Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Words That Don't Belong On Your Résumé

I owe the idea for this post to MSN, which is my internet home page.  A couple of weeks ago they published an article about ten useless words on resumes.  And while my list differs from the author, Beth Braccio, it gave me pause for thought and a good subject to write about.

I have written before about my views on résumés.  If you are staying within the same business, all anyone wants to know is where you worked, how long you worked there, what you worked on and, finally, did you get promoted.  (If you are changing careers and moving into something new, your résumé takes on a whole new perspective.) 

People agonize about every word in their résumé.  I have often received six or more “tweaks” in a single day.  Sometimes I have compared one to another and found things as arcane as changing a “The” to an “A”.  No kidding.  About half the résumés I receive, especially those of more senior executives contain a blurb at the top.  A kind of descriptor.  Ironically, few people actually read that paragraph.  They skip right to the meat of the résumé to see where the writer has worked and what they worked on.

However, within the résumé or in the descriptor, there are words which people really work hard to come up with.  Most of those words are wrong and actually sometimes have the opposite of their intended effect.  Here is a quick list of words I see all the time on advertising résumés.  Following each is a brief commentary:

Experienced –
This is a euphemism for older.  It is unnecessary.  Your résumé speaks for itself.

Mature –

Creative –
Most account people who use this word are not.  If you have worked at a series of creative agencies, then it is an unnecessary word.  If you have worked at the old Grey, Bates and/or McCann, you had better have the creative credentials and the work to back up this kind of statement otherwise it is meaningless.

Successful –
Not sure what this means.  If you have been able to keep your job for more than a few years, you are probably successful.  If you have been promoted multiple times, the word is redundant.

Skilled –
If you have more than a year or two in the business, this is a gratuitous word.

Buttoned-up –
If you are an account person, you are supposed to be.  It is taken for granted.  If you have to say it, it raises questions.

Organized –
As opposed to what?

Motivated –
I should hope so.

Dynamic –
This is another word I fail to understand.  But it does sound good.

Proactive –
I think that what this means is that you don’t wait for your clients to ask for things.  It is another one of those sounds-good words.  A smart interviewer might ask you for a bunch of examples and you could get trapped by your own verbiage.

This is a list of just ten words.  A much better idea is to list real accomplishments and successes.  Those things can be stated simply and clearly after each of your experiences is listed.

Using words like: accomplished, achieved, grew, generated, created, enabled, and a host of other active and descriptive words is a much better way to go.


  1. Few words I know to avoid such as - Effectual leader,Professional Highly qualified, Results focused, Has talent for, Successfully and list goes on.

    Cover Letters

  2. Seyds: You are 100% right. Besides, Effectual is a really bad form of the word effective!


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