10 words and phrases that shouldn’t be on your résumé

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Writing a résumé can be downright tricky.

After all, you’ve got a finite amount of space in which to describe
yourself and your professional capabilities. And you don’t have much time, either.

Yet creating a comprehensive and concise résumé is how you’ll increase
your chances of landing a job interview. Although you have a sizable
list of information you want to include—such as experience, skills, and
education—there are also several words and phrases you should eliminate
from your résumé.

Lauren Taylor, human resources generalist with Burns & McDonnell,
has reviewed countless résumés. She used that experience to create a
list of 10 words and phrases to keep off of your résumé. If you see any
of these on your document, steer clear:

1. References available upon request. This phrase takes up
valuable real estate that can be used to add more details about your
accomplishments and experience. Instead, leave it off. If a company is
interested in making you an offer, they will ask you for references (and
assume you have them).

2. Dynamic/energetic/motivated/enthusiastic. Sure, all of these
are great words to describe your personality, but leave them off of your
résumé. Wait until you land the interview. Then let the company decide
if you possess those traits. (After all, anyone can say they’re
energetic.) If these words aren’t relevant to your skills and
accomplishments, they don’t need to be on your résumé.

3. Microsoft Office. Most employers will assume (or even expect)
you to be familiar with basic computer programs. Don’t use valuable
space on this sort of information. Instead, focus on specialty skills
and programs that will help you stand out from the crowd.

4. Objective. This is a tricky one. If you have a good objective,
leave it on. If you don’t, take it off. Since the career objective is
at the top of your résumé, it needs to make a big splash. If you have a specific objective to land a job in a specific industry using your specific skillset for the specific
company, by all means include the information. If, on the other hand,
you’re “looking to gain a challenging opportunity in which you can use
your talents to help the company grow” skip it and use the space for
more valuable information.

5. Experienced. Although you may have many years working in a
certain field, don’t sell yourself short by using a word as vague and
general as “experienced.” Get specific. Make a note of how long you’ve
worked in a certain industry, how many clients you’ve had, what your
sales were, and how much you increased profitability. Employers want to
see results, not fluff.

6. Team player/people person/client friendly. These words are
frequently overused, and while they describe skill sets almost every
employer looks for, they’re also skills almost every applicant says he
or she possesses on paper. Rather than put them in print, show how
you embody those qualities. What groups/organizations are you involved
in? Have you led a committee? What has your team accomplished together?
If you’re someone who gravitates toward groups of people, then including
this type of information will illustrate that you’re a team player.

[RELATED: Discover what the best workplaces do to maintain incredible employee engagement and retention statistics.]

7. Photos. We know—technically, this isn’t a word. But unless
you’re applying for a job in which your face is an important part of the
application process (for example, TV, acting, modeling, etc.) leave it
off. It won’t help you land the position, and in some cases, employers
are forced to ignore your because it contains information that can be
used as discriminatory—that is age, sex, ethnicity—later in the process.

8. High school. Once you reach your sophomore year in college,
delete all of your high school info on your résumé (school, GPA,
activities, summer job, etc.). The only information you may want to
consider including is an exceptional ACT or SAT score, and this is more
relevant for new graduates.

9. Contact info. Keep it simple when including your contact info. Provide one phone number, one email address, and one street address.

10. Hobbies/interests. Leave them off! Your résumé is a
professional, one-page guide to help an employer learn about your
accomplishments. This document doesn’t need to include your love of
hiking, scuba diving, or swing dancing. Employers will often look at a
hobby section as filler. If you want to use your hobbies as a way to
find common ground, list them on your LinkedIn profile, or find a good
way to bring them up in your interview.

There you have it: A handy cheat sheet you can reference each time you
write or update your résumé. By avoiding these commonly overused words
and phrases, you can make better use of your résumé’s limited space to
help a recruiter envision your skills, professional history, and how
you’ll fit in to the new position and company.


Amber Carucci heads up the team of writers for the Burns & McDonnell corporate blog as well as the Burns & McDonnell HR blog, where a version of this story originally appeared. She’s also part of a team that leads the company’s social media efforts.

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