10 Phrases You Should Ban From Your Resume

Whether out of a job as the result of a layoff or just wanting to make a change, everyone is taking a closer look at their resume. Does it reflect your accomplishments and show your career progression—or hide the lack thereof? If you've been working with an older resume, take a closer look at your language: how many clichés do you have in there?

Here are 10 phrases you should ban from your resume, and new, fresh ways to showcase your skills to put your resume at the top of the applicant pile.

Key Takeaways

  • In a competitive job market, your resume needs to stand out and present your accomplishments in a way that doesn't resort to clichés.
  • Using the same umbrella terms on your resume that everyone uses means you're likely to be undervalued and overlooked.
  • Find ways to detail your achievements, and quantify how you've added to the company's bottom line.
  • Show who you are and what you've done—these details will make you stand out as the memorable candidate you are.

1. "I'm a Team Player."

This is one of the most over-used clichés, so try to find a way you can show you are a team player, rather than write it. Did you collaborate with someone or with a department to meet an objective? Put that on your resume instead of a vague, clichéd expression. Be detailed about your achievement.

2. "I Have Great Communication Skills."

Communication skills can mean so many things, which is why using this term on your resume only makes you lose your recruiter's interest. What communication skills did you use to contribute to your employer? Did you create a presentation, a press release or lead a conference call? State your specific achievement.

3. "I Have a Proven Track-Record."

So prove it! What did you do to give you this track record? Be specific, and try to quantify your impact; "I brought in 10 new customers, adding $50k in profit for 2018" sounds far more impressive than some vague statement, and will help you stand out among the dozens of resumes.

4. "I'm a Problem Solver."

Everybody loves a problem solver, which is why so many resumes state this skill with pride. You can do better: tell your prospective company what problem you solved. Did you optimize a troubling schedule, did you solve an employee dispute or did you iron out a problem with a customer? Again, be specific to be memorable.

5. "I Assisted In X Task."

Maybe you weren't the lead on a particular project, but saying you "assisted" is the kiss of death for your resume. What was it that you did? Did you write a sales report or keep inventory? Write that on your resume with pride and lose the "assisted"—you're better than that.

6. "I Have a Strong Work Ethic."

A strong work ethic—that sounds great, right? You're not the only one using this cliché, so freshen up your resume by stating how you go that extra mile. Did you take a class to improve your skills? Did you meet a really tough deadline? Show the hiring official what makes you this person with a strong work ethic, instead of using another cliché like your fellow applicants.

7. "I'm Bottom-Line Focused."

Another hollow term that is overused and now means nothing—instead, show what you did that added to the bottom line of your company. It's very important to quantify for this skill: list amounts of money, time, or resources you saved or added to the business.

8. "I'm Responsible For X."

We're all responsible for something when we go to work, whether a janitor or a CEO. Drop this expression and just state what your job title is and what you added to the company's success. Cutting these clutter words will make your resume stronger and more to the point.

9. "I'm Self-Motivated."

What you're really trying to say is that you're not that slacker who clocks out at three every day, but this cliché is not going to help you get your point across. Find a way to show that you're self-motivated: did you overhaul a broken inventory system, or find a new way to expand your sales territory? Self-motivated employees find innovative ways to improve on what they've been handed—put what you actually did on your resume.

10. "I Thrive in a Fast-Paced Environment."

What does this mean, exactly? Fast-paced work environments are the norm in many industries. To be specific, look at one of your busiest days in your (former) job. What did you accomplish, and how did you adapt to the obstacles thrown your way? Put that achievement on your resume to prove that you can adapt when challenged.


7 Cover Letter Blunders

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