10 Words to Avoid on a Résumé

Here is a harsh reality: your existing résumé is hurting your chances of being hired. Even the most qualified candidates limit their opportunities in the application process because of one problem: the language they use. Top NYC recruiting firms have countless résumés pass over their desks every day with empty jargon, useless clichés, and unnecessary buzzwords.

Don’t fall into the same pattern as so many applicants before you. Break the trend! Write a good résumé that increases your chances of being hired. Follow these suggestions for ten of the most common words you should avoid on a résumé.


The secret to any effective piece of writing (including your résumé) is to show, not tell. Anyone can call himself or herself a hard worker. What convinces hiring committees are detailed situations where your hard work helped a previous employer.

Employers want employees that perform. Sometimes hard work alone doesn’t get the job done; perhaps a certain task requires creativity. Find a synonym that implies your hardworking tendencies without saying it outright, or get rid of the adjective altogether.


Capable and hardworking often fall within the same breath on a résumé, much to the annoyance of bosses at NYC recruiting firms (or the world over, for that matter). You should never describe yourself as “effective” either. Naturally, you would say you are capable at certain tasks: you wouldn’t want to make yourself look useless. Instead, demonstrate and discuss certain tasks or skill sets.

No one looking over your résumé knows with certainty whether or not you are truly capable, because they only have your word. There are no alternatives for the word capable, but efficient is a solid substitute. This implies that you can get the job done without having to directly spell it out.


Just like “hardworking,” the word “motivated” is an empty phrase if used as a standalone. It is perfectly acceptable to say that you are externally motivated in group settings, or that learning new skill sets motivates you.

Employers are well aware that motivation is not unconditional. Simply saying that you are “motivated” leaves employers scratching their heads. Why are you motivated?


Skilful is a redundant word. If you are applying for a position, the hiring committee assumes that you have skills in the field. Instead of saying skilful, emphasize your skills that your résumé should clearly identify.

“Team Player”

Unless you are self-employed (in which case you likely wouldn’t need a résumé anyhow), the understanding is that you will have to work with others in any job. If you have success stories relating to teamwork, show them to the hiring committee rather than simply telling them. Talk about the various teams you have worked in, and how or why they were a success.

“Problem-Solving Skills”

Yes. Everyone has problem-solving skills, including computers. Stick to the skills that require a human dimension.

“Communication Skills”

Does “communication skills” mean that you can speak the language, or that you can speak the language well? Unless you have a certificate that says so, pointing out communication skills is not going to get you far.

Remember that your résumé should stand out from the crowd, but almost everyone chooses to use this phrase on their résumé anyways. If you break down the communication process, you will realize that many jobs do not require a dense vocabulary, especially in science or finance, for instance. Some jobs require strong communication skills (like a telemarketer), but even for a telemarketing position you should avoid writing this phrase and focus on writing a strong résumé. Effective résumés inherently demonstrate your ability to communicate.

“Experience working in ______”

Experience is not an achievement; it is something that happens to you throughout your career. Outline your background in terms of achievements and you are much better off.

“Salary negotiable”

Any hiring committee is well aware that the salary is negotiable. Non-negotiable salaries are a curiosity! You have a very limited space to work with on a résumé, so don’t waste it on phrases like this. “References available by request” is similarly empty. If they want more information from you, they will ask for it.


Having objectives on your résumé is not the end of the world, but you should approach this term with caution. Use a career summary that outlines your background, achievements, and relevant expertise that you have to offer an employer.

Millions of people make these mistakes (and others) every single day. In a competitive market like NYC, recruiting firms dismiss poorly written and constructed résumés in a flash. Now that you have read these ten words to avoid on a résumé, look through yours and remove the fluff and filler. Writing a good résumé that will get you noticed does not have to be a painful process. Increase your chances of being hired: discuss your qualities to a potential employee in a different and better way.

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