Spring clean your resume: 11 outdated cliches to remove immediately

Many folks assume that you can write up your resume once and leave it for years; until you start searching for a new job, land a promotion, or something in between.

But, as a matter of fact, most of us actually benefit from keeping our resume updated seasonally—even if we’ve been at the same job for years.

Whether you’ve been putting off updating your resume for years or you really do make an effort to update its contents seasonally, there are a handful of dated words, phrases, and cliches you’ll want to avoid—or remove immediately—in order to stay relevant and modern.

From old school buzzwords and cheesy action words to more niche items like dated fonts and certain overshared details, hiring experts agree that every modern resume would be better off without these intricacies.

1. Old school buzzwords

Devin Ahern, Recruiting Manager at Mid Florida Material Handling suggests getting rid of old-school resume buzzwords!

“We don’t need to know about your ability to synergize (do you even know what you’re saying?), how dynamic you are or how hard working you are,” shares Ahern. “Hiring managers and recruiters want to see metrics and direct evidence of your leadership ability.”

Ahern suggests always sticking to the facts—things like, “led improvement projects to increase x-metric by y-percent” are perfect. This directly shows the impact you made as well as your management ability.

2. Over-designing or fancy fonts

Keep the formatting and design of your resume as simple as possible. Any “Word-Art”, fancy fonts, overly-complicated bullet lists or colored borders need to go.

“Unless you’re going after a very artistic position (your artistic ability should be evident from your portfolio, anyway), recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to see it,” explains Ahern.

“Not only that, advanced formatting doesn’t work in most recruiting/talent portals, so it won’t be seen and may even obstruct the actual content of your resume.”

3. Inaccurate volunteer work

A great way to tell if a resume is dated is to look at the involvement outside of work. If a certain community event or club doesn’t exist anymore you can easily tell the resume needs updated.

Additionally, if the club or non-profit still exists, but they have rebranded you can tell the resume needs updated.

“No one would list their prior employer by the incorrect name, the same goes for a club or community service group,” says Luke Smith, top ranking real estate professional in Kentucky.

4. The objective statement

“If your resume still includes an objective statement, delete it right now!” says Caitlin Proctor, Certified Professional Resume Writer.

“A resume should start out with an employer-focused resume summary or nothing at all. While your resume is about you, it is supposed to convey your value as an employee. Objective statements were relevant when people applied for one company and stayed with them for a whole career.”

5. The obvious or expected

Oftentimes, applicants tend to overlook that it’s important to tailor your resume especially if you are applying to different industries. One red flag of a resume is having a list of the expected.

“If you are applying for a writing job, then it’s expected that you have a huge background when it comes to writing, however what your employer want s to know is what else you can do apart from that,” shares James Page, HR Executive at Cryptohead.

“Key in additional relevant skills such as knowing how to do  graphics, or anything which you think may interest your hiring manager.” 

6. Cheesy action words

“The operative and ‘action’ words that we were taught to use on our resumes 15 or 20 years ago have now been so thoroughly overdone and are so widely recognized as meaningless cliches that it is instantly apparent when someone has an outdated CV,” shares Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer at Resume.io. “Language like ‘executed,’ ‘utilized’ and ‘relied upon’ should be jettisoned immediately.”

7. Terms like ‘team player’

“Terms like ‘team player’ and ‘hard worker’ are also painfully old fashioned because these are two qualities that are just assumed to go without saying,” shares Bax.

“The modern, hierarchically much flatter and often global workplace requires collaboration and a willingness to work hard as a matter of course.”

8. References available upon request

According to Debra Boggs, Founder of D&S Professional Coaching, including ‘references available upon request’ is outdated because it’s expected that a job seeker can pull together a list of three people who can say nice things about them.

“There is no need to take up valuable real estate on the resume for this,” she says.

9. Basic accomplishments

Including basic accomplishments that are expected of you is really just a waste of valuable real estate.

“There are only very rare instances where it would be relevant to say that you are proficient with Microsoft Office,” shares Thomas Hawkins, Hiring Manager at Electrician Apprentice HQ.

“Unless you’re applying for a basic data entry job where most other candidates wouldn’t be, this is a given and shouldn’t be mentioned. You may want to talk about your proficiency with Google Docs since that’s a touch more advanced.”

10. College or high school grades

“If you are during your studies and apply for an internship or first job, it may be relevant to put information about what classes you study, your GPAs, campus jobs or previous internships. However, if you apply for a serious job after graduation, these are no longer relevant for employers,” explains Dima Suponau, Co-Founder of Number for Live Person.

“They are not interested in what you’ve studied and how good were your grades, but what did you do with that knowledge later.”

According to Suponau, you should really feel free to cross out all the college-related data from your resume as soon as you graduate, leaving the simple name of the institution you graduated from.

11. Languages you “speak”

“People tend to keep many languages in their resumes, but they no longer can speak in those. For example, many years ago, you took Arabic or French classes, and you evaluated your language skills as communicative,” says Paul McLaughling, MD.

“That is great as long as you practice and still can speak and understand these languages. If not, cross them out of your resume. It won’t be hard for recruiters to check your skills, and it is better not to make yourself a fool in front of them.”