Words You Should Never Include on Your Resume

Word-choices matter.

The information you choose to include on your resume will determine whether you are invited to an interview or if your resume ends up in the shredder pile.

From weak verbs to corporate buzzwords and meaningless jargon, these are the 14 words that should never appear on your resume — and the number one rule of what to include instead.

1. Think

Words like “think,” “guess,” and “hope” should be banished from your resume. Concerns about coming across as arrogant are valid, but these “weak verbs” only serve to make you sound like a weak person.

There’s no room for hesitancy or uncertainty on your resume. If you’re going to make it through the first stage of recruitment, you’ll need to demonstrate confidence in your abilities, which means adopting an authoritative tone.

2. Want

Using the word “want” on your resume could imply desperation, dependency, urgency, or vulnerability — none of which are ideal qualities to exude. Keep in mind that your resume shouldn’t be about what you want; it should be about how the employer will benefit from hiring you.

3. Creative

“Creative” is perhaps one of the most overused buzzwords around — so much so that it’s become a meaningless resume addition. Creativity is hard to define, and it’s also subjective, so listing this on your resume won’t make you any more appealing to a prospective employer.

4. Results-driven

The phrase “results-driven” is just a fluffy way of saying that you’ll get the job done, which is exactly what you’re being hired to do. You would be better off referencing a specific instance when you delivered high-quality work under difficult time constraints, but you should absolutely refrain from describing yourself as results-driven.

5. Punctual

Using up valuable space on your resume to promise your prospective employer punctuality sets a pretty low bar for what you have to offer. Your ability to arrive on time for work is expected and assumed, so there’s no need to spell it out.

6. Microsoft Word

Be honest. Have you come across a single person in your working life who doesn’t know how to operate basic software like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint? Didn’t think so.

Listing these as key proficiencies on your resume will make you appear uninformed and outdated. Any programs or software you choose to reference should be new and/or specialized, as well as relevant to the role you’re applying for.

7. Funny

Bringing your personality to the workplace — and even the interview room — is great, but a claim about your excellent comedic timing has no place on your resume.

8. Unemployed

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having gaps in your employment history — it happens to the best of us for so many legitimate reasons, particularly in 2020.

You shouldn’t feel obliged to explain these gaps on your resume but if you do decide to do so, bear in mind that — rightly or wrongly — the word “unemployed” has negative connotations.

9. Salary Negotiable

Don’t get ahead of yourself by mentioning the word “salary” on your resume. You can delve into negotiations surrounding your salary expectations once you’ve been offered a role. To do so any earlier may come across as unprofessional.

10. Detail-oriented

Using this phrase is not only meaningless without supporting evidence, but it sets you up for increased scrutiny. If you do use it, you’d better be 100% certain there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your resume.

11. Honest

Telling your prospective employer that you are an honest or trustworthy person does not make it so. Not only are these qualities expected in any role, but you’ll most likely need to earn your employer’s trust over time.

12. Hobbies

It’s great that you’ve got a vibrant and busy personal life, but your resume is no place to be discussing your wall-climbing or pottery-painting escapades. There will be plenty of opportunities to showcase your personality if you are called to an interview.

Space on your resume should be exclusively reserved for relevant information that demonstrates you have the skills and experience to do the job for which you’re applying.

13. Extensive Experience

Claiming to have extensive experience in a particular area is about as meaningful as saying you have no experience in that area. If it were true, you’d have plenty of examples to support your claim and should refer to these instead.

14. Team Player

The ability to collaborate and communicate effectively is important, and it’s every employer’s dream to recruit an entire workforce of team players. But telling an employer that you are a team player won’t be enough to convince them. Instead, draw on some previous experiences when you worked effectively as part of a team and reference those.

What Should You Do Instead? Show, Don’t Tell

When it comes to writing a resume, the number one rule should be “show, don’t tell.”

In other words, don’t tell your prospective employer that you are results-driven, creative, or a team player. Instead, demonstrate that you have these attributes by detailing your biggest achievements. Words such as “achieved,” “managed,” “increased,” “negotiated,” and “launched” are simple yet assertive action verbs. These will set you up to quantify specific achievements and demonstrate your suitability for the role.

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