10 Resume Buzzwords to Avoid (And What You Can Use To Replace Them)

It’s understood that there’s a language to the job hunting process, but it’s important to not beat overused verbiage into the ground.

One way to let your unique skill set stand out to potential employers is to avoid using phrases that are all too common — aka “buzzwords.” Here are some examples of what to steer clear from, and better yet, what to substitute them with!

1) Don’t Use: “I think outside of the box”

Isn’t it ironic that while you’re meaning to highlight your creativity or originality, using this phrase is actually a cliche, cookie-cutter note? Even words like “creative” or “innovative” don’t specifically point to how you’ve turned your ingenuity into results.

Do use: Terms like “created,” “generated” or “initiated” give the sense that your talents have actionable goals. Even if you didn’t create, generate or initiate the most original idea, employers want to know how you’ve executed your thoughts, so provide them proof that you’ve done so.

2) Don’t Use: “I’m a hard worker”

Think about this one for a second: Shouldn’t anyone applying for a job already be a hard worker? Don’t employers only want to hire hard workers? Of course! So why waste space on your resume or during your interview saying it?

Do Use: What have you been able to accomplish with your impeccable work ethic? Words like “achieved” go a long way to show you can meet expectations, follow directions and even go above and beyond!

Don’t Use: “I communicate extremely well”

Unlike the first two suggestions above, here’s one you can actually showcase on a resume or within an interview in real time. Instead of saying that you communicate well, you should be able to prove it by not mentioning it at all.

Do Use: Let your personable nature come through, and define how your communication skills have helped you or your team at previous jobs. Especially with a new job, it’s better to be more of a listener than a speaker. Emphasize your ability to comprehend rather than dictate.

Don’t Use: “I was in charge of…”

People are quick to say they were in charge of something and don’t realize that it doesn’t convey their actual responsibilities or particular position. Unless you’re a CEO or company owner, chances are you had to answer to someone and you’ll be answering to someone again if you’re looking for new employment. Being “responsible” for something is equally vague and doesn’t speak to your actual designated role.

Do Use: Phrases like “managed” or “directed” provide some context to your previous work. Also, if you have any statistics or numbers that apply to your responsibilities, those would also help to greatly explain how having you lead a team resulted in progress!

Don’t Use: “I’m proactive,” “I’m a go-getter” or “a self-starter”

It may seem like a no-brainer to include these at first, as these are positive attributes, but what you’re truly saying when using these terms is “I didn’t wait for direction” or “No one told me to begin,” which employers usually won’t want to do anyway. What may seem like a good idea in your mind is actually another needless anecdote on your resume.

Do Use: Try to spotlight examples of what it meant to your fellow employees, bosses or customers for you to be a self-starter. How did that change the game? What was provided because of your instincts?

Don’t Use: “Synergy.”

This may be the buzzword to end all buzzwords. Defined, it’s the interaction or cooperation between two or more organizations. Likely, if you’re not interviewing for a senior position, it needs to stay out of your resume.

Do Use: If your intent is to infer how you brought two departments together, make that your focus instead. How did that improve things for your company, your audience or your day-to-day? There are other ways to communicate this without using synergy.

Don’t Use: “I’m a go-to person.”

This insinuates that you’re able to answer a lot of questions or handle a lot of responsibility, which is certainly a remarkable attribute. However, it also may give the impression that you had more responsibility than you needed or should’ve had. You can’t possibly wrangle everything, can you? Nor should any company put you in that position.

Do Use: Try to make it clear what you handled specifically on a day-in, day-out basis. It’s great to make your knowledge front-and-center and your ability to be called upon when needed, so ensure your flexibility is key to you being hired.

Don’t Use: “I would add value to your organization.”

Any employer would appreciate a new hire that brings value to their team, but you need to communicate what that value looks like. Remember that value often means saving someone money, time or effort and since an employer will be spending money to hire someone, you’ll have to be bringing some combination of the other two!

Do Use: Define that value with examples. What sort of cost-saving measures were in place because of the work you did? Or if finances weren’t actually involved, how did clients or your previous company benefit from the said value brought by you? Any facts you can bring to the table are extremely helpful here.

Don’t Use: “I’m a team player.”

What is a player, if not a member of a team already? Being able to work well with others is already a requirement of any job, so don’t treat this as a special, unique characteristic you have. It’s already expected.

Do Use: Discuss how your ability to work within a cooperative structure makes things happen. Did you simply take direction or did you work your own ideas into the team dynamic, and what resulted from either method? “Are you a team player” is a question that isn’t so much about “if,” but about “how.”

Don’t Use: Opinion-based superlatives like “cutting-edge” or “world class.”

On your resume, stick to the facts instead of packing it with adjectives. Not only are these terms not quantifiable — cutting-edge as compared to what, exactly? — but they could ring false to hiring managers if you’re describing basically the same job you did somewhere else.

Do Use: You won’t need to pump up your vocabulary if your job history and what you’ve been able to do for previous employers speak for themselves. Awards, sales numbers and similar accolades are the more important to feature than fancy descriptions.

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