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Which resume buzzwords to include (and which to avoid)

Employers don't simply want to know what you think about yourself; they want to see results.

A CareerBuilder survey found that hiring managers and human resources pros don't want to see certain words on resumes. If you've referred to yourself as a team player, a go-to person, or a strategic thinker, now is the time to make a few changes before you send your resume with another application.

The deal breakers

Unless you want to end up on an employer's “do not call” list, think twice before including any of these empty words on your resume. They don't accomplish as much as you might hope, and they aren't meaningful to the person reviewing your resume. The percentages reflect how many respondents said to avoid these terms:

  • Best of breed: 38%
  • Go-getter: 27%
  • Think outside the box: 26%
  • Synergy: 22%
  • Go-to person: 22%
  • Thought leadership: 16%
  • Value add: 16%
  • Results-driven: 16%
  • Team player: 15%
  • Bottom line: 14%
  • Hard worker: 13%
  • Strategic thinker: 12%
  • Dynamic: 12%
  • Self-motivated: 12%
  • Detail-oriented: 11%
  • Proactively: 11%
  • Track record: 10%

After you take the time to remove and replace these terms, upload a resume on CareerBuilder to start applying for jobs.

Why you should avoid these resume buzzwords

When you submitted your resume, the person on the receiving end probably received a significant number of applications and resumes. They don't have much time to spend on each resume, so they might glance over the document quickly. Your choice of words can be the reason you are (or aren't) brought in for an interview. In fact, if you get more than a few minutes of their attention, consider yourself lucky.

By the numbers: 68% of hiring managers and human resources pros will spend two minutes or less reviewing each resume they receive. Approximately 17% spend 30 seconds or less on each resume.

Your choice of words on your resume can be the reason you are (or aren't) brought in for an interview

"Hiring managers prefer strong action words that can be used to define specific experience, skills, and accomplishments," says Rosemary Haefner, former vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "Subjective terms and cliches are seen as negative because they don't convey real information. For example, don't say you are 'results-driven'; show the employer your actual results."

Still not convinced? Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a steady increase of new jobs coming onto the market. The result of an increase in job openings is a corresponding rise in the number of workers considering a career change or applying for a new position. The competition to get an interview is fierce, and you want to make sure you're using all the tools at your disposal.

Applicant tracking software and your resume

Many employers use applicant tracking software (ATS) to find and recruit applicants for open positions. This type of software makes it easier to manage applications and keep teams connected through the hiring process. But the use of applicant tracking software can make it harder for you to get an interview, especially if you're using negative buzzwords or skipping terms included in the job description.

Before you submit your application and resume, scan the posting for keywords and phrases that correspond with your experience and skills. Match those terms on your resume, and the ATS can locate them when scanning the document to determine if you're a good fit for the role.

The words hiring managers want to see

If you felt good about using the term "hardworking" because you truly work hard, demonstrate what makes you a hard worker rather than using the buzzword. Employers don't simply want to know what you think about yourself; they want to see results. Prove you're a hard worker by backing up that claim with quantifiable results.

Instead of focusing on your previous duties to capture your relevant experience, focus on what you've achieved by applying your skills. The following terms, which are mostly verbs, can help you refocus your resume on what matters to hiring managers. The ones we surveyed said they love seeing these terms:

  • Achieved: 52%
  • Improved: 48%
  • Trained/mentored: 47%
  • Managed: 44%
  • Created: 43%
  • Resolved: 40%
  • Volunteered: 35%
  • Influenced: 29%
  • Increased/decreased: 28%
  • Ideas: 27%
  • Negotiated: 25%
  • Launched: 24%
  • Revenue/profits: 23%
  • Under budget: 16%
  • Won: 13%

The bottom line: You can't afford to make a bad first impression, and the time you get to make an impression at all is short. With nearly one-fifth of hiring managers, you only have 30 seconds to make your case. Highlight your accomplishments and back them up with proof. Sell the importance of your skills and how you've used them to make a real difference. If you've received honors or awards, find room to list them. You can likely find more unique things to say about yourself than "I'm a hard worker."

More tips for what to include in your resume:

Here's how to build the perfect resume (with examples).

Ever wondered how to stand out from the other candidates? Keep reading.

We've compiled the top 5 transferable skills that must be on your resume.

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