Resume Buzzwords and Cliches To Avoid and What to Use Instead
Writing a resume can be a daunting task, and it's all too easy to fall into the trap of using buzzwords and cliches to try to make your skills and accomplishments stand out. However, these popular, yet overused phrases can actually do more harm than good, as they can make your resume sound generic and uninspired. That's why it's important to avoid buzzwords and cliches, and instead focus on using language that accurately represents your unique skills and experience.
In this article, we'll explore the most common buzzwords and cliches to avoid on your resume and provide you with tips and tricks for creating a standout resume for your job search that truly showcases your qualifications. We'll show you how to use specific, results-oriented language to describe your accomplishments and responsibilities, and how to highlight your unique skills and experience in a way that sets you apart from the competition.
By the end of this article, you'll have the tools and knowledge to create a resume that catches the attention of potential employers and helps you land your dream job.
What are resume buzzwords?
Resume buzzwords are industry-specific keywords and phrases that are used to highlight relevant skills and qualifications on a resume. These words are often used to catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers and to make the candidate stand out from other applicants.
They can be particularly effective when used strategically and in the right context. However, buzzwords can also be overused, leading to a resume that sounds generic and lacks substance.
Why buzzwords and cliches hurt your resume
All great resume examples effectively show hiring managers and recruiters that you are professional, detail-oriented, and a good communicator without having to say it. Overusing a resume buzzword can be counterproductive and can actually hurt your chances of getting hired.
If a recruiter or hiring manager sees the same buzzwords repeated over and over again, they may become skeptical of your actual experience and abilities. The problem with buzzwords and cliches is they come off as unoriginal and don't communicate the great things you have to offer a job.
If you write “creative, passionate, self-motivated worker” on your resume, there is no telling you apart from another candidate that describes themselves with the same words and phrases. Your experience and accomplishments, on the other hand, are more unique to you.
To avoid overusing buzzwords, it's important to use them sparingly and to ensure that they are backed up with specific examples of how you have demonstrated those skills in previous roles. If you have a strong application package using power words, you can take many of these cliches and buzzwords off your resume.
What types of resume buzzwords should you avoid?
When using resume buzzwords, it is important to be careful not to use words that are overused or that don't add value to your resume. Some types of buzzwords that you should avoid include:
- Vague or subjective words: Subjective words do not give a clear indication of your skills or achievements. Using subjective language may give the impression that you are not putting in the effort to properly articulate your skills and accomplishments.
- Overused buzzwords: Words like "team player", "detail-oriented", or "results-driven" are so commonly used that they have lost their impact and can make your resume unoriginal. Buzzwords are vague and often lack specific and meaningful information, and they don't provide concrete evidence of your skills.
- Jargon: Using industry-specific jargon can be helpful, but be careful not to overuse it. If a recruiter or hiring manager is not familiar with the jargon, they may not understand your resume.
- Clichés: Avoid using tired or clichéd phrases such as "think outside the box", "go-getter", or "people person". By using cliches, you are not showcasing your individuality or demonstrating what sets you apart from other candidates.
Visit our resume synonym library to find overused phrases, strong replacement words, and guidance on how to perfect the language on your resume.
How to avoid resume buzzwords
To avoid using buzzwords and cliches in your resume, try the following tips:
Use specific examples
Instead of using vague or subjective words, provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated a particular skill or accomplishment. For example, instead of saying "results-driven", provide specific metrics or achievements that demonstrate your ability to achieve results.
Use the AI integration feature within Teal's AI Resume Builder to generate achievements. To get quality, metric-driven achievements, make sure to attach a job description to incorporate relevant keywords.
Tailor your language to the job description
Look at the job description and use language that reflects the skills and qualifications the employer is looking for. Use their specific terminology and keywords to tailor your resume and make it more relevant to the job.
Use Teal's AI Resume Builder to quickly compare the skills and keywords in the job posting to those in your resume. Make sure to add any relevant experience to your customized resume and to your application answers.
Avoid using common buzzwords and clichés that are overused. Instead, try to use language that is specific to your experience and skills. Use your own voice and personality to showcase your personal brand and stand out from other applicants.
While it may be tempting to use buzzwords to try to impress recruiters or hiring managers, it's important to be honest about your skills and experience. Use language that accurately reflects your abilities and accomplishments, and avoid exaggerating or overstating your achievements.
Examples of resume buzzwords to avoid
The below don't offer much substance, so avoid using these cliches and buzzwords in your resume.
Creativity is a very broad and abstract way to describe your work. Instead of saying you are creative, share ideas, projects or situations where you used creativity in the workplace.
Every candidate is driven. If they weren't, they wouldn't apply for the job. Instead of using “driven” to describe yourself, think about your top three career accomplishments.
Loyalty is not something you typically see on a job description. It is also something to earn. You can demonstrate your loyalty to a company once you've decided it's a place you'd like to commit to.
Your resume and cover letter should illustrate your passion by highlighting accomplishments, awards, certifications or promotions.
Similar to “driven,” most candidates are motivated to go after the job they're applying for. A better way to show strong motivation is through accomplishments and advancements at work.
Like “creative,” “organized” is another broad term that looks different for everyone. What does “organized” look like in your day-to-day life? Adhering to a schedule, hitting deadlines, managing a project and using apps to streamline your work are better ways to show your organizational skills.
Did you contribute a new process at work or introduce a new line of business? Incorporate those innovative experiences into your resume.
Adding “professional” on a resume is unnecessary because how you communicate and showcase yourself will show recruiters and hiring managers your professionalism.
This word is the workforce's biggest cliche, with many jokes devoted to mocking its existence. “Synergy” simply means you worked well with another person or group, which is typically a core job expectation.
“Hard” looks different for everyone. So instead of saying you're a hard worker, share a challenging experience and how you overcame it.
The best way to show you are a fast learner is to include certifications, promotions and skills on your resume. These examples communicate that you seek out learning opportunities and can take on something new in a short period of time.
Interpersonal relationships are an important part of the workforce, as businesses rely on multiple people to run. Instead of saying you are a team player, share projects you collaborated with other team members on.
Hiring managers and recruiters can start to assess if you are detail-oriented by looking at your resume and cover letter. If it is well formatted, easy to read and doesn't have typos, you're on the right track. Listing projects where you had to pay particularly close attention to detail could help here too.
Your application package is your opportunity to prove you have good communication skills. How you build your resume, write your cover letter and correspond with the hiring manager or recruiter says more than writing “good communicator” or "excellent communicator" on your resume.
Strong work ethic
This is another instance where showing is more important than telling. Show you have a strong work ethic by listing your hard skills, data that supports your work and any promotions, certifications or degrees earned.
Best words to use on a resume instead
Using power words like action words and active voice is always recommended when writing your resume and cover letter. Sentences written in active voice are confident and concise, which pairs well with resume writing.
In an active voice, the subject (noun) performs the action (verb).
Active voice: My brother painted the house.
Passive voice: The house was painted by my brother.
In the above example, the active-voice sentence uses five words and the passive-voice sentence uses seven. With little space to work with, active voice paired with a power word helps trim the character count and communicate your experience confidently to recruiters and hiring managers.
Specific and quantifiable terms
Employers are often looking for candidates who can provide concrete evidence of their abilities and achievements, and using specific terms can help you demonstrate this. Quantifiable terms such as numbers and percentages also provide concrete evidence of your accomplishments, making your claims more credible. For example: "increased sales revenue by 25%," "reduced production time by 20%," or "managed a team of 10 employees."
Using these terms can increase the chances that your resume will be selected by the applicant tracking system (ATS), as these systems often prioritize resumes that use clear, relevant language.
Use industry-specific terminology to showcase your knowledge and expertise in your field and that you have a good understanding of the work involved. For example, if you're in marketing, use terms like "brand awareness," "lead generation," and "SEO."
Use results-oriented language to demonstrate your impact on your previous employer or organization. For example, instead of saying "worked on a project," say "developed and implemented a successful project that achieved X results."
Use action-oriented statements to show how you took initiative and achieved results in your previous roles. For example, instead of saying "responsible for managing a team," say "successfully managed a team of X employees to achieve Y results."
Use language that highlights your specific accomplishments and their impact, such as "increased revenue by X amount," "saved the company Y dollars," or "streamlined operations, resulting in a Z% increase in efficiency."
Examples of words to use on your resume instead
Instead of commonly used buzzwords, consider these action words to show, not tell, your work experience.
Do you work with subordinates? Include how many people managed and the scope of work. Managing doesn't only involve people, though. You can also manage projects, communication, inventory and more.
Similar to “improved,” using the word “grew” with hard data shows hiring managers and recruiters you do your job well and aren't satisfied with stagnancy.
Communicate your leadership experience by incorporating “led” in your resume. Leadership is a sought-after quality, so think of any opportunity—within or outside your career—to show your skills.
If the job you're pursuing requires you to dig deep into information, use the word “researched” and describe how you gathered that information.
Pair “identified” with any examples that highlight your curiosity and ability to problem solve.
Workers charged with overseeing a project or job are typically trustworthy and responsible, traits you want to convey in your resume and cover letter.
The word “operated” implies some sort of skill needed. Introduce hiring managers and recruiters to any skills you have that other candidates don't.
Hiring managers and recruiters love seeing results. Use data and analytics to show how you used your knowledge and skills to improve something.
Another way to communicate your organizational skills is to use the word “planned” to describe work, projects or events you put together.
Collaborations and partnerships are strong examples of being a team player. If you worked with another department or professionals outside your company, “collaborated” is a great way to show you work well with others.
If you've trained someone on a job or skill, incorporate that detail into your resume, as it proves you are knowledgeable enough to pass that information onto someone else.
Using the word “coordinated” and sharing an example will get more attention than writing “organized” on your resume. Show how you are organized by highlighting the work, teams, initiatives and partnerships you've coordinated.
Did you see a project from start to finish? Use “executed” to describe your experience on the project.
Show your assertive side by sharing examples where you delegated work for a more efficient process.
Mentoring shows you are knowledgeable in a particular area. Have you mentored any young professionals? Make sure you include it in your resume.
Using the above words shows recruiters and hiring managers what you have done in your career and what you can do for their company. They show action and highlight accomplishment, which is what you want on your resume.
How to quickly create a strategically worded resume
Avoiding resume buzzwords and cliches is essential for creating a resume that stands out to potential employers. By using Teal's AI Resume Builder, job seekers can create a resume that is tailored to their skills and experience, while avoiding overused phrases and meaningless buzzwords.
The builder offers a range of formats, customizable sections, and keyword suggestions to help job seekers create a strategically worded resume that highlights their accomplishments and sets them apart from other applicants.
Teal's AI Resume Builder also stores an exhaustive list detailing your career history, making it easy to pick and choose the best experience to include in your application package.
By following the tips outlined in this article and utilizing Teal's AI Resume Builder, job seekers can create a compelling resume that captures the attention of potential employers and helps them land their dream job.