3 Overused Resume Phrases

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When you're changing careers, one of the first challenges you'll face is rewriting your resume in order to target it to the field you hope to enter. It's not enough just to list your past work experience and educational history, you'll need to show how those skills can apply to the new career path.


Every resume is different and believe it or not, an employer can tell a lot about an applicant's personality and work style just by reading over it. Some people go to great lengths to market themselves, which shows a talent of sales and leadership while others stick with a more traditional, chronological approach to their resume, which often indicates an older, more experienced worker who hasn't been looking for a job in a long time. There are people who lie and exaggerate and others who don't give much information about their past accomplishments or provide any reason why someone should hire them. However, by far, the most common thing that employers see on applicant resumes is the same old, tired, cliched phrases. When they see one or more of these, they aren't impressed in the slightest. You can stand out for being too pushy, for being great at marketing, even for just sticking to old fashioned methods but the absolute worst thing you can do is just be boring and have your resume ignored.


Here are 3 of the most overused phrases. If your resume has any of these, it's time for a re-do.


Team leader or coordinator – Many people use the phrase “team leader” or “project coordinator” as their previous job title or they say that they have worked in these positions at various times. The problem with it is that it isn't very specific. Some companies use the term to apply to their mid-level managers, while other times it could mean that someone was the main person on the team, responsible for giving and receiving updates from team members. If you want to show that you managed employees and had the ability to hire, fire or discipline them, then you should say manager or supervisor. It's important to clear up any ambiguity so that the person reading your resume gets a clear picture of what your responsibilities were.


Effective communicator – I've seen many resumes that use this phrase, but the meaning just isn't clear. I know what communication is, but communicating effectively is something that everyone should do and furthermore, using this phrase doesn't effectively communicate anything. It could imply that you have excellent writing skills, are good with verbal communication or that you just like to talk. If you are using this phrase, consider what it is that you are actually trying to convey and then use your great communication skills to make it more clear to the reader.


Proactively – Doing something proactively just means that you did it before you were told to – which is good. However, taking the initiative and doing your job aren't necessarily skills that you should brag about. Most hiring managers are going to assume that you do your job, so you don't need to brag about doing what you were supposed to do. Instead, highlight the challenges you faced and your accomplishments at your job rather than just the fact that you did it without your boss telling you every day.


A large part of getting your first job in a new career field is marketing yourself effectively. Since you don't have actual job experience in the industry and you may not have all of the desired qualifications, you'll have to work extra hard to make your case and demonstrate why you are worth taking a chance on.


What other phrases do you think are overused on resumes? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Image source: MorgueFile


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  • Ray Hunt
    Ray Hunt
    After 30 years in technical documentation and IT, I have used many styles and types of resumes, long, short, summaries, detailed, etc. Recruiters and employers put specific "technobabble" terms and requirements in their job descriptions. The recruiting agencies or employers simply do a word search. If the word (or all of them) doesn't match your resume, you get scored as a % of a match on the job. An employer can tailor a job requirement that will be so specific and restrictive that it can only match the blonde girl on the third floor, the one in the cubicle next to the coffee machine.  Resumes should be short, but not too short, detailed, but not too long or wordy, either chronological or alphabetical by jobs or job performance, single spaced (except when they should be double spaced), and should contain every technobabble term that you heard in any department of the company for which you worked (which they do in those offshore body shops in India, I've seen the resumes). Then, if you pass the word search, you are interviewed by a committee of 5-12 people, none of which will be responsible if they select the wrong candidate. Two weeks later, after they interview a dozen people for the job, they only remember the last 2, and if they can't remember, they just do a "negative" vote on some minor and often irrelevent issue, and you can almost bet that the winner knew someone that worked at the company. Networking, not resumes, is the key to the current job market... as the old cliche goes, nobody cares how MUCH you know, until they know WHO you know.
  • joan m
    joan m
    Team player , skill set , fast learner
  • Matthew K
    Matthew K
    Where I believe your blog is true and those seeking a career change should follow your advice, here is what you should really say to your audience.  Take the word help and get a job.  I'm sick of doctors capitalizing on helping people, I'm really sick of lawyers capitalizing on helping people.  Why can't I do the same?  So whatever job that comes up, change the qualifications.  What does this mean?  Lie, embellish, do what you have to do to capitalize on helping people do better. Its time to compete with the inept.
  • Jen S
    Jen S
    I think that many recruiters have become lazy when it comes to seeking new hires, and expect the applicant to do the heavy lifting for them. They often don't appear to be clear themselves on what they are looking for in a new hire, as though they are fishing for that information by posting positions and hoping for that perfect needle-in-a-haystack employee to materialize, rather than offering a reason for that person to invest their life and time in that organization. The whole job search process seems to have progressively gone off the rails, with employers asking "what can you do for me" without offering anything in return for the talent and loyalty they so desperately seek. It no longer feels as though employers are interested in developing and cultivating the skills of their employees, instead, they create a culture of fear within their organizations, making their people feel disposable. I just read an article today on the company Forever 21, who announced that they are cutting every employee in the company to part-time and disposing of benefits entirely. This is not how you encourage people to work hard or invest in the quality of their resume and interviewing skills. Rather, you create a lazy employee, only interested in doing the minimum required to land or keep their job, since there is no real advantage to working hard for a company that is offering no stability or benefits to the people they hire. I think companies need to re-think how they do business, and that includes their hiring process. If you let a machine choose who you hire, you will get employees merely interested in passing the screening process by saying whatever that machine is looking for, rather than what you as the recruiter is looking for.
  • Donnette D
    Donnette D
    The author of the article is right. Folks who conduct interviews and recruit know that these overused lines or phrases are there to take up space. Just stick to essential duties performed.  
  • Obi A
    Obi A
    Thank you so much. this article has given me an idea and what I have been doing wrong.
    I agree with you. I would like to know why the senior experts can't get jobs because of age.
  • Craig W
    Craig W
    I am 62 and recently furloughed from an IT job.  I worked from home since 2004 and now I am faced with entering the workforce again.  Your article was very informative and useful to me.  Thanks...
  • Joey S
    Joey S
    These same words are consistently used in job postings, by HR people, to describe the type of candidate the company is looking to hire. if recruiters are tired of seeing those cliche phrases - it might be a good idea to change their own generic wording when they post jobs.  Obviously, not everybody uses these words, but just sayin.
  • Joe B
    Joe B
    Regarding "proactively" wording, I think it's OK to use it if you can connect a specific  effort to an outstanding result. For example, my wife "proactively" organized all the educational technology devices and software used by her department to support the local school district, and then cataloged it to make her job easier. However, in the course of that endeavor, she and the team learned about old, outmoded, broken equipment they had on hand, and consequently were able to overhaul and update the entire inventory. In addition, my wife color-coded the storage drawers/lockers to facilitate the tracking and location of equipment. This effort not only brought organization and professionalism to the department, but also saved the team much time. (My wife got a promotion.)
  • ShaRetha C
    ShaRetha C
    Very useful information on how to be specific about your job duties instead of being so vague. I'm sure alot of my resumes have been trashed because of this.
  • Jih-Nuoh L
    Jih-Nuoh L
    I am writing from Singapore and it's a tough time to get a response to the submitted resume (not to mention about getting an interview). Hence, a few tips that I picked up in the resume writing course I attended 2 weeks ago were:1. Use a summary page to highlight your Relevant experiences & Unique Selling Points in your resume.2. Emphasis on your Relevant achievements and not what you have done! It would be better if there's some endorsements to the achievements.3. For career switching (part of my next intention), emphasis on the transferable skills/experiences/knowledge.
  • William H
    William H
    Personally,I had my Resume' done professionally by someone that is a HR. personnel. I used to put all of my achievements and was told Employers don't read a bunch of garbage and to keep it simple and short. I have been a hiring manager  and I believe that to be true as well. So I think somebody either needs to quit being lazy and spend more time asking achievements in the interviews. I find it more truthful and eye contact is key when they are on the spot. Resume is goals,history,schooling and maybe references but no more than 2 pages.
  • Chris Z
    Chris Z
    Excellent suggestions
  • Murray P
    Murray P
    My all-time favorite hated phrase has to be "Multi-tasker."   The worst example I ever saw was "Focused Multi-Tasker."  
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.Mona - This blog post isn't an ad. There are a lot of people like you, who honestly believe that a resume should be a summary of past work experience and that marketing yourself is something for an interview.If that works well for you and you're getting good results with it, then you should continue to do what you've been doing. However, if you aren't happy with the result, you're going to have to do something different. Because employers aren't as willing to wait to find out at the interview, use your resume and cover letter as a sales pitch. Maybe you shouldn't have to, but I can assure you that at least one applicant for the job is going to. Which one do you think they're going to hire?
  • Kevin K
    Kevin K
    How true!
  • Didi M
    Didi M
    Good tips.  I do use the term coordinator as my job title but in the context of my cover letter, I did write supervisor.  I will definitely need to make some adjustments to my resume and cover letter.  
  • Mona J
    Mona J
    I agree with  ENRIQUE D posted on 8/9/13.  A resume' is supposed to be a general summary of your previous jobs, job title and your job description. The rest is for the phone or in office interview.  Employers are asking for too much to be onto resumes' now if this "AD" is truly correct.  The resume' is a general summary, not your entire accomplishments and what you exactly wrote or helped in on a specific project.  That's what face to face interviews are for.  Employers are getting lazy about even bringing people into the office to interview anymore.  That is why they use all these websites agencies to do it for them.   
  • Dan P
    Dan P
    Thanks I found two of these in my cover letter, along with two other mistakes in grammar.
    I agree with this article. Job searchers need to be specific about their past position responsibilities. Every job requires some form of communication that is "effective." So that is not really a big deal. However, they could give an example of some sort of communication of input, writing or verbal that improved the project or moved it forward.
  • Robert C
    Robert C
    This article makes three points that make a lot of sense. I'll now alter my resume just as suggested. Thank youBob
  • Jason M
    Jason M
    Very insightful.
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the great comments. You're exactly right, Jim. It's great to mention a time when you put together a presentation, wrote copy or organized a project that was a success for your employer, rather than saying that you're an effective communicator.
  • glenda g
    glenda g

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