Writing a résumé can be downright tricky.
After all, you’ve got a finite amount of space in which to describe yourself and your professional capabilities. And you don’t have much time, either.
Yet creating a comprehensive and concise résumé is how you’ll increase your chances of landing a job interview. Although you have a sizable list of information you want to include—such as experience, skills, and education—there are also several words and phrases you should eliminate from your résumé.
Lauren Taylor, human resources generalist with Burns & McDonnell, has reviewed countless résumés. She used that experience to create a list of 10 words and phrases to keep off of your résumé. If you see any of these on your document, steer clear.
References available upon request. This phrase takes up valuable real estate that can be used to add more details about your accomplishments and experience. Instead, leave it off. If a company is interested in making you an offer, they will ask you for references (and assume you have them).
Dynamic/energetic/motivated/enthusiastic. Sure, all of these are great words to describe your personality, but leave them off of your résumé. Wait until you land the interview. Then let the company decide if you possess those traits. (After all, anyone can say they’re energetic.) If these words aren’t relevant to your skills and accomplishments, they don’t need to be on your résumé.
Microsoft Office. Most employers will assume (or even expect) you to be familiar with basic computer programs. Don’t use valuable space on this sort of information. Instead, focus on specialty skills and programs that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Objective. This is a tricky one. If you have a good objective, leave it on. If you don’t, take it off. Since the career objective is at the top of your résumé, it needs to make a big splash. If you have a specific objective to land a job in a specific industry using your specific skillset for the specific company, by all means include the information. If, on the other hand, you’re “looking to gain a challenging opportunity in which you can use your talents to help the company grow” skip it and use the space for more valuable information.
Experienced. Although you may have many years working in a certain field, don’t sell yourself short by using a word as vague and general as “experienced.” Get specific. Make a note of how long you’ve worked in a certain industry, how many clients you’ve had, what your sales were, and how much you increased profitability. Employers want to see results, not fluff.
Team player/people person/client friendly. These words are frequently overused, and while they describe skill sets almost every employer looks for, they’re also skills almost every applicant says he or she possesses on paper. Rather than put them in print, show how you embody those qualities. What groups/organizations are you involved in? Have you led a committee? What has your team accomplished together? If you’re someone who gravitates toward groups of people, then including this type of information will illustrate that you’re a team player.
Photos. We know—technically, this isn’t a word. But unless you’re applying for a job in which your face is an important part of the application process (for example, TV, acting, modeling, etc.) leave it off. It won’t help you land the position, and in some cases, employers are forced to ignore your because it contains information that can be used as discriminatory—that is age, sex, ethnicity—later in the process.
High School. Once you reach your sophomore year in college, delete all of your high school info on your résumé (school, GPA, activities, summer job, etc.). The only information you may want to consider including is an exceptional ACT or SAT score, and this is more relevant for new graduates.
Contact info. Keep it simple when including your contact info. Provide one phone number, one email address, and one street address.
Hobbies/interests. Leave them off! Your résumé is a professional, one-page guide to help an employer learn about your accomplishments. This document doesn’t need to include your love of hiking, scuba diving, or swing dancing. Employers will often look at a hobby section as filler. If you want to use your hobbies as a way to find common ground, list them on your LinkedIn profile, or find a good way to bring them up in your interview.
There you have it: A handy cheat sheet you can reference each time you write or update your résumé. By avoiding these commonly overused words and phrases, you can make better use of your résumé’s limited space to help a recruiter envision your skills, professional history, and how you’ll fit in to the new position and company.
Amber Carucci heads up the team of writers for the Burns & McDonnell corporate blog as well as the Burns & McDonnell HR blog, where a version of this story first appeared. She’s also part of a team that leads the company’s social media efforts.