“What’s your least favorite resume word or phrase?”
I asked this question on LinkedIn. An avalanche of good advice from HR executives, recruiters, marketers, and writers followed.
How Many People Use the Least Popular Resume Words?
The hate was clear.
I wanted to know more about the words’ usage volumes. So, to get a measure, I put each word and its variations into LinkedIn’s search box. That told me how many people have a particular word on their profiles.
I recently updated the counts for 2023. They aren’t pretty. Of course, more people use LinkedIn now than when I published this post 4-plus years ago. But still, let’s lose these words!
Why does this matter? Because when you use unpopular words on your resume and profile, you hurt yourself twice.
- Risk underwhelming or alienating your readers with words they don’t like.
- Fail to differentiate yourself from the other 2 million to 50-plus million people using the same word.
How to Count a Word’s Usage on LinkedIn Profiles
If you want to know how I did the word counts shown below, here’s a quick “how-to” video:
If you wonder whether or not you should use a familiar word or jargon, run a quick count. The higher the usage, the lower the impact.
10 Bad Resume Words
Moving on, here’s the list of bad resume words, arranged from lowest to highest usage on LinkedIn:
2018: 1.9 million people used this word on their LinkedIn profiles; 2023: 2.48 million. People love it.
Erika Van der Merwe, a writer, contributed this weak word.
It also shows up as utilise, utilized, and utilised. I dislike it so much that it was the subject of one of my first blog posts, Another Word for Utilize. Oh well.
2018: 2.7 million; 2023: 4.0 million.
Career advisor & LinkedIn trainer Bob McIntosh mentioned this over-loved word.
Your resume and interview presence should give a “dynamic” meta-message. If they don’t, using “dynamic” on your resume won’t get you an interview or a job offer.
2018: 2.8 million; 2023: 5.2 million.
Former Indeed talent executive Bryan Chaney mentioned this word.
Executive coach Donna Schilder suggests showing enthusiasm and passion in your interviews. That’s more effective than using the words on your resume.
2018: 3.5 million; 2023: 76,000. That might be a LinkedIn Search glitch. I will check it a few more times.
Job search coach John Hadley and LinkedIn advisor Bruce Johnston don’t like “proven.”
Bruce asks, “Proven by whom? I get a mental image of the person waving a document around that has been signed by a notary public.”
2018: 6.7 million; 2023: 8.5 million.
Also from Bob McIntosh.
Spoiler: See “responsible,” which often manifests as “responsible for” below.
You can describe the scope of your responsibilities without writing “duties.” See these resume samples for proof.
Expert or Expertise
2018: 10.8 million; 2023: 12.1 million.
Marketing professor Denny McCorkle says you better have evidence to back those claims.
2018: 11.0 million; 2023: 17.6 million.
LinkedIn trainer Mark Williams thinks this one is odd.
He says, “I’ll be the judge of that.” He’s right. The reader is always the judge of your experience.
Responsible or Responsibilities
2018: 24.0 million; 2023: 28.9 million.
From Real Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas.
Her explanation, “Look, I’m responsible for doing the breakfast dishes, but it’s 2:38 p.m., and I haven’t started them. Responsible tells me nothing.”
2018: 29.3 million; 2023: 37.1 million.
David Topus, author of Talk to Strangers, says, “Everything is strategic.”
He’s right. Avoid using this common resume word unless it’s part of a job title.
2018: 39.5 million; 2023: 53.3 million.
Shared by HR leader Kristin Wright.
Try to be more specific or unique. 53.3 million is almost 7% of the global LinkedIn population — not special at all.
What Other Resume Words Do People Hate?
I wanted to share the most common of the worst words in this post to help the largest number of people.
Click here to see the 2018 LinkedIn post and 200-ish comments about words that hurt resumes.
And here for new candidates for 2023. Consider data-driven, demonstrated, detail-oriented, highly-accomplished, massive, out-of-the-box thinker, results-oriented, robust, seasoned, self-starter, vast, visionary, and more!
What Can You Do?
How do you get the words shown here out of your resume?
- Try deleting them or reworking your sentence or paragraph.
- Go to thesaurus.com and search for synonyms.
- Hire a resume writer and make them figure it out for you.
List of the Top 10 Most Frequently Used Bad Resume Words
Here’s an easy-to-read recap. Pull out your resume and give it a quick Edit/Find for these 10 bad boys!
- Utilize (and its variants)
- Expert (and its variants)
- Responsibilities (and its variants)
Where Are the Good Resume Words?
Johanna Miller, a communications specialist at Accenture, asked about good resume words. These are my 100 favorite resume power words.
What’s Your Least Favorite Resume Word or Phrase?
Finally, which resume word do you want to see made extinct? Please drop it in the comments below.
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Featured by: 3Plus International
Updated January 2023
© 2018 – 2023, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts.
She is a Fast Company Contributor and has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, CNBC, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, US News & World Report, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, and Business News Daily.
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I would add “years of experience” to the list above.
6.7 million LinkedIn members use the term on their profiles, yet it doesn’t really say much other than that they can show up and perform marginally well enough to not get fired for a period of time.
If a job description requires a certain number of years of experience, your reader can do the math with the dates on your resume.
Talk about substantive accomplishments, not your years of experience.
If you’re detail-oriented, your LinkedIn profile profile and resume need to be free of typos, particularly with respect to industry jargon, and the resume in particular needs to have uniform formatting.
Thank you for this one!
Using “detail-oriented” just has to put resume readers on alert to find errors. Thus, I too would think twice about featuring it on my resume.
It’s better to show your detail orientation by producing a flawless resume than by making a risky claim.
Case in point: 700,000+ LinkedIn members use either “detail-oriented” or “detail oriented” on their profiles — which begs attention to the detail of when you do and don’t use hyphens to link words.
Probably don’t want to point out that you’re a people-person!
LinkedIn has 125,000+ people people.
Another one that’s better to show than tell.
A few possibilities to add to your resume or profile:
1. Volunteer work.
2. Being chosen to represent your company at events.
3. Participation in employee interest groups.
What would you add?
Great article Donna! People often put words and phrases into their resumes that would be better used in their cover letter or in an interview. Quantifying results, rather than using flowery, vague language to describe accomplishments more effectively shows an employer what you can do for them.
I loved hearing about all the words people don’t like to see on resumes.
Thank you for contributing.
This is such a common mistake that I wish less people would make! Those “power words” are just… overplayed. Great article!!
Thank you. Hope to see more of you and wish you well with your new blog!
Great article! I would add “team-player” to that list.
Another good one!
Wow! I never knew that words like “professional” and “responsible” are overly used these days. Thanks for sharing.
I know, but the counts are real!
I would also add seasoned, as in “Seasoned executive with 25+ years of experience advancing operational initiatives…in corporations and private equity-backed start-ups.”
There’s so much wrong with that sentence, but I’ll stick with my first objection. “Seasoned” always makes me imagine the person being sprinkled with Old Bay. What can I say?
Proven is the perfect resume word. Conveys validated skills and accomplishments. Teases the reader/recruiter to contact the resume owner to explain, presumably via an interview, why their skills are proven. Perfect hook and its only six characters.
I love using “proven” on resumes too (for all the reasons you share). However, we seem to be in the minority.
Great article, I certainly avoid those words.
I tend to put some of these words on my cover letter and resume. Thanks for the clarification. This is very helpful.
Glad this was helpful!
Great article, informative and really helpful. Placing those phrases on resume, the chances of standing out from other are greatly amplified.