9 Words That Should Never Be on Your Resume

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: February 26, 2014

Skip the Overused Buzzwords

A resume is your calling card. Your first impression. Your bait to reel in the big fish. Unfortunately, instead of live bait, far too many job seekers are fishing for new jobs with nothing more than a lifeless, rotting worm.

Do you know how many resumes hiring managers read when there’s a job opening? It’s routinely in the hundreds, and sometimes can rise even higher. So when you’re sorting through that many resumes (and only spending six or seven seconds on each one, I might add), things get pretty repetitious. The same buzzwords pop up over and over and over again, to the point they lose all meaning and eyes glaze over when stumbling across them.

What happened to standing out? Being unique? Making your mark? Those are all things employers look for when choosing candidates, but you’re never going to accomplish that goal if you’re over-using these tired words and phrases.

9. "Flexible"

If you’re applying for a contortionist position at the circus, then by all means list this trait. Otherwise, nix it.

Bragging about your flexibility is pretty much like being proud of tying your own shoes. Look around! For most workers today, things change at breakneck speed. Technological advances change our jobs on what seems like a daily basis, and employees know being able to adapt is no longer a feather in one’s cap – it’s a basic requirement for just about every position.

So instead of wasting precious resume real estate writing down the word “flexible” to describe yourself, showcase your flexibility by listing accomplishments in your work experience.

8. "Highly qualified"

Oh. You’ve deemed yourself highly qualified, have you? Well isn’t that special?

Newsflash – the person looking over your resume will decide for him or herself if you’re highly qualified. You telling them you are is a little silly because – let’s face it -- you’re biased. Again, let your work experience and accomplishments do the talking in this department. It’s better to show than to tell.

Also, your references should provide you all the credibility you need should you get to the interview stage, so let other people sing your praises while you shift the focus back to what you’ve accomplished and how you can benefit the company.

7. "Hard worker"

Think of how relieved the hiring manager looking at your resume must be to have finally found a hard worker. After all, surely he/she has been combing through resumes from people who all listed themselves as “sort of hard working” or “kind of lazy.” But lo and behold, here you come touting yourself as a hard worker, and now we can let the hiring process begin. Right?


The vast majority of the other candidates also work hard, as this is a basic requirement and nothing that needs to be pointed out on a resume. If you’ve been a good worker in the past, the fact that you’re a hard worker will be evident upon reading the entirety of your resume.

6. "Innovative"

Don’t just say you’re innovative, prove it.

Think of the difference between a candidate who simply lists “innovative” as one of many adjectives on a resume, compared to someone who clearly spells it out. So if you saved the company millions by thinking of a brand new way to do something, or if you took it upon yourself to find a new revenue stream with a brilliant idea, then just say that.

Let your innovation speak for itself.

5. "Effective"

So you’re effective. Effective how? Effective with what? What does effective even mean as it pertains to you, your resume, and your qualifications?

Everyone applying for the job thinks he/she is effective or else they wouldn’t be applying. Don’t waste one of your resume’s six seconds of viewing time on such overused and meaningless things. You know what screams effective? Seeing that you went from entry level to a managerial role in two years. Or that your sales doubled in just 12 months.

There are more important things you need to be drawing attention to on your resume, so list them instead of spouting meaningless rhetoric.

4. "People person"

Sorry, but simply being able to get along with people and act like a normal human being is not something that should be highlighted or celebrated in a resume.

This phrase is most often followed by its cousin, “team player.” The reason this should be left off is because most hiring managers will assume you’re able to communicate effectively with other people, especially if that’s what the job necessitates. For instance, if you’re applying for a position that involves fund raising or lobbying, then it’s assumed you know how to talk to people. But again, proof of that should be evident in your accomplishments.

And as far as being a team player, be sure to list any teams or projects (especially ones you’ve led) because that shows you can work with others to get the job done.

3. "Responsible/Reliable"

This one simultaneously cracks me up and confuses me.

When people list this, what are they hoping to convey? That they show up to work on time? Well, that’s something you should be doing anyway. Does it mean you adequately fulfill the basic duties listed in your job description? Again, that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do. It’s what is expected of you.

If you find yourself filling out your resume with items bragging about how you routinely do the minimum essentials of the job, stop. Highlight your greatest strengths and most extraordinary feats, not the pedestrian.

2. "Problem solver"

Be specific instead of vague.

Being a problem solver is a great skill, but everyone has this on their resume. So make sure you couch your problem solving skills in a way that makes sense. Just saying you’re a problem solver is a problem because the hiring manager doesn’t know what problems you’ve solved. But if you single-handedly developed software that saved your company a ton of time and money, then it’s pretty clear what kind of problem solver you are.

Always stand out, always be specific, and always differentiate yourself from the competition. That should solve your problem of how to get hired.

1. "Expert"

Is there anything worse than a self-proclaimed expert?

You’d be smart to just eliminate this word from your vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong, there are experts. So if you have tons of experience, a proven track record, and a PhD, then maybe you can wear that badge. But if not, you’re putting yourself at risk.

Experts should be THE source of information for that particular subject area. So if you say you’re an expert but you fall short of that designation, it’s going to be discovered and it will reflect poorly on you. Besides, many people are automatically wary of people who label themselves experts. Or gurus, masters, etc.

If, after reading your resume, your interviewer calls you an expert then great. But until then, let your experience do the talking.

Resume, Job Interview, Negotiation

Once your buzzword-free resume lands you an interview -- which you'll ace -- you'll get the job offer. Then it will be time to negotiate compensation, and Salary.com can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.