7 Words That Will Sabotage Your Resume

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The wrong words can sabotage your resume, and nearly all of us have at least a few of these words on our resumes.  Learn the 7 types of words that can have a severe impact on your chances of getting an interview.

1. Generic Attributes

These words are on everyone’s resume.  They are so common that hiring managers simply don’t even read them. Do not bore the reader to tears with these trite, overused and tired phrases.

  • Hard worker
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Goal-driven
  • Strong work ethic
  • Multi-tasker
  • Personable presenter
  • Goal-oriented
  • Detail-oriented

It is much more effective to write description that is action-based and demonstrates these abilities rather than just laying claim to them. For example, rather than just stating you are an “excellent presenter,” you could say something like “Developed and presented 50+ multi-media presentations to C-level prospects resulting in 35 new accounts totaling $300,000 in new revenues.”

2.  Age Attributes

Under qualified candidates often try to look more mature.  Over qualified candidates sometimes try to look more youthful.  Hiring managers know these tricks.   Candidates near retirement are often the worst offenders.  Words to avoid:

  • Young
  • Youthful
  • Developing
  • Professional Appearance
  • Mature

3. Health Attributes

Candidates who claim to be “healthy” are telling hiring managers they feel they fear getting to0 sick to do the job.  Candidates with past medical issues are the worst offenders here.  Words to avoid.

  • Healthy
  • Fit
  • Energetic
  • Active
  • Able-bodied
  • Athletic

4. Appearance Attributes

Candidates who claim to be “attractive” are telling the hiring manager they get by on their looks instead of their skills.   Let the hiring manager see how attractive you are at the interview, but don’t expect to get that interview because you are attractive.

Age, health, appearance phrases to avoid:

  • Pretty
  • Attractive
  • Handsome
  • Cute
  • Adorable
  • Masculine
  • Powerful

Let the hiring manager see how healthy and fit you are when you come for an interview.  Don’t expect claiming to be as such will get you an interview in the first place.

5. Passive Voice Words

Forget what you learned in school and don’t write in passive voice.  Many people write in passive voice because that is how we’ve been taught to write “formally” in high school composition and then in freshman college English.  Its wrong for resumes.

Indicators of the passive voice:

  • Responsible for
  • Duties included
  • Served as
  • Actions encompassed

Rather than saying “Responsible for management of three direct reports” change it up to “Managed 3 direct reports.” It is a shorter, more direct mode of writing and adds impact to the way the resume reads.

6. Hyper-Active Words

Hyper-active words are verbs that are too violent or aggressive to be used on a resume.  They’re usually verbs better suited to a comic book than a resume.

  • Smashed numbers through the roof
  • Electrified sales team to produce
  • Pushed close rate by 10%
  • Destroyed sales competition
  • Blew away sales goals

7.  Profile Words

These are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the DISC Profile. While the results from these evaluations can be invaluable to the job seeker for evaluating an opportunity in terms of “fit”, employers and recruiters are more interested in performance results. Do not inadvertently “pigeon-hole” yourself by including your profile results in the resume.  Words to avoid:

  • A-type Personality
  • D Profile
  • Alpha Male

Consider your word choice in a resume. A resume is a marketing document for your career just as a brochure is a marketing document for a product or service. Companies put careful thought and consideration into each and every word that goes into marketing copy and you should do the same in your resume.

Comments

  1. Vivian Patterson says

    Every week we are inundated with job-related articles containing well-intended advice about dos and don’t–what not to include on resumes, what not to say during interviews, what not to wear and the list of don’ts goes on and on. While I can appreciate the intent behind sharing this information, what is missing are the exact steps job seekers can take to get immediate call backs that lead to getting hired given the present competitive labor market. While the typical strategies may have worked in the past, they are not enough to meet the present extraordinary conditions job seekers are facing. Some examples would be the statistic of 7 qualified applicants for every job offered, or that fact that unemployment rates for African Americans nearly doubles other ethic groups. Job seekers need to know how to overcome these types of systemic issues. Expressed another way, it is not about the paper, it’s about a process that job seekers are not in control of. Posting resumes online is commonly referred to as the “black hole” and this also needs to change. Job seekers waste many hours applying online by key-entering information over and over that could be easily scanned directly into a company database. The redundancy is that even after attaching a resume, job seekers are required to type in the same work history information over and over for each and every job applied for. This is such a waste of value time given today’s technological advances. So my thought is that job seekers are not sabotaging themselves, the system is designed to take care of that. Also, there clearly is no sense of urgency about getting the 2 million long term unemployed back to work. With all due respect, I have mentioned several of the real job sabotagers that need urgent and immediate attention.

  2. Steve Lindsey says

    Some great tips here on how the “insiders” respond to what you write on a resume.

  3. Linet A. Obura says

    Very good information. I am actually in the process of applying and looking new career opportunities.

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