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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: What is one buzzword you hate to see in a resume or cover letter? What word or phrase should people be using instead, and why?

The answers below are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization 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.


angela1. ‘Teamwork’

Stop using “teamwork” and start using “collaboration.” We could benefit from working more closely together even when we’re not on teams, and collaboration is more of a mindset about how to do that. Collaboration is about knowing when to step up and use your skills and when to let someone else do it.

Angela Ruth, Calendar

vladimir2. ‘Fast Learner’

I don’t like it when candidates’ resumes say they are “fast learners.” You might think you are fast, but others might not. Also, people hire you for your skills, not how quickly you can learn. Instead, talk about your love of learning, how you embrace a culture of learning, or how you are a lifelong learner.

Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders, Inc

serenity3. ‘Motivated’

Instead of “motivated” use “results-oriented.” Anyone can say they are motivated, but how many candidates can prove they are results-oriented? A prospective employer wants to see the results you’ve brought other companies, so focus on those.

Serenity Gibbons, NAACP

michael4. ‘Experienced in …’

The one thing I hate is when I see “experienced in,” followed by a laundry list of softwares or skills in the dozens. What I’d rather see is an action like “improved.” Just because you’ve heard of a software or there’s a skill you’ve used one time, that doesn’t mean you are “experienced.” However, demonstrating how you improved using that software or skill speaks volumes.

Michael Averto, ChannelApe

patrick5. ‘Passionate’

Passion is great, but “passionate” is not an accomplishment. You are telling the recruiter you are enthusiastic about a job or skill, but you cannot show that with a few words. You have to prove your passion in person. A better term is some variation on “improving” at a skill to show how much you have grown.

Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID, Inc.

nicole6. ‘Successfully’

“Successfully” is basically a blanket word. On a resume, your success should be quantified and demonstrated in the work you have done. No need to write you “successfully” did something.

Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

john7. ‘Hard Worker’

The experience and accomplishments you add to your resume should showcase that you’re a hard worker, so there’s no need to add “hard worker” to your resume. Plus, most people work hard for the company that hires them, so it’s a bit of a silly quality to point out. Employers want to see what you have done and can do for them, not just an empty promise of being a hard worker.

John Turner, SeedProd LLC

blair8. ‘Expert’

“Expert” is used way too often by people who don’t really live up to the word. A better approach is to show your expertise by using words like “created” or “influenced,” as these carry much more weight. For example, if you influenced people, you got them to change their opinions, and that is much more attractive.

Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

stephanie9. ‘Rock Star’

You’re not the singer of a rock band, so “rock star” should not be used on your resume. People think this phrase helps show potential employers they’re really great at something, or they think it makes them stand out from the crowd. In reality, seeing “rock star” on a resume actually has the opposite effect for me.

Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

syed10. ‘Jack of All Trades’

As a business owner, I get nervous when I see a potential hire list “jack of all trades” on a resume or cover letter. Generally, this means they have worked in a variety of fields but have never quite found their expertise. Instead of naming yourself a jack of all trades, just list your work experience, and we’ll determine whether we have a position that fits your skill set.

Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

kalin11. ‘Problem Solver’

Everyone needs to address problems, but “problem solver” is just too vague and doesn’t really tell me anything useful. Instead, talk about the skills that allow you to solve specific types of problems. An example or two is always welcome as well.

Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

blair12. ‘Thinking Outside the Box’

I don’t like seeing the phrase, “I’m great at thinking outside the box.” Typically, people who are creative thinkers don’t have to announce it. If you find yourself using this phrase, try fleshing out your experience and interests on your resume. Let that information speak for your creativity.

Blair Williams, MemberPress


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