If you’re a recent college graduate or even a high school student, you may have little or no experience to include on your resume. So it’s important that you make the information you do have count. A good resume should inspire a prospective employer to call you for an interview. Unfortunately, many resumes quickly get placed in the NO pile. One reason might be the words on your resume. Words can make you or break you, so choose wisely. Using weak, too general, or overused words and phrases can kill your chances of getting a call. You may have some great stuff, but conveying that in the wrong way can make you appear inexperienced, unskilled, or boring.
How to fix it? Choose stronger words and avoid the weaker ones. The following are words and phrases that should be avoided on your resume and cover letter.
1 Personal Pronouns Don’t use I. It’s implied. Instead, jump right in with the action verb.
Weak: I managed a busy snack shack… or I am seeking a position…
Stronger: Seeking a position… or Managed a busy snack shack during…
2 Responsible For or Duties Included
These are passive. Everyone is responsible for something at a job; everyone has duties. List what you achieved, not give your job description. What did you achieve? Be specific. Use action verbs and adverbs.
Weak: Responsible for cash register…
Stronger: Processed payments by totaling purchases…
Weak: Duties included working with staff members to plan…
Stronger: Collaborated with staff members and planned….
3 Assisted or Helped With
Too vague. What exactly did you do to assist or help? Surely you had very specific contributions.
Weak: Assisted head engineer on a big project
Stronger: Analyzed and monitored job costs and maintained accurate reports
Weak: Assisted manager with running department
Stronger: Facilitated work assignments and scheduled weekly meetings
4 Familiar With You may be familiar with apple pie, but that doesn’t mean you know how to make an apple pie. Does that mean you know what it looks like? You know how to eat it? Be specific about your skill level. You may not be an expert, and that’s understandable, but be precise about your knowledge or skill level.
Weak: Familiar with web site design
Stronger: Designed mock-up web page in WordPress using front-end editor
What if the job requires something with which you have a basic understanding (but are not proficient)? Don’t leave it off completely, but be honest Basic word processing skills, including Microsoft Word and Google docs
5 Highly Qualified
Are you? You may think that gets you a call. However, using those words in a summary or cover letter without support of that claim sends up a red flag. Chances are, unless you’ve been at this kind of job for more than 5 years, you’re not highly qualified. Be specific. Or change your words.
Weak: Highly qualified advertising professional with expertise in copy writing
Stronger: Highly qualified advertising executive with 5+ years of experience writing web content for the financial services markets
Alternate: Energetic sales professional with 2 years of experience selling computer hardware products in the medical market
Alternate: Highly driven writer with hundreds of hours of writing and editing web copy on a financial services website
6 Hard Worker
Well, you should be! No one wants a lazy bones on staff, so that’s a given. Do not list this in your SKILLS section. It will just float there with nothing to give it merit. What is a particular area in which your hard work pays off? Be specific and use an example.
Weak: Hard worker who is good with deadlines
Stronger: Worked overtime for three straight weeks to beat a deadline, which resulted in…..
7 Like to Work With People or People-Oriented
This phrase is overused and a bit empty. Most jobs require you to work with people, so it’s expected you can work with them. If you are skilled at interacting with a specific group of people, then state it.
Weak: Like/enjoy working with people
Stronger: Effectively resolve customer complaints with patience and kindness and Create and deliver engaging teaching lessons that motivate students
It’s worth the effort to take some time to review your resume. Replace weaker words with stronger words and phrases that really tell who you are and what you’re capable of.