20 Words and Phrases to Avoid on Your Resume

, B.A. Journalism
Updated January 13, 2021
20 Words to Avoid on Your Resume
    resume words to avoid

When you're writing a resume, every word should be considered carefully, both those you include and the words you avoid. Since you're working with a limited amount of space, you want to make sure you are highlighting what's important and not adding words or phrases that are unnecessary, bland, overused, or convey a negative message.

Words and Phrases That Could Ruin a Resume

The following is a list of 20 common words and phrases that you should think twice about before using in your resume.

  • I: It's obvious that your resume is about you and your accomplishments, which means personal pronouns such as I, me, and my are unnecessary.
  • Responsible for: In addition to being bland and overused, this phrase makes it seem like you only did exactly what you were told. This isn't the image you want to portray to a potential employer.
  • Duties included: Your resume should highlight how you went above and beyond in your past work experience. It shouldn't simply be a regurgitation of your job description.
  • Phone: Employers know what a phone number looks like. You can simply list the number without putting the word "phone" before it.
  • Email: It's expected that you have an email address, but completely unnecessary to identify it with the word "email" in front of it.
  • References available upon request: This was once a standard part of any resume, but current guidelines recommend leaving it off. It's assumed that a potential employer will ask for references when you're being seriously considered for the position.
  • Successfully: Obviously, putting your failures on your resume would be a terrible idea. Leave off "successfully" and give yourself more space for your accomplishments.
  • Hard worker: Everyone loves a hard worker, but saying you're one isn't very convincing. Provide examples of the results of your hard work instead.
  • Team player: Everyone thinks they're a team player but labeling yourself as such is inappropriate, since this phrase refers to how well you cooperate with others. It's better to demonstrate this in the interview or have references that will describe this aspect of your personality.
  • Seasoned: The word "seasoned" frequently comes up as a pet peeve when human resources professionals are asked for their opinion on common resume mistakes. It sounds like you're talking about what you served for dinner, not how you can contribute to the company.
  • Best of breed: Unless you were a dog trainer, skip this bizarre-sounding resume buzzword.
  • Interfaced: This is a jargon word that makes you sound like a robot, not a dedicated potential employee.
  • Add value: Your resume is all about showing how you can add value to the company, so there's no need to specifically state this.
  • Ambitious: Being ambitious is a double-edged sword. While you obviously want to display some level of ambition in the hiring process, focusing too much on this attribute can make an employer think you will jump ship the first time a better opportunity comes around.
  • Honest: You should be honest in describing your accomplishments on your resume, but there's no need to specifically describe yourself this way. Would a liar freely admit to being one?
  • Punctual: Showing up on time is a basic part of having a job. Unless you're a teenager applying for your first part-time gig, this is an unnecessary resume addition.
  • People person: Similar to team player, describing yourself as a people person is vague and hard to prove. If the job requires someone who is bubbly and outgoing, show this by highlighting accomplishments where you frequently worked with the public, clients or colleagues.
  • Terminated: Keep your resume positive and upbeat. If you were fired or let go from a position, this is something you can discuss in the interview.
  • Unemployed: If you have a large gap between jobs on your resume, this issue needs to be addressed. However, you don't want to call attention to it by specifically mentioning your unemployment. It's better to highlight education, volunteer experience, or other ways in which you made productive use of that time.
  • Dropped out: If you didn't finish college, it's best to simply state your years of attendance and highlight a few relevant courses.

    Action Pack Your Resume

    Your resume is your first point of contact with a company. Don't fill it with cliches and fluff. For better alternatives to these overused and irrelevant resume terms, take a look at our article on Action Words to Use in Resumes. And for more on what to include in your resume and cover letter read What You Need in an Interview-Winning Resume and Cover Letter.