5 Job Application Terms to Avoid (and 5 Replacements)


5 Job Application Terms to Avoid (and 5 Replacements)

What words should you use in your resume? What words should you stay far away from? In our business, your language is part of your professional portrait, and how you speak says just as much as what you put on your resume.

I can’t tell you exactly what words to use since how you express yourself is part of who you are and your resume should reflect you. However, I can tell you how to choose (and not choose) words to keep hiring managers interested.

CareerBuilder published an article with the best and worst terms used on resumes. The article was based on a national survey with a sample of hiring managers and human resource professionals.

According to the survey, here are some terms you should keep off your resume:

  1. “Best of breed” or touting your “track record”
  2. A go-getter, go-to person, or team-player.
  3. Thinking outside the box.
  4. Skilled or interested in “value add,” “synergy,” or “bottom line.”
  5. Self-motivated, dynamic, or detail-oriented.

Why should you avoid these terms? They don’t prove anything! The metaphors are pointless and only take up space. None of these terms are quantifiable, therefore, they are unsubstantiated claims.

The point of a resume is to advertise you as the Job Candidate and prove through past experience the value you will add to their company.

LinkedIn announced in their annual wrap-up the most overused words in profiles and resumes posted on their network.

Here are some of the terms that made the list

  • Strategic
  • Creative
  • Analytical
  • Responsible

“Creative” and “strategic” are often part of job titles, making it necessary to the profile but, that’s not the only place those words are found. A quick search shows how many people use “strategic as filler or hyperbole. “Strategic customer service,” and “strategic team member,” do not actually say anything useful.

The common denominator in all of the terms (from both LinkedIn and CareerBuilder) is their subjectivity. What one person considers creative is not creative to someone else. You can think outside of the box? Great! What is your box, again…? Your resume or profile should never have words employers find debatable.

Rather than including adjectives on your resume, use the valuable space to show how your approach brings value to employers and clients. Don’t tell me you are analytical. Tell me what you analyzed! Rather than claiming “creative customer service,” explain how you were creative in your service by saying that you “listen carefully and guide customers toward solutions.” Rather than claiming “strategic use of meeting summaries” show how you “aggregated team comments into brief summaries after each meeting with actionable items highlighted.” A profile should show action rather than a flat description that is up to interpretation.

CareerBuilder lists the best resume words as

  1. Achieved, Launched, Influenced
  2. Trained, Mentored, Managed, Negotiated.
  3. Improved, Resolved, Created
  4. Volunteered
  5. Under Budget, Profit, Revenue, Increased, Decreased

All of these are action words! Every single one of these words would be part of a sentence that shows exactly how value was added to the company through your work and time there. Using these words, you are showing real results, quantifying how you led, rather than just claiming leadership, and applying your strengths. LinkedIn recommends attaching words to actual results and those last few words from CareerBuilder (profit, revenue, increased, and decreased) will do exactly that.

Remember that resumes aren’t about hyperbole and sales language. Hiring managers care more about what you can prove than what you assert. Make showing more important than telling by populating your application with verbs, not adjectives. Showing objectively your achievements are much more powerful than subjective descriptors.