No one wants recruiters to gloss over their resume, but if you’re using these seven clichés, your resume might be going straight into the your potential employer’s trash.

You may think your resume is already tip top, but put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter. They look at hundreds of resumes every day. To them, most look exactly like all the other nondescript resumes in their pile. If you’re using the same tired phrases as everyone else, you’re not as exciting — or as hireable — as you thought you were.

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

It goes without saying that you want your resume 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.

Nix these seven clichés from your resume, 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 resume will read like a work of fiction when you use phrases like “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 resume — visuals can add an air of credibility to your claims, which helps the recruiter believe you.

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 completely 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. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Write a compelling cover letter or create a video resume 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 resume 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”

So 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 resume of “responsible for”

Upon seeing this phrase, a recruiter pictures a mechanical 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 resume makes you sound like somebody trying hard to look smart. Stop proclaiming you’re a guru, ninja or expert. It’s fine if other people describe you that way, but not to describe yourself.

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. Axe “excellent oral and written communication skills”

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


Because hiring managers can judge your communication skills in mere seconds! If your resume 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 resume for grammar slips instead. Remove fillers and redundant phrases.

Your resume is your stepping stone to getting a job, so invest an extra 30 minutes to make it attention-grabbing. Review your resume, 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.

Share one of the changes you’ve made in the comments!

Michelle Riklan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Employment Interview Consultant (CEIC). Her resumes get results, and she coaches her clients through all phases of the job search.


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  2. Workforce Development News – May 5, 2014 | Workforce Solutions Group | St. Louis Community College

    […] “If you’re using the same tired phrases as everyone else, you’re not as exciting — or as hireable — as you thought you were.” […]

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  4. Scott Nushart

    What, exactly, are Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Employment Interview Consultant (CEIC)? Are those accredited by Wharton or Skilpath?

    • Michelle

      Hi Scott,

      These are titles or distinctions given to professionals who have passed the certification programs by the governing body of the industry I belong in. In my case, I got my certification from Professional Association of Résumé Writers/Career Coaches (PARW/CC)

  5. Misha

    Loved this article. You gave me a few pointers for my own resume. I’m the person that puts “I’m responsible”. You are absolutely right. A picture is worth a thousand words so the employer needs to “see” what you’re capable of. Thanks again!

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    […] The Perfect Resume Starts With Avoiding These 7 Tired Cliches […]

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  8. The Perfect Resume Starts With Avoiding These 7...

    […] No one wants recruiters to gloss over their resume, but if you’re using these seven clichés, your resume might be going straight into the your potential employer’s trash.  […]

  9. Don Higgins

    Amazing tips, thank you! I liked your point about the ‘results-oriented’ phrase. ‘Well, duh, thanks god that you have it’.. Every recruiter probably thinks like that, cause that should be a given, and not an advantage. So excluding what should be a given out of your resume will give your more chances to win over the boring resumes that get thrown into a ‘no, thank you’ pile immediately.

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