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Avoid These 10 Phrases for a Better Resume

Avoid These 10 Phrases for a Better Resume
Credit: NPFire/Shutterstock

Everyone knows that a resume is one of the most important components of a job application. What many people may not realize is that it's not just your past positions and accomplishments, but also the words you use to describe those achievements, that can make a difference in how the hiring manager or recruiter views you.

In an attempt to make their resumes more appealing, job candidates may include extra information or use words they think sound impressive. But sometimes, those words will not have the desired effect and, in fact, may turn off hiring managers.

Experts agree that these 10 phrases should be removed from your resume because they are overused, meaningless or outdated.

"If you have a higher degree, remove your GPA, especially if it is considered average or low," said Tim Davis, resource manager at staffing agency Kavaliro. "For the most part, employers won't even notice if it is not included on a resume. Only include GPA if a company specifically requests it on the application."

Instead, summarize your academic statuses or awards, Davis said.

"Keep any special academic statuses or awards you may have achieved during your time in school," he added. "Recognitions such as these show ambition and initiative."

Rather than saying you're driven by results, you should give examples of actual results, said Matt Doucette, director of global talent acquisition at Monster.

"List the results achieved, and outline how you accomplished them," he said.

"Work is all about solving problems," said Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO of HR consulting firm uniquelyHR."The more important question is, what kind of problems, how complex are they and how do you solve them?"

Opt for words that describe your approach to problem solving, such as "creative" or "analytical," Kiner added.

Years ago, an objective was considered a primary component of a resume. Today, however, "objectives have lost their punch," said Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer at consulting firm Talent Think Innovations. Instead, candidates should summarize their skills based on the advertised job description, she said.

This phrase is meaningless because it doesn't say what you actually accomplished, experts say.

"'I was responsible for maintaining company X's servers,' doesn't give enough insight into what the candidate did," said Neil Napier, CEO of job search company jobrack. "Quantifying what you did and being clear would be better."

For example, it would be better to write something like, "Managed Company X's servers for six months with Y technology."Napier also suggested alternative words, such as "implemented" or "grew."

"This word is drastically overplayed," said Adam Hatch, career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeGenius.com. "If someone is a 'dynamic' accountant, what does that mean? Flashy number crunching?"

Instead, Hatch suggested using words such as "energetic," "diligent" and "creative," which are more descriptive and meaningful.

Kimberly Bishop, founder and CEO of Kimberly Bishop Executive Recruiting, said many resumes 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 … more specifically describe the skill set."

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 "experience with Microsoft Office" on their resumes set the bar pretty low for themselves. Instead, be more specific about your skills, he said.

"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."

Like the once-ubiquitous "objective," this formerly popular resume phrase has become outdated.

Dawn Rasmussen, founder of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, said hiring managers hate seeing resumes that say "References available upon request." 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. You're wasting precious resume space by including a phrase that is clearly understood and implied, she said. "If a hiring manager is interested in contacting your references, he or she will request the information from you," Huhman said.

This phrase is clichéd and doesn't really say anything, experts agree.

"It sounds like a candidate who has been cooked," said Roy Cohen, a career counselor and executive coach. "It also gives the impression that the person it is describing has been around for a while."

Cohen suggested using "skilled" as an alternative.

Additional reporting by Nicole Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Shannon Gausepohl

Shannon Gausepohl graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in journalism. She has worked at a newspaper and in the public relations field, and is currently a staff writer at Business News Daily. Shannon is a zealous bookworm, has her blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and loves her Blue Heeler mix, Tucker.