10 Buzzwords You Should Stop Using on Your Resume

Last edit April 6, 2016

Many words that were once widely popular in the employment jargon are slowly getting a bit old. They just got overused by both employers and job seekers. Companies often get resumes with statements such as:

“I’m a self-motivated team player with a can-do attitude and ability to think outside the box.”

Sorry, you’re what? If you’ve ever written a non-sensical sentence like this, the recruiter probably took you more for a dictionary than a person.

The thing is, the job offers sometimes push you into using the same buzzwords all over again because they were listed in the requirements for the candidate. But you don’t really have to follow the standard resume patterns. Distinguish yourself from others by not using these phrases.

Using cliché words tells the recruiter nothing about you. Give your resume some meaning by describing the real you, not the cliché you. Don’t fill your resume with fluff and never write anything you can’t base with evidence. Keep this in mind and you’ll increase your chances to get an interview invitation.

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And next time you’ll be writing your resume, avoid using these 10 buzzwords:

1. Thinking outside the box

Nine out of ten recruiting managers would toss your resume in the trash without second thoughts if they saw that you “think outside the box”. Okay, we made that up, but we simply think there’s no worse buzzword than this one. Whoever started this “outside the box” mania should have stayed inside the box.

2. Creative

There are many forms of creativity and plenty of spheres where being creative is a great advantage. But it’s slowly becoming a vaguely used word. If you’re applying for any artistic kind of job, being creative somehow goes without saying. And for any other job “creative” is simply too general, be more specific how your creativity would be a benefit for the job.

3. Team player

Being a team player doesn’t mean anything really unless you can be a good team player. What trait in particular makes you a great contribution to the team? Be more specific and point out in what way you'd bring value to the team. On its own it is just another cliché buzzword.

4. Problem-solver

This one’s very similar to the previous one. So, which problems did you solve? Stating that you are a problem solver tells the recruiter virtually nothing. Instead, say what trait in particular helped to solve these problems or give a concrete example of how you solved a certain issue.

5. Dynamic

So you’re dynamic? Good for you. Only we’re not sure how your ability to move helps you get an interview. You should rid your resume of words like this because they’re just too vague and not at all relevant. If you wish to express you are active and passionate, specifically mention your activities and passions. Give those words meanings.

6. Hard-working

Without evidence, statements about how hard-working you are sound a bit hollow. Can you prove it? Maybe give an example of your volunteer work, mention some projects you worked hard on at university or express passion for learning new things and getting experience.

7. Can-do attitude

It’s great to let the recruiter know you can do it. But on the other hand, who would ever confess on their resume they’re as lazy as a sloth? Let the recruiter know you don’t get easily scared of too much workload. Or you can hint at your time management skills or mention a situation where you proved most resourceful.

8. Proactive

It’s incredible how many proactive people walk the surface of the Earth judging from how many resumes contain this information. Proactivity is a valuable personal trait that could make you a CEO one day. If you’re really able to deal with issues proactively, tell the recruiter a story of you being the hero to save the day and you’ll get the interview. 

9. Self-motivated

Rather than using this cliché buzzword, express your enthusiasm and interest for something. It doesn’t even have to be connected to the job, it could be a hobby or a cause that you eagerly cared about and turned it into something bigger. Think about a situation that proves you don’t give up easily.

10. Flexible

What does that even mean, that you’re capable of standing palms to the floor? Unless flexibility is a requirement for the job, don’t bother with mentioning this buzzword on your resume. Instead, emphasize your different set of skills and versatility of your expertise. If you’ve had different kinds of jobs before, take the best skills you learned in each one and tailor it to the job offer you apply for now.

  • Katka Mrvova, Career Blogger at Kickresume
  • Katka Mrvova
    Career Blogger
    Author of Kickresume's popular ebook "The Jobseeker's Guide to the Galaxy". Avid traveller, photographer and recently also a fashion designer. The first writer to ever contribute to Kickresume's blog.

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