Few Outdated Words Not to Use in a Resume

Some classic words not to use in a resume to save your job.

Some classic words not to use in a resume to save your job. 

While some classic professional terms and phrases will never go out of style (you’ll obviously never stop using works like “led” or “manage” or “developed”), many keywords – “jargon,” buzzwords of the moment, or over-used adjectives – and common phrases from the past have actually become a liability to have on your job application materials and really should be avoided altogether if you want to come across as competitive and current.

Remember, crafting a competitive resume is not just about knowing what to include but also knowing what words not to use in a resume in order to build a professional narrative for yourself that is powerful, easy to follow, and relevant.

Here are the most important categories of words, phrases, and information that have no place on your current resume (or cover letter, for that matter):

Jargon, Buzzwords, Annoying Phrases and Words Not to Use in a Resume

These worn-out buzzwords consistently top “most annoying” lists of over-used words and phrases, so if you want to avoid eye-rolls when hiring managers read your resume, get out your thesaurus and start revising. Eliminating words not to use in a resume shouldn’t be that hard anyway; many have been used for so many years that they’ve all but lost their meaning and certainly don’t add much value or detail to a document where you need to be as specific and evidence-based as possible about your accomplishments and capabilities.

  • Synergy
  • Think outside of the box
  • Thought leadership
  • Ideate
  • Best of breed
  • Interfaced (when used as a verb)
  • Rockstar/Ninja/Guru
  • Wheelhouse
  • Disruptor
  • Deep dive

Empty adjectives

Hiring managers and committees today don’t want you to tell them you’re a collaborative problem-solver who can think critically, they want you to show them. In your job descriptions, detail specific accomplishments or instances in your career where you’ve demonstrated these strengths or skills. Furthermore, some of these empty adjectives or descriptors are just expected and don’t really need to be stated outright. Who wouldn’t say that they’re “hard working” or “strategic?” These words are really meaningless, and consider these words not to use in a resume. Add words with concrete language that clearly and simply communicates your proven value.

  • Innovative
  • Results-driven
  • Strategic
  • Hard-working
  • Problem solver
  • Dynamic
  • Passionate
  • Experienced

Things and skills that are a given

Eliminate these obvious phrases from your document – all of this information is a given, and it just takes up precious space on the page where you could be detailing specific things you’ve accomplished or responsibilities you’ve taken on. Focus on the words not to use in a resume.

  • Listing email as a skill. Knowing how to use email is not a skill today any more than knowing how to open a door is a skill.
  • Listing Microsoft Office as a technical skill. Microsoft Office is ubiquitous. An employer would be shocked (and highly disturbed) if you didn’t know how to use a Word document, so add this to the list of things to leave off your skills section.
  • “References available upon request.” They already know this, so you’re just stating the obvious you should mark these words not to use in a resume.
  • “Salary negotiable.” Same with “references” – an employer knows this is negotiable. There’s no need to even bring up salary on either your resume or cover letter unless the employer specifically asks for your salary requirements to be included on these documents.
  • The words “email” and “phone” in front of your email address and contact number. It’s redundant and unnecessary.

Old information

  • Old work experience. Entry level jobs older than 10 years probably don’t have much bearing on your current career path and won’t be taken very seriously.
  • Outdated email addresses. You probably don’t want your current email address to be from an @aol.com address. It looks outdated and out of touch.
  • Mailing address. Including a mailing address at the top of a resume has fallen out of favor in recent years and will make your document look a little antiquated.
  • College GPA. Unless you’re a very recent graduate with an exceptional GPA (and needing to highlight your academic achievements due to very little work experience), don’t put your grade point average on your resume (or anything else from your college days, for that matter).

Listing responsibilities and duties in job descriptions that are obsolete now and irrelevant.

Listing your aptitude for skills (especially technical skills) that are no longer in use or are obsolete words not to use in a resume and is completely unnecessary and a waste of valuable resume real estate. find other strengths from these older positions that you can highlight and that will be relevant to the position you’re applying for and will resonate with a current hiring manager/committee.

Boring words and phrases

Even entry-level resumes should steer clear of these snoozers. A quick search on the web will turn up literally hundreds of lists of powerful, descriptive action verbs to use for resumes, so there’s really no excuse for using weak, boring verbs to describe your job duties.

  • Responsible for
  • Utilized
  • Facilitate
  • Assisted with
  • Helped with

These are also some of the words not to use in a resume.

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