9 Words to Dump from Your Resume And the Hot 9 to Include

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Think of the hundreds of resumes that cross an HR manager’s desk every week. It’s truly a mountain of paperwork they’d rather bypass. With the job market being what it is, applicants and recent grads are cranking out resumes using the same accepted industry standard formats. Nothing wrong with that. But there are subtle ways to make your resume stand out from the rest.  

One way is to be word wise. That means dumping the standard weak-weasel words and “amping” your resume with power words. Words that will catch a recruiter’s or HR manager’s eye.  Words that will stop a keyword scanning program and shift your resume into the “take a second look” category. But first, the words that need dumping. They include:

  1. Strong
  2. Exceptional
  3. Good
  4. Excellent
  5. Outstanding
  6. Effective
  7. Driven
  8. Motivated
  9. Seasoned

These are self-aggrandizing words that your references may use to describe you. But if you use them, it sounds like you’re patting yourself on the back. They simply lack objectivity. They’re qualitative and can’t easily be linked to quantitative appraisals of your accomplishments.

It’s much better to use the hot 9 words that can be connected to specific areas of your performance on the job. These will catch a recruiter’s or HR manager’s eye. They’ll also be flagged by keyword programs, giving your resume a “second read.”  They include:

  1. Reduced
  2. Improved
  3. Developed
  4. Researched
  5. Created
  6. Increased
  7. Accomplished
  8. Won
  9. Under budget

When using these keywords, try to link them with specific facts and figures. This adds credibility to the words and will draw the attention of recruiters, HR managers and most recently, applicant tracking software. 

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that most companies now use some type of applicant tracking software. This software looks for keywords that match specific job requirements. Some companies digitize the hundreds of resumes they receive on a daily basis, store them in a database, search for candidates using keywords, then create interview call lists. The bottom line: If your resume lacks the right combination of job-specific keywords, it will end up in digital limbo, never to be seen again until a programmer purges the file. I know, it’s brutal and impersonal, but such is the world we live in. 

Here are some suggestions on the types of keywords to include in your resume. They should be job, task and industry specific:

  • Job Titles
  • Product Names
  • Technical Terms
  • Industry Jargon
  • Software/Hardware Packages
  • Job-specific Buzzwords
  • Degrees or Certifications
  • University or College Names
  • Company Names
  • Service Types
  • Professional Organizations

Creating an effective resume that will get noticed these days takes a bit of work. Much more than just listing your accomplishments. If you have any suggestions, be sure to include them in the comments section.



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  • Gregory L
    Gregory L
    I really do appreciate the tip. The outside world looks a little intimidating on the inside looking out. Finding the right edge, with such a competitive job market, can be difficult. Thanks, for putting the good word out, so that guys like myself can get back into the game and hopefully win! Good luck, in all that you do!
  • Martin O
    Martin O
    I do not wish to sound conceited, that is not in my nature and having come from a culture of underselling rather than over selling this would be in line with my experience.  But the question has to be asked what if you were exceptional, what if you have unique talents - how do you get that exceptionalism across without sounding trite
  • Oscar O
    Oscar O
    These are good suggestions for a resume.
  • Mario C
    Mario C
    Great info and the key words that companies use to review resumes.  Please continue to send more updates.  Thanks
  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Thanks for your many thoughtful comments. Keep refining and updating your resumes. Read them aloud to someone you trust. I wish you the best of luck in your job searches.
  • Jeannette L
    Jeannette L
    Great Info.
  • Bever B
    Bever B
    Thank you so much!  I knew about the data searches but had not made the connection that I could upgrade my work history to trigger the system . . .  Can't wait to go and see how many buzz words are Already there in my work history.
  • Betsy D
    Betsy D
    Thanks for this article. This is important info. Thanks.
  • Gary A
    Gary A
    It seems to me that the "Hot 9" words are appropriate for someone who works on their own or is a department head. But for someone who has a lower level position, who works in a department, as part of a team, they're not really appropriate. In that scenario they-re as self-aggrandizing as some of the words that the article says to dump.
  • Cecilie S
    Cecilie S
    Excellent article; hopefully, it will help me bypass those screenings.  Didn't realize how out-of-date my resume is.
  • Alec S
    Alec S
    I was not aware of the applicant tracking software that is now being used by some employers and I will indeed use words that can get me a second look when job seeking. Thanks.
  • Miguel L
    Miguel L
    Great article. Can you send a sample resume that would put to use all the useful tips in this article?
  • Jennifer W
    Jennifer W
    Definatly good advic. I'm going to look at my resume again and change up a few words.
  • Gail S
    Gail S
    Good article.  Buzzwords and keywords for resumes will never go away but knowing the right ones to use and how to use them for a specific industry is good info to have.
  • Teri H
    Teri H
    As a Controller who has made many hires over the years, I'm ok with the words not to use as long as the rest of the resume backs them up and applicants don't get carried away with them.  This is my PERSONAL way of reviewing resumes.  First on my list for reviewing resumes is format.  When I have a stack to go through, I tend to set aside ones in paragraph form and look at the ones with bullet points as they are faster to skim for the words that I need to see.  First pass with a highlighter, I'm looking for skills and tasks.  These are separated into three stacks, under 5 words highlighted, 5 - 10 words and over 10 words highlighted.  I give a more thorough review to the stack with over 10 words highlighted.  This is the point where I actually read the resume.  Any with spelling/grammar errors or tense shifts go directly to the shredder.  Do not trust spell check.  If the applicant seems very full of themselves but the resume doesn't back it up, to the shredder.  But, if they are cocky and their accomplishments detail why they should be, they are coming in for an interview because that is who I am.  The one thing that people do not see when they are sending in their resume is that it is going to an existing organization.  There is already a team in place that is looking for a new member.  This existing team has a certain culture and works in its own way with its own dynamics.  Your resume creates a picture of you (if it doesn't, this may be part of your problem). Personally, I think that selling yourself short on your resume to underplay your experience is the same as inflating your GPA.  The hiring manager cannot make an informed decision based on misleading information.  A lie will always come back to haunt you. The reviewer is not only reviewing your skills, they are reviewing you as a potential fit into the existing team.  So yes, the most qualified person may not always get the job - it will be the most qualified person who fits into the team culture.Every reviewer/interviewer is different.  Everyone is looking for something different and they have a different way of doing it.  I don't believe that there is a magic formula that will work in mass.  My advice, customize each resume that you send out to the job description that you are applying for.  Use the words that are in the job description.  When HR does the review for me, they have the job description and they highlight the words on the resumes from the job description.  Since they do not have the specialty that I am hiring for, it is all that they can do.Remember that everyone belongs somewhere.  Not hearing back is not always a reflection on you, it can be a matter of the dynamics that are already in play within the organization that you are applying to.  Try not sending out generic resumes and tailor your resumes to the job descriptions for which you are applying.  Have someone else review for spelling and grammar.  If you do not hear back, that wasn't where you belong and you have to keep looking.  I know, easily said, right?  As someone who is also looking, this lifelong belief is part of what keeps me going.This is my personal advice based on nothing else but me.  No research or science is involved so take this however you wish.  Stay positive all and good luck!
  • Louise F.
    Louise F.
    Thank you for this information.  I hope after revamping the resume this will be a secret to the success if being hired.
  • Steve P
    Steve P
    Thank you very much for your input , will put information into action.
  • Brandy L
    Brandy L
    I found his article helpful  I just started looking for a new job opportunity.  Out of 3 resumes; I already received and interviewed for two of them.  I'll admit my resume I used has one word from your dump list but 4 words from your add list.  Armed with this new information  maybe I will get 3 out of 3 next time.
  • Demetris S
    Demetris S
    what i have in my resume is my resume for yrs.
  • Sandra F
    Sandra F
    Thank-you for your buzz words to use in a résumé.  I know exactly where I can use them.  Great helpful hints  I look forward to receiving them..
  • Diana Rewekant
    Diana Rewekant
    Great article. I hope this will help me in my job search and postings
  • Nancy Warren
    Nancy Warren
    I agree with Tom and Laura.  After 20 years of working and now unemployed again, am I too experienced and need to dumb down my resume to get hired?  Some words not to use I agree with, others not.  But the words to use instead for a seasoned worker are not applicable.
  • Gwen Watts
    Gwen Watts
    Great information.
  • Gary Dixon
    Gary Dixon
    Quick question, please?  Were these 9 alternative words  targeted toward corporate hires or for small business owners?  As an independent contractor, most of my work is on a job-by-job basis.
  • Linda B
    Linda B
    This appeared to be helpful but the true test will be when I implement the suggestions and rewrite my resume.  Though I have a great background/education I just can't seem to find work so I will try your suggestions.  Let's see if it helpsPS -if you are hiring please let me know.

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