Keep these 7 clichés off your résumé

You might actually be a ‘passionate, results-oriented creative with excellent communication skills,’ but these days, who isn’t? Oh, and stop calling yourself a ‘guru.’

You may think your résumé is already tip-top, but put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes.

They look at hundreds of résumés every day. To them, most look exactly like all the other résumés in their pile. If you’re using the same tired phrases as everyone else, you’re not as exciting—or hirable—as you thought you were.

The average recruiter spends six to 10 seconds per résumé. Do you really want to waste even one of those precious milliseconds with a single word that doesn’t add to your credibility?

You want your résumé to stand out. You want a job, don’t you? It’s not hard to steer clear of common clichés and be more original. You just need to know which phrases to avoid.

Ditch these seven clichés from your résumé, and you’ll be well on your way to grabbing the recruiter’s attention—and staying out of the “no thanks” pile, once and for all.

1. Avoid meaningless adjectives

Your résumé will read like a work of fiction when you use phrases such as “seasoned manager” or “influential leader” without an accompanying explanation.

Drop the qualitative description and add years of experience, job-specific technical skills, and quantifiable achievements instead. Better yet, add graphs and other visuals to show what you’ve accomplished in previous jobs.

Not many applicants use visuals, but these graphics do more than add aesthetic appeal to your résumé: Visuals can add credibility to your assertions.

2. Cut out “creative”

“Creative” might seem like the perfect word to describe your unique personality. Unfortunately, thousands of other applicants think the same thing. Recruiters have seen this word so much they will gloss over it.

“Creative” was the top buzzword for two years in LinkedIn’s annual survey of clichés. Many LinkedIn profiles use the word “creative”—even professionals not involved in creative fields.

Instead of telling the recruiter you’re creative, show them evidence of your creativity. Write a compelling cover letter or create a video résumé to narrate the highlights of your career. Add interesting (nice-to-know, but not-so-personal) tidbits about yourself, and you’ll have a show-stopping résumé cum cover letter in one neat, little package.

3. Remove “results oriented”

What exactly do you mean when you describe yourself as results oriented? Do you aim to hit the goals your employer sets out for you? That should be a given. Every employer wants employees who drive results.

So prove to the recruiter you’re that person with details, and nix the empty and nondescript “results oriented.” This description is subjective. Instead, highlight your skills and accomplishments by using the names of the projects or campaigns you worked on; then include the results for said projects.

4. Take out “passionate”

What’s wrong with saying you’re passionate? It goes two ways: Recruiters might buy this (not likely) and think you’re passionate about what you do, or they might think you’re desperately looking for a job.

The verity of your enthusiasm can easily be checked through your social media profiles. If you really love what you do, your Facebook and Twitter accounts would show work-related status updates, reflecting how excited you are about what’s happening in your job.

Delete “passionate” and similar adjectives fit for romantic novels. Replace them with solid examples of how much you love what you do, such as details about personal projects related to your line of work. For instance, if you’re a programmer, include info about apps you’re developing for your own use or for fun.

5. Rid your résumé of “responsible for”

Upon seeing this phrase, a recruiter pictures an employee doing what he’s paid to do—no more, no less. Change this phrase to “managed X,” “completed X tasks,” or similar action verbs that embody leadership and initiative.

6. Get rid of “guru”

“Guru” sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Calling yourself a guru on your résumé makes you sound like somebody trying hard to look smart . Stop proclaiming you’re a guru, ninja, or expert. It’s fine for other people to describe you that way, but not for you to describe yourself in such lofty terms.

Replace these self-proclaimed titles. Demonstrate your expertise instead by listing published books or articles, interviews, past speaking engagements, and other accomplishments that could establish your contribution in your field.

Remember, pretending to be someone you’re not will backfire on you during the interview.

7. Ax “excellent oral and written communication skills”

Although this is a must-have soft skill, recruiters don’t have to see it on your résumé.


Because hiring managers can judge your communication skills in mere seconds. If your résumé and cover letter fail to communicate why you should get an interview, then what’s the point of putting “excellent communication skills” on paper?

Proofread your résumé for grammar slips instead. Remove fillers and redundant phrases.

Your résumé is your steppingstone to getting a job, so invest an extra 30 minutes to make it attention-grabbing. Review your résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile for these seven clichés and buzzwords. Save a copy of the original files, then apply the tips above to revamp your profile. Compare before and after files, and see the difference.

Michelle Riklan is a certified professional résumé writer (CPRW) and certified employment interview consultant (CEIC). This article first appeared on Brazen Life, a career blog for young professionals.

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