According to a study by the Ladders, recruiters spend an average of 6.2 seconds looking at an individual’s résumé. Working with that kind of attention span and operating with limited space, résumé writers need to make every word count.

With this in mind, it might be time to a take a critical look at your résumé or CV (or even your LinkedIn profile) and root out terms that aren’t doing you any favours. And you can start with these 12 vague, cliché, inappropriate, or downright meaningless words. (See also: Get Your Résumé Past the Résumé Filter)


Your résumé is a chance to showcase how your skills, experience, and knowledge have produced quantitative results for previous employers. Avoid overusing “I” and focus instead on what you can bring to company and role you’re interest in. Remember, it’s less about you and more about them. A résumé peppered with “I”s and “my”s sends the message that you’re focused in the wrong direction.

“Microsoft Office”

Amber Carucci of PR Daily says that most employers assume that candidates have basic computer skills, so applicants shouldn’t take up valuable résumé real estate to point out the obvious. Instead, focus on specific areas of expertise such as HTML coding, SEO/SEM, or project management software programs.


Used in business communication of any sort, love (e.g., “Accounting is my first love” or “I’d love to work for your company”) is a word that sticks out like a sore thumb. Let’s reserve this quite powerful descriptor for our families, our pets, and our smartphones. (See also: 10 Best Smartphones)


Sure, impactful is a word, but it’s not necessarily a good one. It’s clunky, awkward, and prompts the question: Was the impact good or bad? Crack open a thesaurus and pick a better adjective (not a tall order since most are better).

“Utilize” and Other “izes”

The “ize” don’t have it. Words like utilize, maximize, and optimize not only fail to impress would-be employers, they detract from the flow and clarity of your résumé. Skip the business-speak and err on the side of simple, direct communication that quantifies your achievements.

“Passionate” or “Driven”

Employers have fetishised passion so much that applicants feel compelled to litter their résumés with this absurd descriptor. Instead of using terms like passionate and driven, or feeling obligated to perform an interpretive dance showing how aroused you are by actuarial science or call centre customer service, demonstrate it through educational achievement, specific career accomplishments, licensures, and participation in professional associations.


Experienced is so vague and overused that’s been rendered nearly meaningless. So, just skip it and get specific. What have you done? What projects have you managed? What results have you produced? Dazzle them with facts; don’t bore them with generalities. (See also: How to Get Work Experience Without a Job)


Responsible, as in responsible for, is the cousin of experienced. Instead of writing a long grocery list of what you’ve been responsible for in previous positions, get to the point. Use quantitative data to explain what you did, who you did it with, how long you did it, and how good you were at it.


Results-oriented and the three terms that follow it below are all clichés. Through their ubiquity and generality, they’ve lost whatever real meaning they may have once provided employers. It just begs to be replaced with quantitative examples of results you’ve produced, goals you’ve hit consistently, deals you’ve closed, and new partnerships you’ve developed.


It’s assumed that you’ll be detail-oriented, so there’s no need to spell it out. Instead, illustrate how your attention has saved a previous employer money, made a team run more efficiently, or kept a project on-track and within budget.


If hiring managers collected a dime each time they run across this term, they could retire decades early. Skip the cliché and show how you’ve worked effectively with teams in the recent past. Even better, provide examples of how you’ve built strong teams, supervised teams, and motivated teams toward real results. (See also: How to Be Happier and More Likeable at Work)


The content of a well-crafted résumé should say this for you. Let your experience, skills, and results speak for themselves.

Remember, while it often seems like getting your résumé noticed by the right person takes one part luck and one part black magic, there is a formula for success. Winning résumés are clear, jargon-free, flawlessly written, and ruthlessly edited. Get noticed by trading generalities for specific measurable achievements and resisting the temptation to gum up the works with flowery language. You and your recruiter are much too busy.

How many of these words and phrases are in your résumé? Any others job searchers should watch for?

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This article first appeared on Nairametrics on January 11, 2014.


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