The Worst (and Best) Terms to Use on a Resume

By Ryan Rhodes

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When writing a resume, your mission is to impress the hiring manager right away, so your resume goes into the “yes” pile. After all, if it doesn’t pass muster, you’ll never get the opportunity to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job.

Hiring managers and recruiters see multiple job applications, cover letters and resumes every single day. Most of them are scanned very quickly, so job hunters need to make every word count.

First, let’s look at what not to do.

The Worst Terms to Use on a Resume

Here are the deal-breaker resume terms, according to hiring managers and human resource professionals who were surveyed by Career Builder:

Best of breed (chosen by 38% of respondents)
Go-getter (27%)
Think outside the box (26%)
Synergy (22%)
Go-to person (22%)
Thought leadership (16%)
Value add (16%)
Results-driven (16%)
Team player (15%)
Bottom line (14%)
Hard worker (13%)
Strategic thinker (12%)
Dynamic (12%)
Self-motivated (12%)
Detail-oriented (11%)
Proactively (11%)
Track record (10%)

It’s not that these terms are inherently bad; they simply don’t tell time-crunched hiring managers what they want to know about you. The fact is that the majority (68%) spend an average of two minutes or less reviewing a resume – and 17% spend less than 30 seconds. That’s why it’s so important to include words that inspire a positive reaction, rather than overused or cliché terms that make employers wince!

Anyone can make a claim, but not every candidate can back it up with actual data. Instead of describing yourself as a “hard worker” (like everyone else), provide an example of the results you achieved by taking on additional projects. Show them, don’t tell them.

Interested in which terms you should use to describe your accomplishments? Read on!

The Best Terms to Use on a Resume

Hiring managers and recruiters know that the position they’re hiring for requires specific skills and experience – and they will spend more time on resumes that speak to their needs. Here are the terms they are looking for as they scan your resume:

Achieved (chosen by 52% of respondents).
Improved (48%).
Trained/mentored (47%).
Managed (44%).
Created (43%).
Resolved (40%).
Volunteered (35%).
Influenced (29%).
Increased/decreased (28%).
Ideas (27%).
Negotiated (25%).
Launched (24%).
Revenue/profits (23%).
Under budget (16%).
Won (13%).

As you may have noticed, most of these are verbs – action words that answer the question, “What have you accomplished?” These terms tell the hiring manager what he or she really wants to know: what you can do for the company.

Refocus your resume to include more of the best terms and eliminate the worst terms. Otherwise, you’ll never get a chance to show them why they should hire you!

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