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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

With 80,000 recruiters now using TheLadders for hiring, it's always a good time to share even more about your success in the workplace.

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Resume

Examples of Resume Words to Avoid

“Highly energetic” and other flimsy, fluffy and weak resume phrases and words to avoid.

By Lisa Vaas
Resume

You're highly qualified. You're results focused.

You're also energetic, confident and professional -- and if you put those words in your resume, you've just caused a hiring professional's eyes to glaze over.

Why is such language undesirable for resumes? First, it's subjective. It's the resume subject's own interpretation of herself, and it's unacceptably vague.

"Words like ‘successfully' are pretty lame and overused. ... [Such wording] doesn't tell the reader what he wants to know," said Tina Brasher, a certified professional resume writer who works with TheLadders and recently rewrote the resume of a 46-year-old technology executive who used this type of vague, subjective language on his resume before Brasher reworked the document.

Resume readers want to know specifics relating to the bottom line, Brasher said. "What they want to get out of a resume is 1) How can you make the company money? and 2) How can you save the company money?" she said. "They're looking for a resume not only for that but, ‘Are you qualified for the job opening I posted?' And, ‘What's your skill set? How did you make a positive difference in the company you just left? How are you different and more valuable as an employee from John Smith whose resume I just read or John Doe whose resume I'm about to read?' "

Brasher offers the following list of what she calls "fluffy" language: phrases and words that "resume readers have seen 10 million times" and that will lose their attention.

  • Highly qualified
  • Results focused
  • Effectual leader
  • Has talent for
  • Energetic
  • Confident
  • Professional
  • Successfully

Other words to avoid include "competent," and it's a good idea to stay away from its synonyms: able, capable, fit, good, qualified or suitable, Brasher said.

The following resume example is from the summary paragraph of the technology executive's original resume; the weak, subjective words are rendered in italic and shown in the context of how these words are typically used by far too many people who craft their own resumes:

Highly qualified Executive Manager offering more than 22 years of software development, consulting services business, product sales and tech support experiences. Results-focused and effectual leader with proven ability to turnaround troubled organizations. Has talent for proactively identifying and resolving problems and building highly motivated teamwork organization.

The resume example below is Brasher's revision of the technology executive's summary paragraph. (The executive requested TheLadders withhold the name of his employer.) While words such as "excellent" and "seasoned" are subjective, note that they are also backed up by specific facts (noted in bold underline) that will get noticed by a hiring professional:

Combine astute strategic, business, and project management skills with an 11-year track record of business consultancy and analysis that enables revenue and profit growth. Excellent analytical, organizational, and leadership skills. Seasoned, collaborative leader skilled in motivating staff to achieve aggressive goals and objectives. Global business operational perspective through exposure to diverse business protocols, particularly in North America, Europe, Emerging Markets, and Asia Pacific with [technology company name withheld]; led more than 800 pre-sales technical support staff organization that supported $7B to $8B in revenue. Skilled in product development with solid background in IT systems.

In the revised version, the resume summary statement gives readers a "pretty good understanding of what this person can do," Brasher said. And that, of course, is far preferable to losing their attention for good.

Lisa Vaas covers resume writing techniques and the technology behind the job search for TheLadders.

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