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Build Your Career Get the Job

20+ Meaningless Words to Delete from Your Resume

20+ Meaningless Words to Delete from Your Resume
Credit: Shutter_M/Shutterstock

Your résumé is one of the most powerful tools you have to impress a hiring manager and land a job interview. It's the first impression a potential employer will get, so it's crucial to make it as impactful as possible.

Part of this process is making sure your résumé contains strong words that clearly and concisely express your qualifications, instead of outdated, overused filler terms. Business News Daily spoke with hiring managers, recruiters and career experts to uncover cliché words and phrases that no employer wants to read on your résumé.

1. "Responsible for." An important part of your résumé is describing your job duties. Job seekers who try to boost their image by telling employers about projects they led or helped with should be more forthcoming about what those projects or tasks resulted in. The overused phrase "responsible for" simply tells the reader what you did, said career management expert Tom Cairns of the Cairns Blaner Group. What you want to do is tell the reader is what you achieved.

To this end, Porter Braswell, CEO of the minority recruitment platform Jopwell, advised summarizing your impact rather than your responsibilities, and quantifying that impact wherever possible. [10 Worthless Words to Delete from Your LinkedIn Profile]

"Did your work lead to your team beating its goal or exceeding expectations?" Braswell said. How much money did you raise? Save? How much growth did you contribute to the bottom line?"

2. "Transformational leader." Kimberly Bishop, founder and CEO of Kimberly Bishop Executive Recruiting, said that a large number of résumés she has read include the phrase "transformational leader," with no explanation of how the candidate was transformational.

"That phrase is overused and doesn't specifically mean anything that translates to a specific experience," Bishop said. "My recommendation is to remove this from your résumé and more specifically describe the skill set."

3. "Expert." If you want to express your knowledge about a subject on your résumé, avoid referring to yourself as an "expert," said Debra Gioeli, director of recruiting for Sharp Decisions.

"No one person knows everything about one topic," Gioeli said. "Even someone who has been working for decades has something new to learn."

4. "Results-oriented." Robert Dagnall, president of Resume Guru, advised avoiding phrases like "results-oriented," because they are meaningless without anything to back them up.

"By themselves, these words don't prove anything," Dagnall said. "Proof of performance — ideally with specific examples and numbers — is the best measure of the value a candidate can offer an employer."

5. Microsoft Office (and other outdated tech terms). Technology is changing constantly, and you want to prove that you're up-to-date on the latest business software. Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR, said job seekers who include on their résumé that they are experienced with Microsoft Office set the bar pretty low for themselves.

"Most HR managers expect you to already have familiarity with a software suite that has been around since [the beginning of] the Internet," Price said. "Dig deeper and share that you have experience with Visio, Project and Access — more specialized software programs that can really pay off for an employer."

Josh Ridgeway, director of MSP delivery for the staffing firm Kavaliro, noted that using passé terms like "webmaster" is also a clear indicator that a candidate is out of step with modern technology.

"Webmaster is the most outdated term on the planet," Ridgeway said. "You are either a Web designer or Web specialist. Webmasters no longer exist."

6. "References available." Dawn Rasmussen, founder of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, said hiring managers hate seeing résumés that say references are available if needed. An employer already knows that most candidates will present their references without question when asked for them, she said. Heather Huhman, founder and president of HR tech public relations firm Come Recommended, agreed, noting that you're wasting precious résumé space by including a phrase that is clearly understood and implied.

"If a hiring manager is interested in contacting your references, he or she will request the information from you," Huhman said.

In general, job seekers should ditch any subjective or qualitative terms in favor of more quantitative, descriptive phrasing.

"A résumé should be a statement of fact — 'this is what I've accomplished; here are my skills, background, etc.,'" said Ed Fleischman, CEO of The Execu|Search Group staffing and recruitment firm. "Avoid personality attributes. If [you have] strong communication and organization skills, it will be seen through the way you write your résumé."

Based on our experts' advice, here are a few more common, but ultimately meaningless, words you should remove from your résumé:

  • Outstanding
  • Exceptional
  • Highly skilled
  • Excellent
  • Organized
  • Good communicator
  • Top-notch
  • Creative
  • Innovative
  • Team player
  • Extensive experience
  • Participated in
  • Leveraged
  • Hardworking
  • Experienced
  • Loyal
  • Dependable

Additional reporting by Chad Brooks, senior writer, and Dave Mielach, social media specialist.

Originally published Oct. 11, 2013. Updated March 17, 2015.

Nicole Fallon Taylor
Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.