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Attack of the Killer Resume Buzzwords

10 Resume Buzzwords to Avoid at All Costs

Did you know your resume could outline your exceptional experience and significant skills, and still turn off top hiring managers?

That’s right. Your resume can meet all the requirements and still end up in the “no” pile if it includes certain over-used clichés and buzzwords that drive hiring managers nuts.

In a competitive job market, hiring managers often spend only about 30 seconds deciding if an individual’s resume meets their needs for a specific position. Therefore, the words you choose must capture their interest right away.

According to a national survey of 2,200 hiring managers, widely used terms such as “team player” and “go-getter” can be big turn-offs. Why? They lack originality and, as a result, they come off sounding trite and insincere.

To help your resume stay in the “yes” pile, here is a list of the jargon that makes managers yawn – and suggestions for how to focus on the quantifiable results you’ve achieved to convey why you’re the best fit for a role.

  1. Best of breed – This over-used dog show reference should stay with the dogs. If you are great at what you do, demonstrate that with your proven track record. Include promotions or awards, and point these out in your cover letter if they’re
  2. Go-getter – Being highly motivated is fantastic. However, achievements speak louder than empty terms like “go-getter.” Instead, show managers what you are capable of by outlining your achievements using action verbs, such as “achieved,” “improved,” “launched,” or “negotiated.”
  3. Think outside of the box Unfortunately, there is no phrase more “in the box” today than this one. Banish it from your resume and explain the creative solutions you’ve developed in previous roles, and their outcomes. A creative solution means nothing unless it leads to positive results!
  4. Synergy – Loosely summing up the phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” the word “synergy” has been over-used in the business world to the point that it lacks meaning. Leave it off your resume; instead, demonstrate your collaborative accomplishments in clear language.
  5. Go-to person – This term doesn’t tell the hiring manager anything specific. You need to share what happened when others depended on you. For example, someone working with an administrative assistant recruiter might describe how they streamlined a former company’s customer complaint response procedures, saving 15 minutes per complaint. Try “resolved,” “spearheaded,” or “mentored” as strong verbs to state your case.
  6. Thought leadership – By using this term, you run the risk of coming across as pretentious. Instead, explain the leadership positions you’ve had, revealing how you influenced others or why others counted on your advice. If you’re an experienced professional who frequently speaks at industry events or contributes to industry publications, consider adding a “publications and speaking engagements” section to your resume to demonstrate your reputation.
  7. Value add – Instead of this not-too-golden oldie, share specifics about the value you’ve brought to your previous roles and companies. Use statistics and figures whenever possible. For example, if you work in finance and are updating your resume to share with a finance recruiter, provide the ROI of portfolio investments you’ve managed. If you’re in marketing, share the growth in revenue or profits that directly resulted from your marketing campaigns.
  8. Results-driven – Lose the ambiguity. Your resume should be clear and concise. Describe the results you have achieved and how you outperform the average. If you are applying for a sales position, share how often you met sales quotas – or if you exceeded them, by how much.
  9. Team player – Replace this empty phrase with relevant stories of your collaborations on the job. Be specific about the teams you have been a member of, how you contributed to those teams, and the results of those teams’ efforts. Using the term “team player” can draw focus away from your impact and team achievements.
  10. Bottom-line – Are you the best person for this position? That’s the only bottom line hiring managers care about. Use stronger terms such as “won,” “increased,” or “decreased,” supplying all necessary details to state your case clearly. If you are displaying your ability to improve a company’s financial status, use the correct terms. There is no line item on a profit & loss statement called “bottom line.” However “profitability” and “revenue” are hard facts that get your resume the attention you want.

In summary, replace clichés with specific active verbs and phrases that demonstrate your strengths – and always focus on results and outcomes instead of responsibilities and tasks. In addition to the examples above, here are a few more “power” words to add to your resume arsenal:

Replacing tired words and phrases with punchier substitutes is important, but it’s also important to make the most of the limited real estate on your resume. Here are two additional space-waster phrases to delete from your resume altogether.

You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Now it is time to show it. Don’t derail your career by using weak phrases and stale buzzwords on your resume. Replace them with substantive information that will make you stand out from the rest and land the job you’ve been waiting for!