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: 23335

Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 29, 2011 at 12:12pm
I have to take issue with implemented also. I am currently looking for an implementation manager so the resume better have implemented on it. Implementation is key to almost any chage in process be it IT or any other function. Most people have at some time been part of implementing something so to me it's a valuable keyword to see on a resume.

Never but never do I want to ever see "quick learner" on a resume ever again. My first thought when I see "focused, dependable, quick learner" is, as opposed to what, scatter brained,irresponsible, dullard.
Comment by John Fabello on November 29, 2011 at 7:27pm

Trying to find the good info in this post. Sounds angry.

Comment by Christopher Lyon on November 30, 2011 at 8:25am

I have to agree with the font statement John. People really need to put the resume in New Times Roman font 11. They also need to make sure dates are correct and bullet points instead of paragraphs are on the resume. It gets really frustrating when I have a great candidate whose resume I have to redo to be put in front of a Government client.  

Comment by Bill Schultz on November 30, 2011 at 5:20pm

Guess I'd better change my Career Summary:

Over approximately last 5 years, I have assisted and attempted to implement professional policy.  Hopefully I've been a team player. 

Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 30, 2011 at 6:59pm

Advice should given with a WARNING that if taken and acted on it could be hazardous to your career, health, taste, vision, sphincter--or all the above.  But since it's free flowing and you can take it or ignore it at your own risk--what's the harm?  At the very least you can be held up as an example of what to do, or not to do, if you have to do anything at all.

Comment by Allen on April 4, 2013 at 4:45pm

Agreed with Amber! Implementation is a key part of rolling out a newly developed business product or program. It is an industry term and is a regular term in MBA and related studies. Can you think of better term(s) to describe implement?

Comment by Nigel Coxon on April 10, 2013 at 9:34am

Someone once told me that if you'd never consider including the exact opposite of what you typed, don't bother using it.

Example "hard working". You'd never think to describe yourself as "bone idle" in a cv, so why are you stressing that you're not? A case of "Methinks the applicant doth protest too much".

Comment by Sam Evans on April 10, 2013 at 10:30am

Honestly, this is a silly article. It's just being downright pedantic and if I was about to reject someone for a single word they used on their CV, I would be terrible at my job. We are here to review people's entire skillset. This includes all they bring to the table.  

Comment by Tiffany Branch on May 16, 2013 at 12:32pm

Good artile. I disagree with "assisted." If you are a Recruiting Coordinator, you did provide "assistance" to the recruitment team. I don't see that as a bad word. The applicant could be in an entry-level role, or working on a special project that will give them some valuable skills. Hopefully when I question them about "how" they "assisted" they can give strong examples of what they brought to the table.

Comment by Tiffany Branch on May 16, 2013 at 12:36pm

Overall as recruiters, I think we know when to pass a resume by and when not to. There will ALWAYS be exceptions. If I passed on every resume that had "Team Player" I'd have very few candidates. LOL I lways try to remember that what comes naturally to us (resume) doesn't to others. Especially those who haven't been in job search for years. In addition, there is soo much conflicting info about the "do's and don'ts" job seekers can go nuts.


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