Top 7 Clichés That Should Be Nowhere Near Your Resume

When proofreading your resume, what do you look out for? Naturally you’ll be on the hunt for misspelled homophones, and of course you’ll endeavour to eliminate any errant punctuation marks. You’ll almost certainly make sure that the formatting of the document is standardised, and if you’ve got any sense you’ll double check those vital contact details. But how likely are you to sniff out those clichés you’ve stubbornly relied on?

Who wrote your resume?

Read through your resume again as if you were the employer and start to gain an impression of the person who wrote it. Does the resume clumsily clamber from one stock phrase to the next, creating the impression of someone who searched for a template and filled in the blanks?

If you got bored reading your own resume it’s time to start making the English language work for you. Those clichés might be easy to fall back on, but they’re acting like weeds, getting in the way of you actually demonstrating why you would be an effective employee.

These are 7 that should be nowhere near your resume.

  • Passionate 

The biggest resume buzzword of the past decade has to be ‘passionate’. If you absolutely insist on using the word at least make sure you’re not passionate about something silly like ‘working in teams’ or ‘meeting deadlines’. What about the role People are passionate about Showing how passionate you are about something by truly are passionate about the what the role entails this should come across in your application when you mention

  • ‘Excellent oral and written communication skills’ 

If anything, this phrase shows your communication skills aren’t up to scratch because you’re relying on one of the most ubiquitous resume clichés in existence. The quality of your written communication skills will speak for itself, while you can hint at your impressive oral capabilities by mentioning meetings you’ve chaired, talks you’ve given or how you’ve handled tricky situations with customers.

  • ‘The ideal candidate’

Deciding where confidence ends and arrogance begins can be difficult – is it before or after proclaiming yourself ‘the ideal candidate’? It really doesn’t matter though, because if you really are an ideal candidate you’ll demonstrate it by providing evidence that your knowledge and experience aligns with the demands of the role. If you’re not an ideal candidate simply writing it on your CV won’t make it so; in this case you’d be better off explaining how any of your perceived shortcomings can be overcome.

  • ‘Work well independently or as part of a team’

Few things are more frustrating for an employer than a candidate trying to cover all their bases. Someone who claims to ‘work well independently or as part of a team’ might as well be saying ‘please, please hire me, I’m desperate and I’ll do whatever it is you want’. Instead, demonstrate why you’re so effective at working on your own or give examples of when you helped a team succeed.

  • ‘Dynamic’

The last time I interviewed someone who described themselves as ‘dynamic’ I was met with a blank expression when I asked him what he meant by the term. Even if you’re able to recite the dictionary definition to your employer, a better use of page space will be detailing how you improved processes in the workplace, or the steps you’ve taken to independently develop your knowledge and skills.

  • ‘Highly motivated’

If the fruits of your motivation merely allow you to confirm you are motivated you will come across as lazy and uninterested. Rather than resorting to this overused word, highlight what about the role will inspire you to fulfil your potential.

  • ‘I enjoy travelling…’

If you run a weekly book club, or play instrument to a high level feel free to draw attention to this, as they will require qualities that employers are seeking. Having said that, generic interests presented with the sole purpose of making you appear to be a human being – reading and travelling are two of the biggest culprits – are a waste of space.

The exception to the rule…

Job hunters aren’t the only ones at fault when it comes to regurgitating out of date clichés. Recruiters, HR staff and small business owners in charge of the hiring can all be guilty of rehashing the same old irrelevant corporate speak.

So if the job you’re applying for has advertised the fact they want someone who is ‘passionate’ about data entry or has ‘excellent communication skills’ it’s probably best to play it safe and confirm you have those qualities they’re looking for in those very words.

Are there any other times that using a clichés in a job application is acceptable? Have I missed any killer clichés that shouldn’t be anywhere near resumes? Or perhaps I’ve committed a cliché crime of my own somewhere in this article? Please use your excellent written communication skills to let me know…

Author: This post was written by Dan Luxton at, the executive and managerial recruitment company specializing in Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Life science sectors.

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