The 17 Worst Things To Say On Your Resume

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Consultant, Strategist, and Writer


“I’m a real go-getter who always thinks outside the box, demonstrates thought leadership and proactively motivates myself!” If this sentence made you cringe, you’re not alone. These phrases come from the new CareerBuilder survey on the best and worst resume terms.

They surveyed 2,201 hiring managers and HR people in order to come up with the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

The Worst Resume Terms

  1. Best of breed: 38%
  2. Go-getter: 27%
  3. Think outside of the box: 26%
  4. Synergy: 22%
  5. Go-to person: 22%
  6. Thought leadership: 16%
  7. Value add: 16%
  8. Results-driven: 16%
  9. Team player: 15%
  10. Bottom-line: 14%
  11. Hard worker: 13%
  12. Strategic thinker: 12%
  13. Dynamic: 12%
  14. Self-motivated: 12%
  15. Detail-oriented: 11%
  16. Proactively: 11%
  17. Track record: 10%

The Best Resume Terms

  1. Achieved: 52%
  2. Trained/Mentored: 47%
  3. Managed: 44%
  4. Created: 43%
  5. Resolved: 40%
  6. Volunteered: 35%
  7. Influenced: 29%
  8. Increased/Decreased: 28%
  9. Ideas: 27%
  10. Negotiated: 25%
  11. Launched: 24%
  12. Revenue/Profits: 23%
  13. Under budget: 16%
  14. Won: 13%

Considering, according to this survey, the average hiring managers spends two minutes looking at a resume (and other studies have shown that number to be far lower — 45 seconds), it may be worth your time to rewrite your resume to reflect what hiring managers want to see.

But, if you’re the one doing the hiring, stop and realize your own biases, and maybe vow to spend a bit more time looking at resumes. After all, it’s not about what the resume says (unless you’re hiring professional resume writers), it’s about what the person can do for you.

While you may want immediately reject someone because they threw a word like “synergy” around, that might not always be the best course. Take a closer look and see what they’ve really accomplished. After all, your goal should be to hire the best people for your business, and that may mean people who aren’t the world’s best resume writers.


7 thoughts on “The 17 Worst Things To Say On Your Resume

  1. It is strange that some terms turn people off and some do not. Awesome would turn me off. Sometimes I find terms trite and banal. I just want the facts not fluff.

  2. Thanks for following my humble blog Mihran. I am honoured to have you join me on my journey.
    This is an interesting post, particularly the 35% score for having the word volunteered in a resume. I have always advocated to those fellow volunteers that I meet here in Tz (most are a lot younger than me) not to underestimate the power of adding their volunteer experience to their CV’s. This statistic reflects my point admirably and I shall use your post to prove my point in future! I have met some amazing young people who have given up time out of their busy social and education calenders to come here and try to help children less privileged than themselves. They deserve their efforts to be counted as a plus to a potential employer.

    1. Hello Gill, and thank you for the follow. Your blog is such a wonderful mix. I’m humbled beyond belief. I’m glad you like the blogs I’m re-blogging. 🙂 Yes, glad our paths have crossed. Your page is very interesting.



  3. Thanks for visiting my blog! This is a great list you’ve going – very helpful. I always believed that specifics with measurements were needed to describe the adjectives above. For example, “All projects completed on time and below budget, decreasing expenses by 24%”. Great blog, and very helpful during this competitive time in the job market!

    1. You are completely welcome. I’m glad you like the blogs I’m re-blogging. 🙂 Yes, glad our paths have crossed. Your page is very interesting.

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