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: 23340

Comment by Caitlin Carruthers on May 21, 2013 at 7:03pm

The phrase I really hate seeing is 'Able to work autonomously or in a team.'  At the start of my recruitment career, it was in at least 95% of the resumes I read and it has always driven me crazy!

Comment by Jeremy Spring on May 21, 2013 at 8:54pm

Resume writers beware: "Hacker" is the new "Rockstar". The point is well-said in this post.  Be specific.  Hard data always trumps soft stories on a resume.  

Comment by Bob Trower on August 10, 2013 at 2:26pm

My ancient resume had none of those words except 'professional'. Here is how they appear: 

 - More than 20 years professional systems analysis and programming

Rationale: Differentiate between hobbyist and paid programmer. In my line of work there is a difference. 

 - Teaching Methods (Sheridan College Professional Development Course)

Rationale: That is what it was called. It is a proper name. 

 - Drafted standards for certification of Professional Programmers for the Guild

Rationale: That is what it was called.  It is a proper name.

The first instance could be dropped, I suppose. However, my now more than 30 years as a paid professional programmer is something of a rarity. For some projects this particular could be crucial. Certainly, if I was hiring somebody, that type of entry would convey something very positive. 

Updating my resume is *long* overdue, but it worked at the time for the type of contracts I worked on and was actually designed with a recruiter. 

I think rules of thumb passed on by experts can offer excellent guidance. However, I am wary of inflexible prescriptive rules. Excellence demands the ability to bend or even ignore the rules. 

What I would like to see are a variety of resumes that are based on *real* resumes that were successful in getting a candidate hired. Along with that, it would be nice to have professional commentary deconstructing the resume and why it helped to close the deal in that particular instance. 

Comment by Pamela Witzig on August 19, 2013 at 1:56pm



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