When It Comes to Resume Writing, You Need to Avoid These Words

resume writing
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resume writing


You spend hours crafting the perfect resume for each job you apply for. Careful thought goes into the words you choose to show that you are a professional and the right person for the position. But then you never hear back from employers.

Does this sound familiar? Chances are, you might be going about resume writing the wrong way. Job seekers and hiring managers have very different perspectives on certain words. A phrase that might seem perfect to you, could be meaningless to the person reading your resume, or worse, a deterrent from reading any farther.

Up your chances of getting your resume noticed by avoiding words that hiring managers and employers dislike. Here are four types of words you shouldn’t use in your resume writing:

1. Buzzwords

Oftentimes, job seekers think filling their resumes with buzzwords or jargon is a good way to show off their knowledge of the industry. But when a hiring manager reads phrases like “results-oriented” or “creative thinker” over and over again, they begin to lose all meaning.

Instead of telling employers about your qualities, show them. Take this buzzword-heavy example:

Key team player who contributed to the success of multiple projects.

That statement doesn’t really show the reader anything. Instead, paint a picture of your experience like this:

Coordinated communications by establishing a protocol of who to go to regarding different aspects of each project.

That sentence shows you’re a team player by describing how you worked within a group and what you did to ensure the success of the project.

2. Filler words 

There’s a wide variety of words and phrases that are common in resume writing but actually just take up unnecessary space. In general, these fall into two categories of resume mistakes: repetitive and exaggerated.

Repetitive phrases are ones that don’t add anything new to what’s being said. Things like “duties included,” “has experience in,” and “was responsible for” are typical examples. There’s no need to use these types of phrases because they’re just saying something that’s already implied.

The whole point of a resume is to list your skills and experiences so, of course, the reader expects to find out what your duties included and what areas you have experience in. Get straight to the point by simply describing what you did well in your previous positions.

Exaggerated words are adjectives and adverbs that may seem like they add emphasis or clarification, but really just take up space. For example, in the phrase “worked hard to,” “hard” is unnecessary. The reader has no knowledge of what you consider a hard, average, or lazy amount of effort. Adding the word brings nothing of value to your resume.

3. Unsubstantiated words 

A 2019 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found 77.5% of employers are looking for evidence of good written communication skills on recent graduates’ resumes. They want to see that you can effectively make a written argument for why you should be hired. If you do that successfully, they know you have the skills you’ll need as an employee.

Unsubstantiated words hinder that success. They make a claim but offer no evidence to support it. Because of that, they leave employers unconvinced of why you deserve to be hired. 

Consider this statement:

Pursued new business leads in order to increase sales.

The reader sees what you did — or at least attempted to do — but has no idea how successful you were. Now look at this sentence:

Pursued new business leads and acquired 50 new clients each quarter.

By adding the evidence to support the previously unsubstantiated claim, the statement becomes more powerful. Now the reader knows what you did and how impressive your performance was.

4. Embellishments

It goes without saying that you should never lie on a resume. Yet this still seems to happen. A Ladders survey from early 2020 found that 30% of adults had lied or bent the truth on their resume, and the age group most likely to do so were millennials and Gen Z. 

Almost 80% of those who lied said they didn’t face consequences. But it is likely that hiring pros who spotted the lie slid their resume into the ‘no’ pile and never contacted them to discuss the embellishment. 

It might not seem like a big deal if you say you worked for a company for three years when it was actually two years and nine months, but that’s exactly the point. Those three months are not that important, so why lie about them?

Be confident in your skillset, but don’t tell fibs to seem like a more perfect choice. It’s better to be upfront about your weaknesses so an employer has the chance to give you the tools you’ll need. The alternative? They hire you and get upset when they find out you weren’t as experienced as you said.

Resume writing can be frustrating for job seekers, especially when common resume mistakes don’t seem obvious. But if you better understand how employers and hiring managers read and process the information in the document, you can be more successful at communicating all you have to offer.

Now that you know what to delete from your resume, it’s time to review what to avoid saying in interviews

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.