9 Clichés to Avoid on Your Resume (And What to Say Instead)

May 21, 2021 | Resumes

A title graphic featuring Let's Eat, Grandma's yellow pencil logo and an alternate version of the article's title: "Hiring Managers are People Too: Here's What They're Thinking"

Steer clear of these lackluster clichés, and you’ll be ready for the perfect job opportunity to knock on your door.

By: Ashley Dolar | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Read between the lines. Play your cards right. Better safe than sorry.

We are all familiar with clichés in our everyday lives, and it’s often clear when to avoid them in order to keep our communication fresh and original. No need to beat a dead horse.

But, what about in your resume? It’s less common for job seekers to know which cliches to avoid on a resume, especially since job descriptions often contain lots of them.

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What’s a Cliché?

Dictionary page. Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

A good dictionary/thesaurus is an indispensible resume-writing tool. Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

Clichés are defined as overused, often cringe-worthy phrases. (Team player and hardworking come to mind.) An occasional cliché or two might be just fine to squeeze into a one-page resume, but too many clichés can make you seem generic and maybe even a little desperate.

One quick fix is to eliminate the most egregious offenders for your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile and then focus on providing evidence of your accomplishments. In other words, actions speak louder than words, so you’ll want to avoid using clichés like these:

Team Player

It’s important to note your teamwork abilities and experience; however, when everyone claims to be “a dedicated team player,” the phrase can start to sound a bit hollow to a recruiter. Instead, you should focus on your contributions to the team and overall organization by highlighting soft skills like leadership and collaboration.

Try: Led a 12-person marketing team in a national rebranding initiative, increasing cross-functional collaboration and generating $500K in additional revenue within six months

Strategic Thinker

This kind of person is a problem solver who develops action plans and finds creative ways to save the organization time and money. This is also not the kind of person who simply writes “Strategic Thinker” at the top of her resume. Instead, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have helped the business grow.

Try: Reduced company spending by $10K per quarter by overhauling an internal communications process across four departments and 22 employees

Quick Learner

If you learn new material and procedures quickly, you are sure to be an extremely valuable employee; however, there are better ways to show it on your resume than stating the obvious.

Try: Promoted within three months of start date from finance associate to finance manager

Works Well Independently

Are you saying that you don’t work well with a group? That might be true, but it’s probably not something you want the hiring manager to be pondering during an interview. You are better off promoting your ability to spearhead projects and deliver business results.

Try: Generated new business channels by visiting and cold calling 10 potential customers per week, increasing company sales by 15% YOY

Good Communication Skills

woman helping another woman on computerPhoto by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Sharing examples of times you used your skills effectively is much more effective than just listing them out. Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

That’s nice – but why don’t you show me your excellent communication skills by writing a dazzling resume and cover letter? If you can communicate your professional value to me through this one piece of paper, then I believe you will be able to communicate effectively across diverse audiences without you having to spell it out for me.

Try: Communicated with both internal and external partners on a daily basis, building relationships and maintaining an effective workflow for all stakeholders

Self-Motivated, Self-Starter, & Go-Getter

Yikes, buzzwords aplenty. You must really want the hiring manager to know that you bring the thunder to every arena. In actuality, you should be focused on demonstrating your strong work ethic to a potential employer.

Try: Launched a new digital download product, capturing 4,300 email addresses and driving $20K in revenue within the first year

Responsible For

Ew, David! Please remove this one from your resume vocabulary immediately. It reads like a job description, and the entire reason you are writing a resume is to convey your unique accomplishments and achievements, not just describe your day-to-day.

Try: Improved electronic filing system for a six-person medical office, reducing the number of insurance errors by 18% over two months

People Person

From this tired phrase, I can tell that you are a person who likes other people. That probably works in your favor for much of life, but it shouldn’t be listed on your resume. Much like “team player,” it can be shown within the details of your resume or with a specific story in your cover letter.

Try: Trained and mentored two computer technicians with both team members achieving a 95% customer-satisfaction rating

Seasoned

You might be experienced, you might be a veteran, but you are not seasoned like a piece of meat. Plus, ageism! There are other ways to show that you have been around the block and bring a lot to the table, so to speak.

Try: Managed 20+ key projects across multiple departments over a 10-year period

Since clichés can drain the lifeblood from your resume, it’s really best to avoid them. Try to stick to accomplishment-based bullet points to pack the most punch. If you’re still struggling with writing a job-winning resume, check out our writing packages to learn how our professional resume writers can help.

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