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10 Words and Phrases That Can Ruin a Resume

10 Words and Phrases That Can Ruin a Resume

Charles Purdy, Monster+Hot Jobs senior editor

Your resume needs an update—that is, if your resume is like those of most people, it’s not as good as it could be. The problem is language: most resumes are a thicket of deadwood words and phrases—empty cliches, annoying jargon, and recycled buzzwords. Recruiters, HR folks, and hiring managers see these terms over and over again, and it makes them … sad.

Wouldn’t you rather make them happy? It’s time to start raking out your resume, starting with these (and similar) terms.

1. “Salary Negotiable”
Yes, they know. If you’re wasting a precious line of your resume on this term, it looks as though you’re padding—that you’ve run out of things to talk about. If your salary is not negotiable, that’d be sort of unusual (still, don’t put that on your resume).

2. “References available by request”
See the preceding comment about unnecessary terms.

3. “Responsible for ______”
Reading this term, the recruiter can almost picture the C-average, uninspired employee mechanically fulfilling his or her job requirements—no more, no less. Having been responsible for something isn’t something you did—it’s something that happened to you. Turn phrases like “responsible for” into “managed,” “led,” or other decisive, strong verbs.

4. “Experience working in ______”
Again, experience is something that happens to you—not something you achieve. Describe your background in terms of achievements.

5. “Problem-solving skills”
You know who else has problem-solving skills? Monkeys. Dogs. Mice. I once saw a YouTube video of an octopus that figured out how to open a jar. On your resume, stick to skills that require a human.

Next Page: More Cliches →


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  • Greceaaaa2_max50

    grace2U

    over 2 years ago

    786 comments

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    Yours New Friend
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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    gvanluvanee

    almost 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Good article --- but i had a career counselor advise me to state the obvious because HR people were unable to make seemingly obvious connections. I don't really know ~~~~ with so much advise i don't really know what to do any more .... i guess the best anser is to just be ourselves and to trust that we will connect with the people we would match with. (I still remember an article from HR people that they didn't want employees that were too honest ---- but another article in which HR people were complaining about applicants not being honest on their resumes ......... :-D figure that one out :-D )

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    dashdot

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I have gone to 2 colleges and made about 3 different resumes with each school and after I graduated from these schools, there still are no jobs out there for my field(s) of study. Why???

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    chefslb

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I am with the others on 5 & 6.. Did the author of this article do a search on the jobsites? Have they interviewed for a job lately? I have and I can honestly say I have seen these words in job descriptions, and I have SPECIFICALLY been asked about these skills.. Before someone touts themselves as an expert on something, they should do a better job researching.. And FYI, the companies listing these, and asking about them are NOT small companies..

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    mpah07

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    The problem is that a lot of jobs use software to scan resumes and sometimes you don't get pass the computers screenings if you don't have these key words included on your resume. The software looks for certain words and doesn't look for the underlying description but rather "WORDS"

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    joysuzannehunt

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Aworkinggirl, this article doesn't imply that you should always use "managed" or "led;" it's telling us to use stronger, more descriptive verbs, and offering a few examples. You don't need to say "managed" the front desk. Instead, what did you accomplish during that job? "Demonstrated excellent attention to detail while such-and-such." "Engaged with customers in a blah blah blah manner" "Cooperated with." And you can easily manage a project, etc, even if you don't have managerial experience or aren't applying for a managerial role.

    Also, I think the biggest problem with the overused words is that they are not supported. I think it would be more than ok to do a skills/functional resume, that went something like this:
    Problem-Solving Skills:
    - list 3-4 examples of times at work, school, or volunteering that you demonstrated these skills, but without saying "problem-solving" because you've already said it.

    And so forth, with a few other skill categories that the employer is looking for. The catchwords are important, but the reader isn't going to continue to read if you haven't backed up your claims in a clear, non-repetitive way.

    Here are some examples from mine (not that its perfect!). It doesn't look so pretty as a comment but you get the idea. I then include a summary of my work history at the bottom. This way, the recruiter isn't focusing on what jobs I've worked at, but instead what I can do and how I've demonstrated it.

    Creative Writing, Research, and Communications Experience:
    • Shaped the identity of a religious organization by developing a creative mnemonic device to connect core values with the name and theme of the organization.
    • Researched, drafted, presented, and negotiated resolutions for university-level Model Arab League conference
    • Applied social media platforms to encourage others to create good habits through a series of one-month challenges; blog achieved more than 800 page views in June 2011.
    • Designed, edited, and arranged 60-plus page yearbook for university Navy ROTC program.
    • Transcribed several lectures on national security for publication.

    Project Management Experience
    • Managed yearbook publication project from start to finish; took initiative to raise quality standards; final product featured significantly higher quality and far more content than prior publications while operating within the same budget constraints.
    • Spearheaded new weekly children’s church program; operated quality program with little funding through fundraising and creative solutions; tripled student attendance within two months of program launch
    • Consistently balanced cash for ten to twenty cashiers daily for large retail store; personally responsible for cash in amounts of twenty to sixty thousand dollars
    Collaboration and Interpersonal Skills
    • Personally recruited and oversaw a team of 30 volunteers to operate weekly children’s church program
    • Worked cooperatively with two other leaders and a team of 15 to launch a new nonprofit organization by recruiting, planning events, public relations, and organizing team meetings; in less than one year, organization now has 70 to 100 attend each week.
    • Engaged with a team of twenty other students to prepare for university Model Arab League conference; demonstrated ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and to work with persons of diverse backgrounds.
    • Through creative communication and interpersonal skills, coached struggling swim students to immediate, drastic improvements.
    • Demonstrated ability to work with senior executives by engaging with senior officers and prestigious guest speakers while participating in university Navy ROTC program.

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    tiffanymberry

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Much of this article is certainly food for thought, however I can say for certain that more often than not, the job descriptions that I continue to read day in and day out, specifically list the following as actual requirements: "Detail-oriented, proactive, and team player," to name a few. And as I'm typing, I'm viewing a comment stating the very same thing, and have also been told myself by recruiters that what's "scanned for" are these and other very specific words and phrases on resumes, otherwise the resumes are overlooked as recruiters are looking for what specifically is detailed in their own job descriptions. I think an article that would be helpful is one that is written to detail not what mistakes we keep making as resume writers, but what additions we should be making to our resumes as I'm finding it's what we're not including that is keeping our resumes from being considered.

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    aworkinggirl

    about 3 years ago

    54 comments

    I've grown to hate articles like this because they do not realistically address the needs of the majority of job seekers who are looking for ordinary jobs. Not everyone is trying to be an executive and let's face it, in tough economic times there are degree holders who have to survival jobs! I strongly disagree with using the term "managed" when you are NOT applying for a management level job or you do not have verifiable experience as working at the managerial/1st line supervisor level. There are lots of jobs where people do not get to "manage" anything, It's ridiculous to write something "I managed the front desk " if you were only a receptionist or " "I lead the diner" if you worked in a fast food restaurant or "I managed a mop" if you were a janitor. Any hiring manager or HR person worth their salt will see through that kind of puffery in a heartbeat and will then presume either you are 1) pretentious 2) overqualified or 3) desperate!

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    rbiswas

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I agree with your list of buzzwords. At the same time I would like to mention that many of the job postings mention about these words as required skills. I am sure that resume scanners look for those words as keywords in the resumes. Detail-oriented, proactive, hard-working, problem-solving, team-player are quite common requirements.

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    sizigy

    over 3 years ago

    4 comments

    I'm with you pinkfluff.

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    pinkfluff

    over 3 years ago

    10 comments

    There is some good advice here, but I must take issue with #5 and 6. I have seen some job descriptions that explicitly ask for problem-solving skills, and most people out there simply cannot solve complex problems well. Figuring out how to open a jar is a very far cry from fixing a software system that has hundreds or thousands of files.

    Most people are also not detail-oriented, even if they think they are. Most people do not even know what is going on around them.

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    Account Removed

    over 3 years ago

    I would have to say that I am guilty of a few of these. Great article and love the tips, however, please extend and write this to hiring managers also, since they seem to love this crap:)

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