12 Resume Phrases That Need to Go

Resumes can seem like a constantly-changing beast. Sometimes, you go several years without writing a resume. When you need one again, you need to dust your resume off and freshen it up, again! You’ll likely find the conventions for what’s acceptable format-wise has changed.

(By the way, it’s always worth taking the time to update your resume even when you aren’t looking for a job… but I digress).

It’s hard to keep up. Buzzwords roll in, become stale and then meaningless. However, the fundamentals of a great resume haven’t changed in years: they need to tell a story. They need to be full of accomplishments; quantifiable ones. What they shouldn’t be is boring, boilerplate or full of outdated terminology.

With resumes often receiving only about 6 seconds of scrutiny by recruiters and managers, you can’t afford to have useless jargon in there. You definitely can’t afford terminology that sends the opposite message to what you’re going for. We’ve put together a list (from a 30-year recruitment expert) of terms that still show up all the time on resumes that simply need to go. I mean the terms that should be wipe-your-hands, never-see-them-again gone, but still manage to worm their way onto live resumes coming into my recruitment practice every day.

Phrases that are meaningless

These words have become meaningless by their repetition. The words that recruiters and hiring managers just glance past that are taking up your precious resume real estate.

“Highly motivated”

Everyone is “highly motivated” on a resume, yet anyone who’s held down a job knows that not everyone is highly motivated. Something doesn’t add up – and it’s the fact that this buzzword doesn’t actually describe anything.

“Dynamic self-starter”

See above.

“Ability to accomplish objectives”

Show your objectives and accomplishments rather than describing your ability to complete them.

“Thought leader”

A list of publications, speaking engagements, board memberships or other extra-curriculars speaks louder than this buzzword.

“Timely fashion”

This phrase just sounds old-timely.


Again, show the results and let them speak for themselves.

“Effective communicator”

Your resume itself is a document attesting to your communications skills, so using this word is like ending an essay with the phrase “this is a very good essay.”

Phrases that send the opposite message to what you’re trying to convey

“Responsible for” or “Duties include”

This is the death-knell of resume effectiveness. When one of our candidates sends across a resume with this kind of language, we almost always help them extensively revise. The reason? You want to send the message that you’re able to handle a multitude of responsibilities, but this kind of phrasing makes it sound like you’re filling a seat rather than contributing in a meaningful way.


You want to seem as though you take a creative, personal approach to your job, which is great, but this actually ends up sounding a bit arrogant. No one can credibly call themselves a visionary.

“Seasoned professional”

You’re trying to send the message that you’ve been around the block and dealt with a variety of situations, but it tends to make you sound a bit outdated. It also makes you sound like a Sunday roast.

“Able to meet deadlines”

You want to send a message that you have great time management skills and can work under pressure, but this phrasing actually sends the message that you’re sort of happy with the status quo. You’re “able” to meet deadlines, rather than going above and beyond.

Bonus: Other outdated resume practices

  • Using an email with an old-school domain like AOL or Hotmail. This is a surprising one to a lot of people, but it sends the message that you’re not up to date with technology.
  • Saying “references available upon request.” This can be assumed.
  • Including your date of birth and/or marital status.
  • Including a list of skills, or a profile summary at the beginning of a resume. These are recently out the door, but they’re out of date nevertheless.

We totally get that resumes are hard, and you have to fill them with something. They’re even harder without being able to use the common terminology that we often see. But trust us that working without these kinds of words is a worthy exercise. And stay tuned for our next article where we’ll dive into how to use action words, metrics and accomplishments to show your excellence as a candidate, rather than relying on buzzwords.

About the author: Bronwen Hann is President and Senior Partner of, a boutique recruitment firm that specializes in recruitment for Supply Chain Management and its related functions including Procurement, Logistics, Operations and Planning.

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