According to a CareerBuilder survey, 17% of hiring managers spend an average of 30 seconds looking at a resume before deciding if they’re interested in a candidate. Having too little time to read each one in depth, obvious resume red flags, like an outdated resume format, typos, or too many unmatched resume fonts, are immediately eliminated. Even those that pass initial scrutiny can still fall prey to one of the most abiding faux pas of resume don’ts: poor diction. By this we mean those hackneyed terms that are ripe for resume retirement. Here, we’ll talk about eight of the resume words nearly every hiring manager hates.

1. Objective

“Objective” is a no-no because it is part of “Objective Statement,” an outdated phrase on any resume. These statements fell out of favor because they talked more about what a job seeker would get out of a position, rather than focusing on what a job seeker would bring to a position. The company-focused term is, instead, a career summary, which describes a job seeker’s most relevant skills, qualities, and accomplishments that would make them a good fit for a position.

A career summary (also called executive summary) is a better alternative to an objective statement.

2. Highly-qualified

If you use the word “highly-qualified” on your resume, you’re likely to seem anything but. Plus, you’ll be including one of recruiters’ turn offs. Rather than being so bold as to list this word, let your “highly-qualified” status become evident to readers by virtue of your accomplishments, experience, and education.

3. “Team player” or “Hard worker”

These phrases are both clichéd and vague – they don’t say much about what you did in a previous position. Instead of using language that is likely on every resume, trade out phrases like these for measurable objectives. Measurable accomplishments are quantifiable achievements you performed in a position, usually expressed in the form of numbers, percentages, and profit.

4. Utilized

“Utilized” is just a dressed-up version of the word “use.” Don’t try to fancy up a perfectly workable verb in order to sound more accomplished. Recruiters can see right through these tactics. Skills and achievements, when properly highlighted (as through the aforementioned measurable results), need no further embellishments.

5. “Self-motivated” or “Go-getter”

You don’t want to include too much generalizing, especially about describing how great you are. Instead of including these praiseworthy adjectives, include verbs like “improved” or “created” about your measurable accomplishments to let the reader make his or her own judgments about you.

6. Proactive

“Proactive” is one of those resume buzzwords that doesn’t say much. While it might sound good, it doesn’t tell the recruiter how exactly you’re proactive. Instead of listing words that sound good, scan the job posting and your resume through Jobscan. Jobscan pulls keywords from the job posting that you should match on your resume. While tailoring, look through those pulled keywords to find one or more that demonstrate your “proactive” attitude more specifically.

7. “References available upon request”

Another ghost of resumes past, “References available upon request” takes up space unnecessarily – all employers will require references, and they will expect that job seekers will provide them.

8. “Was” and “Became”

These verbs of being don’t talk about what you did in previous positions, the most important function of your resume. Instead of writing verbs like these, include action verbs to create visuals in your readers’ heads.

Bottom line: use words that help recruiters understand who you are and what you can bring to the table, in the quickest and most straightforward way. Ditch superfluous terms. Your language should be clear in expressing what you’ve done and the various ways in which you’ve achieved them.


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