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The best (and worst) words to have on your résumé

Do you consider yourself a hard worker? A real go-getter? Someone who likes to think outside of the box? Then you’re just the type of person who needs to review their résumé ASAP.

A recent CareerBuilder survey found there are some words hiring managers and human resources pros just don’t want to see on your résumé. And if you’ve called yourself a go-to person, a team player or a strategic thinker, you’ll need to make a few changes before you send your résumé to anyone else.

The deal-breakers
Unless you want to end up on an employer’s “Do not call” list, think twice before you put any of these empty words on your résumé — they won’t accomplish as much as you might hope.

  • Best of breed: 38 percent
  • Go-getter: 27 percent
  • Think outside of the box: 26 percent
  • Synergy: 22 percent
  • Go-to person: 22 percent
  • Thought leadership: 16 percent
  • Value add: 16 percent
  • Results-driven: 16 percent
  • Team player: 15 percent
  • Bottom-line: 14 percent
  • Hard worker: 13 percent
  • Strategic thinker: 12 percent
  • Dynamic: 12 percent
  • Self-motivated: 12 percent
  • Detail-oriented: 11 percent
  • Proactively: 11 percent
  • Track record: 10 percent

You don’t have much time
Given the amount of time your résumé has to make an impression, it should come as no surprise that your choice of words can be exactly the reason you aren’t brought in for an interview. In fact, if you get more than a couple minutes of attention, you should consider yourself lucky.

Sixty-eight percent of hiring managers and human resources pros will spend two minutes or less reviewing each résumé they receive; 17 percent will actually spend 30 seconds or less.

“Hiring managers prefer strong action words that can be used to define specific experience, skills and accomplishments,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Subjective terms and clichés are seen as negative, because they don’t convey real information. For instance, don’t say you are ‘results-driven;’ show the employer your actual results.”

The words they actually want to see
If you felt like you really had something when you called yourself “hard-working,” there’s a lot of room for improvement. (Besides, that’s something almost everyone would say.) Employers don’t simply want to know what you think about yourself; they want to see results. If you really are a hard worker, prove it by backing up that claim with some data.

Rather than focusing on your previous duties to capture your relevant experience, focus on what you’ve been able to achieve using your relevant skills. The following terms — mostly verbs — should help you refocus your résumé on what truly matters. As an added bonus, hiring managers would love to see these terms:

  • Achieved: 52 percent
  •  Improved: 48 percent
  • Trained/mentored: 47 percent
  • Managed: 44 percent
  • Created: 43 percent
  • Resolved: 40 percent
  • Volunteered: 35 percent
  • Influenced: 29 percent
  • Increased/decreased: 28 percent
  • Ideas: 27 percent
  • Negotiated: 25 percent
  • Launched: 24 percent
  • Revenue/profits: 23 percent
  • Under budget: 16 percent
  • Won: 13 percent

The bottom line: You can’t afford to make a bad first impression, and you don’t have a lot of time to make a good first impression. With some hiring managers, you’ll have 30 seconds to make your case, and the numbers say you probably won’t make it past two minutes.

Highlight your accomplishments and sell just how important your skills have been. If you’ve received honors or awards, make sure to find room for them. Focus on what you think will cause hiring managers to stop and take a second look at your name — you can likely find more unique things to say about yourself than “I’m a hard worker.”


By Tony Valdivieso, CareerBuilder writer

 March 24, 2014 

Copyright 2014 CareerBuilder. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

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