Whether you’re currently in the job market or you’re comfortable in your current position, updating your resume on a quarterly basis is key to ensuring your job experience stays relevant. If you’re already taking your list of career experience seriously, you’re probably well aware of the keywords and phrases that hiring managers like to see—but what about the words they loathe? Or the ones that get in the way of Applicant Tracking Systems?
If you’re working on taking your resume to the next level, we’ve got your back. Here, we spoke to some of the top hiring managers and c-level executives in our network to find out the words they’re tired of seeing on resumes—and their advice might surprise you.
Emily Weisgrau, communications consultant and president of Weiswood Strategies Ltd., urges everyone to rethink the word ‘utilize,’ adding that her mother, who spent her entire career teaching English, “taught me long ago not to use a ten-cent word when a five-cent word will do.”
“Let’s banish ‘utilize’ from resumes everywhere and use simple words,” she says. “Big words don’t make you sound smarter, they just make you sound like you’re trying to compensate for not being smart enough.”
“Remove any qualifying words like great or best before describing a task.” says Stephanie Thoma, Networking Strategy Coach & Author at Confident Introvert. “It’s more powerful to write, ‘increased social media following by 400%,’ versus ‘did a great job at growing social media following.’” Thoma also advises you to be sure to be specific and do not include anything that could be construed as an opinion. “Stick to the facts backed by statistics.”
When crafting your resume you should avoid any soft-skill words, such as ‘outgoing’, ‘personable’, etc. “These things may be true, but if they are it will come across in your in-person interview. Highlighting your soft people skills on your resume does nothing to add to it!” says Stacy Caprio, Business Coach at Stacy Caprio Inc.
Guru or Rockstar.
If you want to be sure any Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) respond positively to your resume, you’ll want to ensure your professional job title is backed with a 3-5 line (maximum) keyword-loaded summary. “Your job title is a keyword and any frivolous terms above are not,” says Amazon #1 Bestselling Author and Career Expert, Al Smith, “Candidates must satisfy the ‘eyes’ of the computer software if they hope to get to the human’s eyes (the recruiter). Every word counts!”
If you’re feeling unsure about how to craft a resume with an appropriate amount of keywords, consider hiring a professional resume writing facilitator, like TopResume. You’ll be matched with a relevant writer who will help boost your resume with relevant keywords in your field.
According to Kimberly Friedmutter globally recognized hypnotherapist and author of best selling Subconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You’ve Always Wanted, you should never write ‘trying’ to do my best or ‘will try’ or ‘have tried’. “Trying isn’t doing so it’s not relevant and seems to excuse performance,” says Friedmutter. “’Intend’ or ‘intention’ should also be left out because they also fall short of success.”
“In my opinion, the one key word that candidates should avoid using on their resume is ‘assisted,’” says James Croad, Hiring Manager at Music Grotto. “Your resume is supposed to showcase you and your achievements, and if you use too much of this kind of language you’re not giving yourself the credit you probably deserve.”
Using humble terms will minimize your involvement and doesn’t tell the recruiter exactly how you added value to your projects. “It’s great to demonstrate that you can work as part of a team, but make sure that you’re really demonstrating and explaining your past successes, not making it sound like you just did the menial tasks while the rest of the team did the real work!”
“One of the biggest mistakes is to approach the writing of your resume as if it’s about you and your needs as opposed to about the needs of your employer,” says Lori Rassas, HR Consultant, Executive Coach, and Author of The Perpetual Paycheck. “Too many job seekers spend interview time talking about their interests, passions, and goals, when the better approach is to talk about how their skills can meet the interests and goals of the employer.” Instead, Rassas says you have to remember it’s not about you—it’s about what you can do for the company (and why they should hire you to do it).
What specific words lead to this mistake? “First, be sure you remove the word ‘I’ and any other words that are about ‘you’ as opposed to your employer,” Rassas says. “In addition, avoid references to your goals and your ambitions, and your ‘dream.’ Remember, it’s not about you—its about whether you have the skills to walk in the door able to complete the work that the employer needs someone to complete.”
According to Rassas, even if you consider a particular vacancy to be your ‘dream job,’ the last thing a hiring manager wants to hear is how excited you are about working for the company. “Believe it or not, sharing that information can actually hurt your chances of landing the job. You have to remember that it’s not about you—it’s about what you can do for the company.”