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5 Phrases You Should Never Put On Your Resume

By Hannah Hamilton

Monster Contributing Writer

 

When you’re writing your resume, it’s best to avoid the cliche words that hiring managers and recruiters see over and over again. Even if you feel the terms are accurate, there is usually a livelier, more original way to describe yourself.

 

Here are five words and phrases you should avoid putting on your resume.

 

Hard Worker

 

Describing vaguely positive traits in a resume doesn’t prove your worth and may even undermine your value as a candidate in failing to show how you’re different. Focus on concrete skills and accomplishments instead of relying on personal description through adjectives, says David Allocco, a business development and operations executive at PierceGray, Inc.

 

“I would avoid the term ‘hard worker’ as it’s general and something anyone could apply to themselves,” Allocco says. “Instead, highlight actual accomplishments and results you can show off to potential employers. They like seeing data-driven numbers as opposed to general blanket statements.”

 

Out-of-the-Box

 

Idioms may add color to an informal conversation, but they don’t distinguish you professionally when used on your resume.

 

“Avoid overused and tired business idioms: out-of-the-box, win-win, core competencies, empowered, best practices There are many more; these are perfectly acceptable words, but they've been so overused that people are sick of them,” says Karen Southall Watts, author of “Go Coach Yourself.” “Rephrase and think clarity and not jargon. Avoid describing duties and instead focus on results. ‘Supervised a team of 12’ is much less compelling than ‘Led sales team to 5% increase in total closed deals.’”

 

Salary

 

Avoid mentioning money before you even get to the interview. “Any mention of the word ‘salary’ on a résumé sets off red alarms to an employer and would discourage them from bringing you in for an interview,” warns George Bernocco, a resume writer.

 

Reference Available Upon Request

 

This line isn’t necessary.

 

“Do not put ‘Reference available upon request’, or the names and contact points of the references themselves,” advises Elliot Lasson, executive director of Joblink of Maryland, Inc. “The former is understood, superfluous, and therefore just takes up valuable space. As for the latter, given that companies will often ask for a waiver before contacting references, they should probably be kept in a separate document.”

 

Objective

 

Your resume isn’t simply a summary of yourself. You are talking about yourself, technically, but through the lens of the company’s needs and expectations.

 

“We already know your objective,” says Lisa Rokusek, a managing partner at AgentHR Recruiting Group. “Instead of telling us about what you want, use this space to tell us about you and your experience. Make sure it is relevant to the role you are interested in. Make a thought argument for getting a conversation.”


If you’ve applied for a job recently, you’ve probably looked over that 8½” x 11” summary of your career more times than you can count—and tweaked it just as often—in pursuit of the best resume.

But before you add another bullet point, consider this: It’s not always about what you add in—the best changes you can make may lie in what you take out.

The average resume is chock-full of sorely outdated, essentially meaningless phrases that take up valuable space on the page. Eliminate them, and you’ll come off as a better, more substantial candidate—and your resume won’t smack of that same generic, mind-numbing quality found on everyone else’s.

Every word—yes, every word—on that page should be working hard to highlight your talents and skills. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be on there. So grab a red pen, and banish these words from your resume for good.

1. Career Objective

My first few resumes had a statement like this emblazoned top and center: “Career objective: To obtain a position as a [insert job title here] that leverages my skills and experience as well as provides a challenging environment that promotes growth.”

Yawn. This is not only boring, it’s ineffective (and sounds a little juvenile, to boot). The top of your resume is prime real estate, and it needs to grab a hiring manager’s attention with a list of your top accomplishments, not a summary of what you hope to get out of your next position.

2. Experienced

You can be “experienced” in something after you’ve done it once—or every day for the past 10 years. So drop this nebulous term and be specific. If, for example, you’re a client report specialist, using a phrase such as “Experienced in developing client reports” is both vague and redundant. But sharing that you “Created five customized weekly reports to analyze repeat client sales activity”—now that gives the reader a better idea of where exactly this so-called experience lies, with some actual results attached.

3. Team Player

If you’ve ever created an online dating profile, you know that you don’t just say that you’re nice and funny—you craft a fun, witty profile that shows it. Same goes for your resume objective. It’s much more effective to list activities or accomplishments that portray your good qualities in action rather than to simply claim to have them.

Instead of “team player,” say “Led project team of 10 to develop a new system for distributing reports that reduced the time for managers to receive reports by 25%.” Using a specific example, you show what you can actually accomplish. But simply labeling yourself with a quality? Not so much.

Which is as good of a reason as any for making it perfect

Hire a coach

4. Energetic, Enthusiastic

While resumes are meant to highlight your best attributes, some personality traits are better left to the hiring manager to decide upon for herself. There is a difference between appropriately and accurately describing your work skills and just tooting your own horn. Plus, even the most introverted wallflower will claim to be “dynamic” on a piece of paper because, well, why not? When it comes to resumes, keep the content quantifiable, show tangible results and successes, and wait until the interview to show off your “dynamism,” “enthusiasm,” or “energy.”

5. References Available Upon Request

All this phrase really does is take up valuable space. If a company wants to hire you, they will ask you for references—and they will assume that you have them. There’s no need to address the obvious (and doing so might even make you look a little presumptuous!). Use the space to give more details about your talents and accomplishments instead.

In a crummy job market with a record number of people applying for the same positions, it takes more than a list of desirable-sounding qualities to warrant an interview. Specific examples pack a punch, whereas anything too dependent on a list of buzzwords will sound just like everyone else’s cookie-cutter resume. So, give your resume a good once-over, and make sure every word on that page is working hard for you.

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