“What’s your least favorite resume word or phrase?”
I asked this question on LinkedIn last week and got an earful of good advice from HR executives, recruiters, marketers, writers, and others.
How Many People Use the Least Popular Resume Words?
The hate was clear.
I wanted to know more about the words’ usage volume. 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.
Why does volume matter? Because when you feature unpopular, overused words on your resume and LinkedIn profile, you fail to distinguish yourself on two levels.
- Risk underwhelming or alienating your resume’s readers with words they don’t like.
- Fail to differentiate yourself from the other two million to 40 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 referenced above and shown below, here’s a quick “how to” video:
10 Bad Resume Words
Moving on, here’s the list of least favorite resume words, arranged from lowest to highest usage on LinkedIn:
1.9 million people use this word on their LinkedIn profiles.
Erika Van der Merwe, a writer, contributed this weak word.
It also shows up as utilise, utilized, and utilised. I dislike it so much it was the subject of one of my first blog posts eight years ago, Another Word for Utilize.
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, then using “dynamic” on your resume won’t get you an interview or a job offer.
Marketing manager Johnny Walker, Indeed talent executive Bryan Chaney, and franchise sales trainer Joe Caruso mentioned this word.
Executive coach Donna Schilder suggests showing your enthusiasm and passion in your interviews rather than using those words on your resume.
Job search coach John Hadley and LinkedIn consultant 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.” Ouch.
Also from Bob McIntosh.
Spoiler: See “responsible” which often manifests as “responsible for” below.
You can describe the scope of your duties and responsibilities without ever writing “duties” or “responsible.” See these resume samples for proof.
Expert or Expertise
Marketing professor Denny McCorkle says you better have clear third-party evidence to back this claim.
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
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.”
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.
Shared by HR leader Kristin Wright.
Try to be more specific or unique. 39.5 million is more than five-percent 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 in this post in order to help the largest number of people.
Click here if you want to see the original LinkedIn post, its 200-ish comments, and many more words that can hurt your resume.
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 (4,000-plus on LinkedIn) 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 ten 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 into the comments below.
Images: vichkaredd, Alexander Lupin, LoloStock
Updated January 2019
© 2018 – 2019, 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 has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, and Business News Daily.
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