TAO Self-help

Title:Best and Worst Terms to Use in Your Resume - Ranked by Hiring Managers

Author:Susan P. Joyce

Date:May 2014


In a recent CareerBuilders survey, mover 2,200 hiring managers were asked to rank the terms they typically see in resumes as good or bad terms. The results really weren't too surprising, but they are interesting to note, particularly if you are currently submitting resumes for job opportunities. The 15 Best Resume Terms

These are the 15 terms those hiring managers preferred to see on resumes. Notice that these are mostly action verbs, probably describing the accomplishments (bet they were quantified accomplishments, too):

  1. Achieved — 52%
  2. Improved — 48%
  3. Trained/Mentored — 47%
  4. Managed — 44%
  5. Created — 43%
  6. Resolved — 40%
  7. Volunteered — 35%
  8. Influenced — 29%
  9. Increased/Decreased — 28%
  10. Ideas — 27%
  11. Negotiated — 25%
  12. Launched — 24%
  13. Revenue/Profits — 23%
  14. Under budget — 16%
  15. Won — 13%

Notice that "achieved" (at 52%), "improved" (at 48%) and "trained/mentored" (at 47%) was preferred over "managed" (at 44%)! And "under budget" and "revenue/profits" were very near the bottom of the list. Interesting! Achievements, improvements and training/mentoring are more important to these hiring managers than profits. Or maybe these managers weren't responsible for profitability...

The 15 Worst Resume Terms. These are the 15 worst terms to include on your resume, based on this sample of hiring managers. Notice that most of these are adjectives people would use to describe themselves, basically meaningless terms unless backed with quantified accomplishments. Perhaps that's how the surveyed hiring managers viewed these terms - empty and meaningless.

  1. Best of breed — 38%
  2. Go-getter — 27%
  3. Think outside of the box — 26%
  4. Synergy — 22%
  5. Go-to-person — 22%
  6. Thought leadership — 16%
  7. Value add — 16%
  8. Results-driven — 16%
  9. Team player — 15%
  10. Bottom-line — 14%
  11. Hard worker — 13%
  12. Strategic thinker — 12%
  13. Dynamic — 12%
  14. Self-motivated — 12%
  15. Detail-oriented — 12%

Notice that, mostly, these terms are hated by fewer than 20% of the survey participants, so I'm not sure that I would automatically eliminate them from my resume if I felt they were appropriate. What I would definitely try to do is back up those "empty" adjectives with proof that they were not empty at all.

We think of many of these characteristics as desirable in a great employee. Perhaps these terms were used in resumes that offered no proof that someone was "best of breed" or "detail-oriented". If you describe yourself as accomplished, obviously adjectives are not enough. Include some details about achievements that help prospective employer believe that those are not just empty terms.

If you want more details on this CareerBuilder study, find it here.

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.

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