6 Words That Make Your Resume Suck

This article is part of a series called How to Write a Resume. To start this series from the beginning, read the introduction.

I’ve used a few bad words in my life. S$it, you probably have too. But when the wrong words appear on your resume, it sucks.

These sucky words are not of the four-letter variety. These words are common. They are accepted. They litter the average resume with buzzword badness. Hiring managers can identify sucky words in seconds, leaving your resume work worthless.

Resume Writing Series:
  1. What is a Killer Resume?
  2. 10 Resume Do’s
  3. 10 Resume Sins
  4. Resume Anatomy
  5. 6 Sucky Resume Words
  6. 6 Resume Action Words
  7. 8 Resume Keywords
  8. 3 Resume Formats
  9. Free Resume Examples
  10. Free Resume Template

So how do you write a wicked resume without the suck? How do you turn the wrong words into right? To help you land the job interview, here’s how to spin the 6 sucky resume words into skills that sizzle.

1. Responsible For

My lips pucker and make sour sucking noises when I read “Responsible For” on a resume. Of course you’re responsible for something. But how many? How long? Who? What? When? Rather than waste the hiring manager’s time reading a vague list of responsibilities, be specific and use quantitative figures to back up your cited skills and accomplishments.

Employers want the numerical facts. Write percentages, dollar amounts, and numbers to best explain your accomplishments. Be specific to get the point across quickly. Prove you have the goods to get hired.

BAD

  • Responsible for writing user guides on deadline.

GOOD

  • Wrote six user guides for 15,000 users two weeks before deadline.

BAD

  • Responsible for production costs.

GOOD

  • Reduced production costs by 15 percent over three months.

The resume that avoids vague “responsibilities” and sticks to facts detailing figures, growth, reduced costs, number of people managed, budget size, sales, and revenue earned gets the job interview.

2. Experienced

Are you experienced? Sexy. Rather than cite Jimi Hendrix on your resume, pleeease just say what your experience entails. Saying you’re experienced at something and giving the facts on that experience are two very different approaches.

BAD

  • Experience programming in PHP.

GOOD

  • Programmed an online shopping cart for a Fortune 500 company in PHP.

Hiring managers want to know what experience, skills, and qualifications you offer. Do tell them without saying, “I am experienced.”

3. Excellent written communication skills

Yes, I realize this isn’t a single word but rather a phrase. This phrase must die. It’s on most resumes. Is it on yours?

BAD

  • I have excellent written communication skills.

GOOD

  • Wrote jargon-free online help documentation and reduced customer support calls by 50 percent.

If you’ve got writing skills, do say what you write and how you communicate. Are you writing email campaigns, marketing materials, or user documentation? Are you word smithing legal contracts, business plans, or proposing proposals? However you wrap your words, be sure to give the details.

4. Team Player

Are we playing baseball here? Unless you want to be benched with the other unemployed “team players” then get some hard facts behind your job pitch.

BAD

  • Team player working well in large and small groups.

GOOD

  • Worked with clients, software developers, technical writers, and interface designers to deliver financial reporting software three months before deadline.

If you want to hit a home run then do explicitly say what teams you play on and qualify the teams’ achievements.

5. Detail Oriented

What does detail oriented mean? Give the specifics to the details with which you are oriented. Please, orient your reader to the details.

BAD

  • Detail oriented public relations professional.

GOOD

  • Wrote custom press releases targeting 25 news agencies across Europe.

If you have the details, do share them with the hiring manager. Give the facts, the numbers, the time lines, the dollar figure, the quantitative data that sells your skills and disorients the competition.

6. Successful

Hopefully you only list the successes on your resume. So if everything is a success, then why write the s-word? Stick to showing your success by giving concrete examples of what you’ve done to be successful! Let your skills, qualifications, and achievements speak for you.

BAD

  • Successfully sold the product.

GOOD

  • Increased sales of organic chocolate by 32 percent.

When it comes to your successes, please don’t be shy. Boast your best, sing your praises, and sell your skills.

Final Words

There you have it. Six of the suckiest words (or phrases) commonly found on resumes today. By focusing on the facts, detailing the details, and qualifying your qualifications you may just land yourself the job interview.

There are soooo many sucky words found on resumes today. Got one to add? Do share the suck. 😉

Your two cents:

  1. Rob D November 16th, 2011

    Totally agree that these terms are meaningless on resumes, but what about in job postings by companies?

    Can you make another post entitled “6 words that make your job description suck”?

    Thanks! 🙂

  2. Roni November 30th, 2011

    I keep hearing that you need to quantify your resume. However, I am in marketing, not sales and have no access to the numbers. They usually say marketing has no ROI, so how do I get around that?

  3. Rob March 28th, 2012

    Colleges need to instruct students about writing useful resumes. I’m still underemployed. How can I erase dead-end jobs I’ve had to accept in hard times? Since I’ve graduated I’ve been unable to get meaningful experience. Internships don’t always provide the experience you need in the field you want to work in. My love for my career has made me think about other avenues. I never worked in sales or had to beat deadlines in a business environment. Oh, well!

  4. Phill June 11th, 2012

    I don’t know…in IT one common and useful type of hybrid resume includes a short Skills section followed by a more detailed chronological Experience section under which you include highlights and accomplishments. I think it’s unnecessary to turn your skills section into a redundant experience section if the those skills are validated by specific accomplishments in the other section.

  5. Billie June 22nd, 2012

    Kerry,

    You have made some interesting points. I find that I am inclined to bang my head against the desk at this point. I am now concerned with how many mistakes may be found in the cover letters and resumes that have left my mailbox for points across Ohio. Thank you for a taking the time to put this together. Best part – I now have something to do with the four hours I usually sleep! Seriously though, thank you.

  6. Frank @ TempworkOR July 27th, 2012

    Great tips, as valid today as when they were written. Possibly more so with so many resumes out there on the market. Have a small bone to pick with #4 though – from a recruiting standpoint, it’s good for your audience to know that yes, you’re a great team player, but if you’ve also worked solo on projects, say that as well. Anything mentioning “team performance” needs to emphasize *your* role on the team. Great post, though.

  7. Adam August 3rd, 2012

    I found most of these mistakes in my first heading “Qualifications”, but the rest is full of quality details!
    Wow, I’m guessing many recruiters didn’t read the real stuff…

    Thank you ALL

  8. Sabrina August 18th, 2012

    The advice in this article is fine if you’re looking for a sales job, but what about regular jobs that are just ordinary such as waitress, barista, receptionist, day are worker, CNA, custodial…the jobs MOST new non-college grad jobseekers are looking for? You can’t measure those kinds of jobs by percentages.

  9. Vanessa Naylon August 21st, 2012

    “Spearheaded” would be my #7.

  10. Tony August 24th, 2012

    I’ve heard the exact opposite of this. I just graduated from College 2 years ago and I am still seeking work, so perhaps my professor is wrong, and I need to change things, but I was told that professionals still have very busy schedules to keep and that hiring someone is usually just thrown on top of those duties. Therefore, the first thing they will often look at is how wordy the resume is, and throw it out based on that. Writing “Short and Sweet” was always what I was told. “Tell them what they need to know in as little words as possible. No fleshing out the english and being proper. Builtpoints, lists, and 1-4 word sentences are a resume-readers favorite things. Now I know this was written a few years ago, so have things changed again, or am I being taught wrongly?

  11. Vladimir September 5th, 2012

    The only difficulty with applying this advice today (3 years after it was written) is that a lot of organizations that collect resumes through an online portal use computer programs to sift through the first cut of resumes.

    In my experience, a number of the “sucky” words/phrases are often precisely what that first-cut computer is looking for (in some cases one gets the best results by nearly repeating the qualifications listed in the job ad). Very aggravating, to be honest.

  12. Tabitha September 6th, 2012

    When I worked in retail probably 95% of all the resumes came through me, and I could share some horror stories (one kid came in with their mom and she filled out the application form for him). But one of the worst was a guy who came in with a three page resume (it was a slow day so I did read it), that had nothing to do with the job he was applying for (or any other in the store) and was so obnoxiously rude to me it wasn’t even funny.

    So while I agree with the merits of this article, it means nothing if what you put on your resume isn’t relevant. And it doesn’t hurt to be nice to the person you’re giving it too either. (The way I see it, if you’re rude to them, you’re not going to be polite to the customers, now are you?)

  13. RS2OOO October 20th, 2012

    Enjoyed this post. Just ran a search on my CV for all of those 6 terms and was quite pleased that I’ve used none of them!

    Something I learned a few Years ago has always kept me in good stead:

    F.A.B = Feature, Analyse, Benefit.

    For example if you are a Team Manager, that is the feature.
    So ‘analyse’ it….. Team Manager of how many people, what did you do to support those people, etc

    What was the ‘benefit to those people and to the company?

    So, ‘Team Manager’ suddenly becomes:

    Effective Management, Coaching and Development of a 12 member team ensuring demanding national sales/service targets and business objectives are achieved whilst delivering an 8% Year on Year increase in turnover.

    I just made that up in around 10 seconds….but if you think about it and apply it to your situation you could probably come up with something better, whilst being factual.

  14. Jesse November 14th, 2012

    Loved the article!
    I have written and read several articles on what to avoid or what to include in a resume. Your straight forward approach gets the job done. You made me giggle to myself as I read through your examples. I see them so often and they just make me shake my head. Thank you for the blunt and entertaining method.

  15. aditya November 28th, 2012

    Thank you for the information. I’ve read all this article and learned a lot. But this topic about words or phrases that suck is a little contradictory as many of those words are actually listed in the job descriptions……Colleges should also teach the students about how to write resumes….Otherwise a well written blog….

  16. Drew Roark March 30th, 2013

    Kerry,

    Excellent post. Quantifying your results via numbers, percentages, or awards, is an excellent strategy to use to ensure your resume is effective. In addition, only include information which is relevant and recent (within the past 10-15 years) to avoid age discrimination. Great advice!

    Drew Roark, CPRW

  17. Mike C July 10th, 2013

    I’m starting to think that half of the posters on here are mediocre workers who have no accomplishments to list because they haven’t strived for more than the bare minimum. If this isn’t the case, one should be led to believe that they could find a way to quantify their experience and not necessarily in terms of numbers. On a side note, I’ve also come to the realization that applications and resumes aren’t a one-road route. It varies by industry and employer. Everything from a large corporation to an entrepreneur looking for their next investment consider different resume approaches appropriate or desirable.

  18. Jack Matov July 16th, 2013

    Um, how exactly are you going to quantify without numbers? “A lot”, “a little”, “some”, “very few”, “not very many”. Not much of a quantification.

  19. Paula March 15th, 2014

    I have tried both these styles. I can honestly say I saw no difference in outcome.
    It is almost impossible to quantify a secretarial or reception job. But you can give examples of unique responsibilities you were given, or new skills you acquired.
    I currently tailor my resume to the job description, but if you are attempting to apply for several positions in one company via an online tool, that is impossible, so it becomes generic.
    My last employer has cut almost 2000 positions from a 6000 strong work force. I was laid off, rehired within a month, laid off the following year. My co worker had a BA and was working as a receptionist, and had been averaging 3 applications a month for 4 years.
    It seems it is no longer what you know but who you know.
    For example, for three jobs I sent applications for there were 55, 69 and 93 acceptable applications passed to the search committees. Two I did not get interviews for. Unfortunately this company also has a rule that the committee must interview 4 applicants, but most of the positions are already taken by the interim worker.
    The third is my best hope, as I have a friend who has spoken to the manager for me.
    That particular manager is old school, and will probably be looking for the buzz words.
    I also have glowing written references from previous employers, but as most applications are placed online, I have no way of submitting them, so I usually fall back on the ” written references available upon request” line but have yet to be asked for them.

  20. May May 26th, 2015

    Excellent article! So many of us who are over 50 and in the habit of writing resumes using these words have had a hard time rewording these phrases. Your article really help me see in back and while how I could better present and sell myself in my resume! Thank You!

  21. Edward Dickinson July 9th, 2015

    the most important thing is to explain what you done.
    This will set you apart. when you take your ownership.

    If you want to say you helped in some way give an example of what you did to enable the benefit to the company or others in making it transpire.
    just saying: helped 5 people is too bland. you have to show them and explain. Remember you only have seconds to get the employers attention

    the power statements have to flow and the words have to be in away that entices the employer to interview you or hire you on the spot.

    follow this frame work— what you done , then what was the issue that needed to be resolved, then finally what was the benefit to the companies and others were when providing the solution if any.

    The employer would ask you such things in an interview as well but they want what results you have provided. Numbers, percentages, and comparisons.
    In doing so you position yourself to the employer as if in a way that says this is what i have done and this is what i can do and this is what the results are to become even better if you hire me.

    if you want what i can only provide then lets come to the table and get this contract done for an agreement to work together.
    There are words that say you done something but you want to show them in your words from the field your in when explaining.

    of I helped contributed assisted results

    these are just as bad
    because powerstatements are taking ownership of results
    purpose is to show when explaining how you did the things you have done in a concise way

    Such as
    Qualified new projects to sensitive behavioral indicators for tightening inadequate queries and in researching enriched efficiency from 50% to 80%.

    don’t mean to tease any one here with this and wanting to know more about what results i get for companies.
    This is how it is always been done and it is to get to where your trying to go and that’s to get the job.
    Everyone wants to be successful and get the position they desire to settle down with in life.

    “When do i start work”?
    Following up is the another way to say i was there then and you needed more time for the answers i always had that i can provide now when you hire me.
    Just showing the employer you are a one of a kind person is un avoidable.

  22. Jennifer Robledo December 27th, 2015

    My resume had all of these words & all of your “Bad” examples. Wow…what you explained to us was beyond valuable. I think we each should take you out for lunch when we land that job because without your tips we would have never been selected to interview for the positions! THANKS!

  23. Maggie Valera February 29th, 2016

    #7 – References Available Upon Request.

    Really??? We thought you’d say no if we asked for them. Smh…

  24. Booman March 29th, 2016

    Thank You very much, good! 🙂

    Best regards

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