25 Words Not to Use in Your Resume

July 5th, 2013 | Articles, Resume | 10 Comments »

Words Not to use

1.) Try. Yoda already told you about this. Don’t make him do it again.

2.) Innovative. Overused beyond belief. If you are innovative, you’d eliminate this word from your vocab.

3.) Creative. No creative person describes his or herself as “creative.” It’s a cardboard flavored adjective.

4.) Love. In this context, it makes you sound like you have an unhealthy infatuation with the company.

5.) Analytical. When everyone uses analytical, the word loses meaning.

6.) Cutting-edge. Another overused word. It’s a relic from the space age that belongs there.

7.) Road Warrior. If the hiring manager is a die-hard Mad Max fan, you’re fine. If not…

8.) Workaholic. Gives the impression of addiction and suggests they’ll have to have an intervention.

9.) Goal-Oriented. Both bland & vague. Instead use examples in your resume, cover letter, & interview.

10.) Problem Solver. Just bland. Qualify how you solve problems.

11.) Self-Starter. An exhausted device.

12.) Trustworthy. Why bring it up if it wasn’t a problem in the past?

13.) Perfectionist. This word is a nice way to say difficult or diva.

14.) Stubborn. Resilient is a far better alternative.

15.) Guru. After 2008’s Love Guru, right-minded people carry mistrust for anyone boasting this title.

16.) Tiger Team. Unless you worked with the Thundercats, the title seems disingenuous.

17.) Experienced. Your resume should speak for itself.

18.) Dynamic. This poor phrase needs some rest. Leave it be for a bit.

19.) Effective. The word is highly subjective. One person’s effective could be another’s slacker.

20.) Motivated. Actions speak louder in words in this instance.

21.) Seasoned. The positive veneer of this word has almost entirely been worn off through repeated use.

22.) Ninja. It’s a faux-quirky title that has long since worn out its welcome.

23.) Quick Learner. If you can’t give a quick example, your credibility will be in doubt.

24.) Rock Star. These are the guys who drunkenly trash hotels. Do you want to draw that association?

25.) Responsible. It gets to be redundant if you talk about how you were responsible for things in your responsibility section.

by James Walsh

[Photo Credit]


10 Responses to “25 Words Not to Use in Your Resume”

  1. Tracy says:

    Okay, if you are not supposed to use these words on your resume, what do you suggest we use as an alternative? Especially, when you are in a technical field such as IT, engineering, or chemist positions.

    I welcome your suggestions as I am currently seeking employment as of this writing.


  2. jameswalsh says:


    Thanks for your question. Most of these words are just better left out of your resume completely. The adjectives should be replaced with examples from your career and the nouns should just be replaced with more official sounding titles (i.e. the iOS Developer, Electrical Engineer, or Lab Technician positions you’ve held). If you are looking for alternative words to these phrases, check out a thesaurus. There are countless alternatives to be found there that haven’t already outworn their welcome.

    I hope my response helped.


  3. David V. Corbin says:

    All good…except for #18…

    But that is likely becuase I am (and have been for nearly 30 years) the owner and Chief Architect of Dynamic Concepts Development Corp.

    So the term is very difficult to avoid

  4. jameswalsh says:

    David, you bring up a funny but interesting point: if any of the above words is part of a company’s proper name, you don’t have to dodge it (otherwise, the company you’re applying for will have a hard time verifying your employment history).

  5. Dan says:

    I don’t agree with responsible. Agree with 24 other words.

  6. jameswalsh says:

    Thanks for you input, Dan. The reason why responsible is on this list is because it isn’t a very active word. Saying you “were responsible for a project” has much less weight than saying you “took responsibility on a project.”

  7. Anil says:

    My resume says “…Strengths in innovation and innovative solutions to practical problems.” Bad?

  8. jameswalsh says:


    The problem with the word “innovative” or “innovation” is that they don’t convey how innovative you actually were on the job. It’s better to talk about the actual innovative solutions you used in each position instead of wasting space. Basically, your words need to speak for themselves. Hope that helps.

  9. Barbara says:

    I thought we were supposed to mirror back to the prospective employer the words that THEY use in describing the job. Several of these 25 words are pretty standard in job apps. Since most jobs go through an automatic computer screening, wouldn’t you want some of those in there? I realize that the words they want to see most are matches to the actual things they want, not just adjectives (i.e. Manager of IT but some of these are nice transition words). Your thoughts? Thanks.

  10. jameswalsh says:


    There is an extent to which you should mirror back the prospective employer’s language but remember: job advertisements and resumes/cover letters are two very different document types.

    Most job advertisements are meant to be a more functional document. Some companies will break from the mold and let their personalities shine but many just go for standard phrasing. A good applicant has to distinguish herself as anything but standard.

    By just repeating back what the employer has to say, you may bypass the screening software but you may have a harder time exciting hiring managers. It’s better to repeat technical skills and any active sounding verbs.

    Hope that gives you a bit more to think about.