Buzzwords That Can Damage Your Resume

Robert Half International

Your resume is designed to communicate your accomplishments and distinguish you from other job seekers, but there are certain words and phrases that can actually disguise your qualifications. For example, if an applicant writes, "Assisted manager in optimizing marketing campaigns," it's difficult to determine exactly what the person did or how he or she did it.

Indeed, peppering your resume with vague terms can be a red flag to employers, who may feel as though you are trying to exaggerate your qualifications or hide knowledge gaps.

Here are some common buzzwords to avoid when writing your resume and advice for what you should say instead:

"Familiar with ..."

Using this or similar terms -- "knowledge of ..." and "experience with ..." are close cousins -- can send your resume to the bottom of a potential employer's pile of applications because your level of knowledge in a certain area can't be accurately determined using these phrases.

For instance, an administrative professional who says she is familiar with Microsoft Access may have used the program everyday ... or only twice in several years. Be as specific as possible when discussing the skills you possess. For example: "Executive assistant with thorough knowledge of Microsoft Office applications, including daily use of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Working toward Microsoft Office Specialist designation."

"Optimize," "leverage" and "utilize."

Many applicants insert business buzzwords into their resume in an attempt to sound more accomplished or sophisticated. But rather than making you sound "in the know," these types of words can make it seem as though you can't communicate in a straightforward manner.

Keep things simple: Instead of saying that you "utilized resources to improve company Web site," describe more specifically how you increased the number of visitors to the Web page. As much as possible, quantify your achievements to truly show the impact your actions had.

'Responsibilities include ...'

One of the biggest mistakes job applicants make is including a long, drawn out list of all of their duties in a previous position. Although it's OK to mention a few basic functions, hiring managers likely know the types of tasks you performed in a previous role and don't need a detailed breakdown. Instead, describe how you helped a previous employer save money or increase efficiencies, your advancement in a past role, or how you changed a job you held for the better.

'CFA,' 'MCTS,' or 'CPS.'

What do these letters stand for? They are all acronyms for common professional certifications (Certified Financial Analyst, Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist and Certified Professional Secretary, respectively). If you didn't know that, you can rest assured that many hiring managers won't either. This is especially true because the first person to see your resume is often a human resources professional or internal recruiter, not the person who directly supervises the open position. As a result, try to avoid industry jargon so anyone reading your resume can understand your unique selling points.

Although it's best to steer clear of buzzwords in your resume, you should use keywords to stand out from other applicants. Keywords are terms that appear in the job description. They describe duties, qualifications or certifications, for instance, and may be used by resume-scanning software to determine which applicants best meet the qualifications of the job. Including phrases from the job description is a good idea, but only if the terms accurately describe your background.

If you're wondering whether or not to use a word or phrase in your resume, ask yourself if it helps convey the value you can bring to a prospective employer. If a term is used to cover for a lack of experience or make it sound as though you're a sophisticated insider when you're not, leave it out.

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Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit

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Someone who knows

I think that the advice given by people like this is good sound advice. I own my own business and people that thing the world owes them and that they are better than everyone else cannot put that attitude in a resume and unfortunately you sound like one of those people. Skating by on someone elses accomplishments and making others feel like they are inferior and intimidating them by your demeanor. Yelling and screaming even figuratively in blogs by capitalizing IDIOTS. Let me ask you this friend, are you employed?

January 01 2010 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why is George Abraham on here self promoting?

October 19 2009 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John C.

Words To Avoid: "Arrested", "Narcotic", "Fighting", "Illegal"...

October 18 2009 at 8:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem is, some people just aren't good resume writers and freeze up in interviews. This really isn't fair because many times, it has nothing to do with a person's ability to do a job. In fact, I would argue that the brilliant creative types who think outside the box and who would be a great asset to any company are ignored because interviewing is torture for them.

The other problem is that most companies are trying to eliminate people before a resume ever gets across a person's desk. All of these companies now run these so called "background surveys" which ask bulls**t questions like "Oh, I had no friends in high school" or "Sometimes, I regret decisions I made in the past." How the hell is anyone supposed to answer that honestly without being eliminated by the computer's matrix? Oh, and don't say honestly because if people actually answered those things honestly, no one would have a job at all.

October 18 2009 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a Human Resources Specialist for a federal government agency, and those of us responsible for recruiting prefer that applicants are very specific about their duties, and the length of time they performed them. This is because we must compare the applicant's experience with a qualification standard for each occupational series to determine if they meet the standard and can be referred to the selecting official.

October 18 2009 at 5:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I work in human resources and in my opinion the best resume is the one that is short but demonstrates the skills that a person has. After seeing the skills that the person uses to perform his/her current position is good enough to me. Once you have the interview and ask the questions to get the person to expand on what the resume says, you have a better picture of the kind of employee you will have. I agree with several of the other comments. Buzz words are simply that Buzz words. We in the society have come to the point of where B.S. seems to sell, but some people just want pure honesty.

October 18 2009 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OPPS, It should read because they cannot read.

October 18 2009 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

JJ, thank you for your post. I hate the ads that are on the comments sections. i report every one of them, each time I see them. It only take a seconds to hit the "!" button. Maybe someday they will get the hint. OH WAIT, I think they do it bacause they cannot read.......the part about "keep your comments relevant to this blog entry.......

October 18 2009 at 5:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well I copied and edited some degrees I dont have and lied my ass off and got a great job ! no one checks! I got offered a teaching position at UCLA! Yea I am smarter than most, 2 years of college but an unmesureable IQ helps,.LOL! I work in computer research company supervising voice recgnition software developement. I got bonus my 2nd month for moving things along and out of the box thinking. I didnt really know jack about it, and everything I brought in was sampling beats to hip hop grooves. LOL 120k per year!

October 18 2009 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Charles Carter

I just referred them to previous employers and was hired on their recommendations.

October 18 2009 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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