Resume Buzzwords to Include and Avoid

Thinking “outside of the box” probably won’t get you inside the interview room.

Resume Buzzwords to Include and Avoid

Choose resume buzzwords that actually mean something.

Sure, you’re a hard-working innovator with excellent communication skills—unfortunately, so is nearly every job applicant you’re competing with, at least according to their resumes. It’s time to break from hackneyed resume buzzwords that carry zero weight in the eyes of a recruiter or hiring manager.

Check out this list of resume buzzwords and phrases you should avoid on your resume, along with some tips on how to better use that precious real estate on your job application materials.

Hard Worker

What you think it says: “I’m dedicated to doing my job well.”

Of course you’re a hard worker! Even if you aren’t, it’s not like you’re going to admit otherwise on your resume. Instead of stating the obvious, prove it. Provide concrete examples of how you go the extra mile.

Better buzzword: Include the word “achieved,” and back it up with examples of what you’ve accomplished. For example, you could say, "Achieved sales goal for three consecutive years with a reduced staff." This shows that you, and your staff, are hard-working while you avoid saying so directly.

Creative / Outside the Box / Innovative

What you think it says: “I come up with good, new ideas.”

When it comes to resume buzzwords, these three tend to produce the most sighs. If you could actually think outside the box, you’d be able to phrase it without resorting to a cliché. These trite descriptors can actually undermine your case if you don’t back them up with specifics.

To really show off your creativity, share examples of how you developed and implemented new ideas or processes. If you work in a creative field, such as advertising or web design, pursue industry awards, which can serve as outside validation for the uniqueness of your work.

Better buzzword: Include the word “created.” It shows that you’ve produced something new and original.

Excellent Communicator

What you think it says: “I know how to talk and listen to people to get stuff done.”

Rule of thumb: If you have to tell people you are something, you likely aren’t that something. You must embody a trait for people to take notice. Instead of dropping in this meaningless phrase, provide examples of how your communication skills led to specific positive outcomes.

Better buzzwords: Use the words “listen” and “improve” to indicate how your actions made the company better. Example: 'I listened to my customers’ feedback and used that information to create a streamlined process that improved efficiency by two hours.'

Responsible

What you think it says: “I'm in charge of this.”

Your resume is no place for vagueness, and writing “responsible” on your resume—as in, “I was responsible for xyz”—leaves it unclear exactly what role you played.

Get specific about the level of authority you had. If you managed the project, say that. If you launched it, say that.

Better buzzwords: Hiring managers prefer more specific words, like “managed” or “directed,” with details about your contribution. And use numbers to make your accomplishments stand out. Metrics, data, or any kind of stats help recruiters and hiring managers see the impact you made.

Expert

What you think it says: “I’m the best at this.”

There may be portions of your job that you know so well, you can do them with your eyes closed—but that doesn’t mean you get to claim “expert” on your resume. True experts don’t need to proclaim their elite status; instead, they let their well-earned reputations on the job speak for themselves.

Better buzzwords: Use action words, such as “published” or “delivered,” to demonstrate your professional clout. Focus on your years of experience and training, and give examples that show off your authority. For example, “Published 10 articles in industry magazines,” or, “Delivered keynote address at three industry conferences.”

Skip the Resume Buzzwords and Do This Instead

Make your resume appear fresh and contemporary, while also making sure it says something that hiring managers consider valuable. Want to make sure your writing efforts are paying off? Upload your resume for free to Monster. We can help connect you with awesome recruiters. Generate buzz without fizzing out.