Share on Facebook

16 Words and Phrases You Should Never Have on Your Resume

Leaving weak words and phrases on your resume takes up valuable space. Here's what to delete—and what to add—to improve your chances of landing the job.

Nicole Fornabaio/

References available upon request

If the job application already required you to submit contact information for your contacts, there’s no need to repeat your willingness to share. In fact, your “willingness” could seem like a red flag. “The notion that you would refuse to produce a reference if requested is a toxic one,” says Nate Masterson, human resources director for Maple Holistics. Use that valuable space on your resume to brag about your accomplishments instead. Here are some more secrets HR won't tell you about your resume.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Responsible for…

The most attractive job applicants have turned their responsibilities into successes, and your resume is there to back that up, says Natalya Khaykis, career expert with ZipJob. For instance, change “Responsible for establishing online marketing campaigns to increase sales” to “Increased revenue by 21% by establishing new paid marketing channels which included Google Adwords and Facebook Ads,” Khaykis suggests. Specific examples of what you’ve “implemented,” “improved,” or “achieved” show you don’t just do your job—you excel at it.

Nicole Fornabaio/


An “objective” section looks like a useful way to prove you’re gung-ho about a position, but it’s just a waste of space—and might even work against you, says Bruce Hurwitz, PhD, executive recruiter and career counselor with Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. “If the Objective lists the title for the job for which the person is applying, the recipient will think the applicant changes it for each job. In other words, it is meaningless,” he says. “If it is different, the recipient might think the person does not really want the job.” The reader already figures the job lines up with your career goals, so don’t do anything to make him or her question your seriousness about the position. Check out these 20 words you should never put in a cover letter, too.

Nicole Fornabaio/


There’s nothing wrong with buzzwords like “innovative,” “disruptor,” or “thinks outside the box,” as long as you have proof, says Debra Mastic, CEO of Virtual Resume Coach. For instance, highlight how sales boomed after you made a drastic change to the company’s strategy. A solid example will showcase that not only are you creative, but your ideas can bring actual benefits.

Nicole Fornabaio/


“You should be driven by results. Otherwise, why would you be working?” says Jennifer Magas, vice president of Magas Media Consultants. You’re better off outlining those brag-worthy results that have kept you motivated. Have you surpassed the goals your manager made for you? Implemented a program that brought in extra revenue? Those results speak for themselves. Check out more tips to write a resume that will get you hired.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Microsoft Office

If your experience with Office is limited to Word, the fact that you used the program to create your job application speaks for itself, says Andrew Selepak, PhD, telecommunication professor and director of the social media graduate program at the University of Florida. Plus, you might be lying about your skills without realizing it. “While most people put Microsoft Office, they don’t actually know how to use the complete Office Suite including how to make a PowerPoint or how to calculate and manipulate data in Excel,” says Dr. Selepak. If you really can use the entire Microsoft Office Suite, though, you should include that if the job posting mentions it, says Mastic. Include the keyword in the context of an accomplishment, like how you used Excel to analyze key metrics for your company, she says.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Unspecific descriptors

“My definition of ‘great,’ ‘big,’ or ‘very’ might not be the same as yours,” says Mary Fox, co-founder and CEO of executive career coach platform Marlow. “Paint a picture with exact experience, making sure to use data wherever possible.” For instance, instead of saying you drove a “huge amount” of traffic to your company’s website, specify that you spearheaded a campaign to bring in a 200 percent growth in visitors, driving revenue up 150 percent, suggests Fox. See how much more compelling that is?

Nicole Fornabaio/

Salary negotiable

Own the fact that you’d make a valuable asset to the company. “You are not selling a dining room table on Craigslist where you will take the best offer,” says Laura Poisson, president of leadership development and career coaching firm ClearRock. The company will likely already have a salary cap in mind but won’t be surprised if you negotiate. Don’t sell yourself short by suggesting you’ll take any offer. Find out the 17 soft skills most attractive to employers.

Nicole Fornabaio/

Strong leadership skills

Your resume is meant to prove your skills, so make sure it backs up your claims. “Just because you have keywords of ‘leadership’ doesn’t mean you’re a great leader,” says Mastic. While you can—and should—highlight those skills, provide examples to prove it’s not just in your head. For instance, specifying that 12 of your direct reports have been promoted demonstrates you are great at shaping those under you. Same goes for any other soft skills you claim to have, from “excellent communication” to “detail-oriented.”

Nicole Fornabaio/

Proven track record

OK, so you have a “proven track record”—now where are your numbers backing up that claim? “If you want to showcase your track record, give a list of accomplishments or actions that outline your track record,” says Magas. Don't miss the words you should be adding to your resume to make it stand out.

View Slides 11-16