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Welcome to Recruiter Q&A, where we pose employment-related questions to the experts and share their answers!

Today’s Question: Recruiters see a lot of job applications, many of which follow a similar template or are based on similar advice. What’s one common buzzword that you hate seeing on resumes or cover letters, and why?

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs.


zach1. ‘Outside the Box’

I understand how “thinking outside the box” could be positive, but it has become such a generic phrase. At this point, I’d rather find someone who can think outside the box while writing their cover letter and come up with a better phrase to use.

Zach Binder, Bell + Ivy

leila2. ‘Proficient in Microsoft Word’

In this technology-driven society, it is a given that you are proficient in basic computer skills. Listing this on a resume always feels like the candidate is just looking to fill space.

Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

Andrew3. ‘Skilled’

In and of itself, “skilled” doesn’t mean anything. Instead of using this word, the candidate should take time to include on the resume results and quantifiable actions they took to improve business. Someone who says they’re a “skilled” salesperson isn’t as impressive as someone who says, “Led the sales team in sales for the previous three quarters by more than 10 percent.”

Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

matthew4. ‘Innovative’

While creative thinking and being able to create novel ideas are paramount to success in most careers, saying that you are innovative on your resume shows, to me, a lack of innovation. This buzzword has swept through business in recent years and, while it is a valuable descriptor, its usage has made it a blanket statement.

Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.

kevin5. ‘Proactive’

Proactivity is an important and necessary aspect of the work environment, but it is not a term that should only appear on a resume. It must be demonstrated both in the interview process and on the job.

Kevin Leyes, Leyes Media & Team Leyes, by Leyes Enterprises

David6. ‘Seasoned’

I’ve always hated the word “seasoned” on resumes, as in “seasoned sales leader” or something like that. Are we sitting down to dinner? Only food is seasoned in my opinion. I like “experienced” much better.

David Boehl, GoLastMinute

kristin7. ‘Results-Driven’

I don’t like to see the phrase “results-driven change agent.” I see this so frequently on resume summaries for different positions. I prefer to see a resume with quantifiable results and leadership positions or initiatives. My best piece of advice is to show how you performed. Include real results that can be verified by your manager. Show your ability.

Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

john8. ‘Go-Getter’

I can’t understand why people refer to themselves as go-getters. That phrase doesn’t add anything to the conversation and, frankly, sounds lazy. I want to hear about your accomplishments, dreams, and goals for the future. The purpose of an interview is to get to know someone before you hire them, and I don’t think the term “go-getter” helps in any capacity.

John Turner, SeedProd LLC

blair9. ‘Motivated’

In truth, there are so many overused buzzwords, but “motivated” and “skilled” are definitely at the top of the list. These buzzwords really tell the recruiter very little, if anything, about the individual. It would be much more effective to share actions taken that contributed to the culture and team and improved the business.

Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

kalin10. ‘Communication Skills’

There are so many overused buzzwords, but one that comes to mind is “communication skills.” This is the kind of skill that’s important, but as an expression, it doesn’t really tell me anything. Communication is necessary for any type of job. It’s better to say what you’ve accomplished in your specialty instead of bragging about your general ability to communicate.

Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

nicole11. ‘Hard Worker’

Good work ethic is the absolute minimum we expect. Show up and demonstrate that; no need to try to put it in writing.

Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

thomas12. ‘Passionate’

“Passionate” is one word that annoys me on resumes. People are trying to convey how interested they are in an industry, job, or company, but it feels insincere to me. I’d like them to use other words and verbs to describe their past experience and tell me more about their work and investment in the role.

Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

syed13. ‘Fast Learner’

The term “fast learner” raises red flags in resumes. It’s not that I don’t appreciate someone who wants to learn and grow, it’s just that the phrase isn’t very meaningful today. It also implies the candidate is unqualified and expects the company to hold their hand as they work. Instead, talk about what you’re actually learning and how you’d apply that at work.

Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

stephanie14. Quirky Words

I hate seeing quirky words in resumes that are meant to seem fun but only come off as unprofessional and lazy. If you want serious candidates who know what’s expected of them, then you need to be clear in your job listing, too. Using words like “rock star” or “ninja” does nothing to detail what you’re really looking for, nor does it help you find the right fit.

Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

richard15. Any Buzzword Without Examples to Back It Up

One thing I see across the board is the use of adjectives and phrases that make claims without demonstrating them. Buzzwords are fine as long as you demonstrate how they apply. Show us examples.

Richard Fong, Ready Green


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