30 Horrifically Overused Resume Phrases That Make You Look Outdated (and What to Write Instead)

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May 30, 2024 at 3:17PM UTC
Job postings and resumes are full of buzzwords and catch-phrases that will make anyone reading them do a quick eye roll. However, certain words do matter — and your response to them does, too.
For instance, if a job you’re applying for says its looking for someone “determined,” “skillful,” and “fast on their feet,” you’re likely going to try to identify some of those words on your resume in order to catch the eye of the recruiter. However, there’s a downside to this: If you don’t actually back-up what words you’re identifying yourself as with examples, it does more harm than good.
That’s what Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, argued in a recent column for SHRM. Yate keenly pointed out more than a dozen words that are both overused and that hiring managers want to see.
“Choosing just the right word is paramount. Your resume plays such an important role in determining the quality of your future employment that you need to use words to their maximum effect,” Yate writes.
For overused words, Yate highlighted several, but these five stand out:
  • Creative
  • Experienced
  • Detail-oriented
  • Dynamic
  • Self-motivated
“Using these terms generates a resume full of warm and fuzzy words that make you feel good about yourself but say nothing specific about your performance. Rather than just writing 'good communication skills,' it’s better to attach such words to a concrete achievement,” he writes.
For example, nearly everyone is “creative” — but how were you creative? If you worked on a big project and had the million dollar idea that shifted the focus and made it work, it’s best to describe how you were the brains behind it rather than just masking it with a quick word.
The same goes for when someone describes themselves as “experienced”. Yes, a resume will show years upon years of experience, but what does that say about your expertise?
How about “dynamic”? Writing “I’m a dynamic worker that goes above and beyond what is asked” isn’t likely to move any buttons in your favor, but providing an example showing how you were dynamic could move the needle.
Either way, Yate argues that these words are often overused, which means there are words that hiring managers want to see that you might not be aware of.
He highlights verbs can help describe your work experience and give hiring managers a better chance to “envisage” you doing the job at hand.
Here are a few:
  • Mentored
  • Managed
  • Increased
  • Created
  • Launched
These words clearly provide opportunity to talk about your qualifications and experience, but it’s important to be clear and concise, argues Yate.
“Review each word in the lists above, one at a time. Use only the ones that apply to how you’ve performed your job. Use the others for inspiration to describe your accomplishments, but be specific,” he said.
Here is the full list of overused words to avoid on your resume:
  • Outstanding 
  • Organized
  • Team Player
  • Dependable
  • Value add
  • Proactive
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Self-motivated
  • Exceptional
  • Top-Notch
  • Hardworking
  • Go-getter
  • Dynamic
  • Hard worker
  • Results-driven
  • Think outside the box
  • Highly skilled
  • Creative
  • Experienced
  • Synergy
  • Track-record
  • Bottom-line
  • Detail-oriented
  • Excellent
  • Innovative
  • Loyal
  • Go-to person
  • Thought leadership
  • Expert
  • Communication skills
— Kyle Schnitzer
This article originally appeared on Ladders.

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