-motivated

  • Team player

Related: Action Verbs List for Resumes and Cover Letters

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 will 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 have driven to predict how you will drive value at their company. Your first touch point with hiring managers is the resume. So, in place of clichés and generalities, leverage action words to give examples of how exactly you fit the description they have written.

Related:
  • How to Include Accomplishments on Your Resume
  • How To Highlight Problem-Solving Skills On A Resume
  • How To List Certifications on a Resume (With Examples)

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