Don’t Rely on These 14 Buzzwords to Carry Your Resume

By Chelsea Babin

So little time, so much to say. A recent CareerBuilder survey found that one in six hiring managers spends a maximum of 30 seconds reviewing a single resume. The majority of hiring managers spent no more than 2 minutes looking at resumes. Because hiring managers often have a flood of resumes to sift through, they might not give yours the careful consideration you were hoping for. So if they don’t spend much time reviewing your resume, why should you spend time creating it?

In order to capture the interest of a relatively inattentive audience you don’t rely on cliché phrases and sparse detail, you wow them with specificity and accomplishments! Relying on buzzwords to carry your resume is detrimental for several reasons:

1. Your Resume Looks Like Everyone Else’s: Buzzwords are popular. They’re used and overused until they saturate hiring managers’ psyches and become ineffective. If you think any word can become a buzzword though, you’re wrong. Instead think of buzzwords as overly used words that don’t add specific value. Words like “go-getter” and “results-driven” fall into this category because, instead of saying what you ambitiously attained and what results you created, you’re relying on common phrases to carry that meaning. However, when detached from the specific value you added, these words have no intrinsic value and don’t do anything to set your resume apart.

2. They Won’t Get a Clear Impression of You: If everyone is saying they are a hard worker and a strategic thinker on their resume, why would you put it on yours? These may be qualities you have but showing through examples is a far more effective way to get hiring managers to understand what kind of candidate you are. If you want to be memorable, steer clear of the buzzwords.

3. Contradictory Statements: One of the worst offenses caused by buzzwords is the use of “detail-oriented” on a resume full of spelling and grammar errors or the words “think outside the box” on a resume that looks incredibly generic. If you’re not careful, the buzzwords you select could be contradictory to the image that your resume has created, making you look disingenuous and unappealing.

4. The Lazy Way Out: Yes, it’s difficult to create a flawless resume that is concise yet truly representative of who you are as a person. In an effort to shorten or fluff, many people’s instinct is to throw in buzzwords wherever they can substitute for a longer example or beef up a less-than-stellar example. The truth is these words are like nails on a chalkboard to most hiring managers. Instead of fluffing your resume up or shortening where you have a longer example, these words are leaving a generic or sour taste in the mouths of hiring managers everywhere and you’re probably getting less interviews because of it.

Okay, okay, we get it! Buzzwords are terrible and they should be left off of resumes everywhere. But what constitutes a cringe-worthy buzzword? Are there words that a lot of people use on their resumes that are still effective? According to a CareerBuilder survey, these are the 14 worst buzzwords you could use on your resume and the 15 best words you could use.

Worst Buzzwords:

  1. Best of breed
  2. Go-getter
  3. Think outside the box
  4. Synergy
  5. Go-to person
  6. Thought leadership
  7. Results-driven
  8. Team Player
  9. Bottom-line
  10. Hard Worker
  11. Self-motivated
  12. Detail oriented
  13. Proactively
  14. Track record


Best Resume Words:

  1. Achieved
  2. Improved
  3. Trained/Mentored
  4. Managed
  5. Created
  6. Resolved
  7. Volunteered
  8. Influenced
  9. Increased/Decreased
  10. Ideas
  11. Negotiated
  12. Launched
  13. Revenue/Profits
  14. Under budget
  15. Won


Notice anything about the list of best words versus the list of buzzwords? The best words you can use on your resume are strong, action oriented words as well as words that help describe your achievements and accolades. Instead of generic character statements (like many of those terrible buzzwords are), these words help you describe your specific accomplishments so that hiring managers can get a better sense of who you are and how you’d fit in at their organization.

Stop relying on buzzwords to carry your resume and start relying on your achievements! You’ll get better results in your job search and your resume will stand out from the pack because your accomplishments and accolades are unique to you.