Don’t Use These Words on Your CV or LinkedIn Profile

If you’ve ever gone house-hunting or looked for a flat, you know there are certain words that act  as a kind of code: “cozy” means it’s about the size of a postage stamp, “rustic” means there might be mice, and “fixer-upper” means it’s probably going to fall in on you.

Similarly, there is a certain style of language that tends to pop up on resumes, CVs, and LinkedIn profiles that HR and hiring managers cringe to see.

In general, most of these terrible terms are so vague or jargony as to mean practically nothing. At best they suggest you might be padding your CV or profile because you’ve run out of things to say; at worst, they suggest you haven’t achieved much of anything in your career worth talking about.

Replace them by heeding that ages-old writing adage to “show, don’t tell;” use active words and concrete examples instead of these tired terms:

  1. “Responsible for…”
    This is such a blanket statement when describing your job duties, it tells nothing about what you actually did. It brings to mind someone just doing the bare minimum to get by. Instead, use active verbs like created, achieved, improved, or led.
  2. Problem-solving skills
    Did you sit around doing crosswords or solving rubik’s cubes all day? Instead, list an accomplishment that demonstrates your problem-solving skills.
  3. Detail oriented
    One typo on your resume (and they happen to the best of us) and this statement rings false. If being detail oriented is a key trait for the job you want, put it into practice by paying particular attention to details when you submit your application and during the interview.
  4. Intelligent
    Being intelligent and saying that you’re intelligent are two different things. Putting it on a CV or saying it in an interview can come off as egotistical or awkward. (This also goes for words like successful, likeable, humble, etc.) Instead, talk about the way you think or approach a problem with words like logical, quantitative, or synthesise.
  5. Proactive
    This is a business buzzword and has been used so much it has very little meaning left in it. What are you actually trying to say? That you are self-directed? That you can spot problems before they happen? Demonstrate this with examples.
  6. Team player
    Something about this feels wishy-washy, as though you couldn’t come up with anything better to say. “I don’t have any actual accomplishments, but I’m a team player!” If you want to convey that you work well in groups, again, give specific examples.
  7. Obsessive
    No matter how passionate you are about your work, saying that you are (or, in fact, being) obsessive is not a good thing. Passionate is a pretty good replacement word here.
  8. Strategic thinker
    Before putting something like this on your CV, ask yourself how you would demonstrate it if asked to in an interview.  It’s pretty difficult to back up. If you have a concrete example, use it instead.
  9. “Experience working with…”
    Experiences happen to you. They are passive.  Instead, talk about achievements.
  10. Salary negotiable
    On a resume or in a cover letter, this just sounds desperate. Unless the recruiter specifically asks for your salary requirements in your cover letter, avoid it altogether until the interview. Then, do your research and have a specific number in mind when you get the question. It is mostly understood that salaries are negotiated, so saying it on your CV is redundant as well.

In a survey from CareerBuilder.com asking hiring managers and human resources staffers to rank the best and worst words to use on a resume, the best words all had something in common: they convey action.

Avoid cliches, jargon, and passive terms in favor of active descriptions of your actual achievements, and your CV or LinkedIn profile will definitely stand out from the crowd. 

What are your personal resume pet peeves? Any forbidden words I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments below.  

Leave a Reply