7 Words I Never Want to See on Your Resume

Recently, I came across a post I highly recommend: “7 Words I Never Want to See in Your Blog Posts”.

That inspired me to think about the words that – for recruiters and team builders – can create a terrible first impression. Not words like “dependable” and “detail oriented” – those have been blogged about ad nauseam (and I don’t blame people for using words that old-school experts have espoused for decades). I also don’t mean the clichés that rear their ugly heads far too often during an interview or follow-up like “It is what it is…

I’m referring to the words that show me a lack of effort, leadership or confidence – and make me want to disqualify the applicant from consideration whenever I see them.

Without further delay, here are the seven words I never want to see on a resume:


1. Approximately

You have to approximate? You don’t know what you did? Or you do know, but creating a good first impression wasn’t a big priority for you when the resume was sent to me. If you don’t know – find out. If you do know – show some confidence, and tell me down to the tenth percentile what you accomplished. That is impressive!


2. Assisted

Unless you work in a dental office or are a point guard, I don’t want to hear about your “assists”. We hire leaders here, so I want to know that you were the one being assisted. In a humble way, tell me what you did, how you did it, and how many you lead in the process.


3. Attempted

Never, ever tell me what you wanted to do. Tell me what you did in an emphatic tone, including a quantitative statement, Good examples: “Increased customer satisfaction by 115%” and “Exceeded quota by an average of 31.2% every quarter”


4. Team player

We like team players; we do. However, can’t we find a creative way to demonstrate that you are, indeed, a team player? For instance, you could say that you take great pride in being a mentor; that 9 of your 12 team members went on to receive promotions. Or, you can tell me that your organization held a 76.5% retention rate. Anything… but “team player”.


5. Implemented

Implemented – like “followed” and “applied”; even “executed” – is a “monkey” word. As in, “any monkey could do that job.” We don’t hire monkeys, or followers, or implementers. We hire people who think for themselves and can improve existing processes while getting the job done. The ONE exception to this rule: if "implemented" is preceded by "planned and...".


6. Professional

Is anyone going to admit they were less-than-professional during their previous jobs? In your career, isn’t “professional” in the same obvious realm as “I breathe air”? Can’t we come up with a better word to describe how we conducted ourselves? Yes, we can. And I’d like to see a little more imagination.


7. Hopefully

Especially in today’s economy, we’re seeing way too much of this. I don’t get angry, because I understand that people are hungry for work – and are just hoping for a chance to show what they can do. I get it. Do yourself a favor, however: remove this word! There is no hope, at least from me, when you use “hopefully”.

Candidates: go take a look at your resume, cover letter and online presence. Do any of these words show up? If yes… get a little creative. Have a little fun. And then see if maybe you don’t get a few more interviews.

Recruiters: what resume words hit you like a brain freeze? Let us know, and we’ll help the job seekers out there by compiling a definitive list of words not to use during their job search.


Views: 23647

Comment by Michael Brandt on November 22, 2011 at 11:06am

Geese, I hope no Project Managers come your way. They "Implement" all the time.



Comment by Darryl Dioso on November 23, 2011 at 11:33am

I hate some of the current buzz word titles like Ninja, Evangelists, Guru, etc. 

Comment by Mark Babbitt on November 23, 2011 at 11:39am

Agreed, Darryl... who would have thought that "expert" and "passionate" would become cliches?

Comment by Liz Owen on November 23, 2011 at 4:26pm

My pet hate - "Attention to detail".  You then find the CV and/or covering letter is full of typo's and spelling mistakes!

Comment by John Comyn on November 24, 2011 at 6:09am

Bit harsh on "implement". In my view anything that is hearsay is a no no. The one's that worry me are: "out the box thinker" or "great relationship builder". You may be but how do I know, plus there are another billion who say the same thing. If one has to say these things then they need to qualify the statement with examples.

Comment by Ari Waller on November 24, 2011 at 11:17am
For me, the use of "involved in" raises many flags. Usually when I see this on a technical resume, it is followed by a complex long paragraph with way too many buzzwords. Typically when I ask the person what they actually did, verses what they were "involved in", it was usually a much smaller task, and the usage of "involved in" was primarily to pour a bunch on keywords on their resume which had little to do with their skill set.

I agree that "Implemented" is actually helpful for the technologists and managers resumes I review. As long as they were not just "involved in" it.
Comment by John W. Ferneborg on November 24, 2011 at 4:00pm

I'll read/skim any decently put together resume that has proper flow, showing career growth.  Just don't send it to me in a COMIC SANS font or it will be deleted.

Comment by Kerin Colby on November 28, 2011 at 8:34am

I hate resumes that just have a list of keywords at the end so that their resume is more "searchable."  If you've really done these things or possess these skills then I should find the same keyword with some substance around it...lazy and unimaginitive, NOT what I am looking for!

Comment by Amber Forbes on November 29, 2011 at 11:35am

Implemented, really? Sometimes implementation is the hardest part. It often takes working with multiple departments and vendors, managing project deadlines, managing obstacles, etc.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 29, 2011 at 11:52am

Saying "never" is a door that closes on new realities.  Go figure.


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