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The 7 Worst Phrases to Put in Your Cover Letter and Resume

Published on Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Resume writing and updating is often one of the more dreaded and stressful aspects of job hunting. Despite the fact that a resume is the key element in helping secure a job prospect, people don’t always know what to include and how to present themselves well on their resume. Because of this, far too many people have turned to resume templates to assist them with the resume writing process. While it certainly is beneficial to have an easy-to-follow guide to resume writing, the result is a majority of resumes that look and sound the same.

In order to keep your application and candidacy for a job at the forefront of a hiring manager’s mind, it’s important to not only have a stellar resume, but also something that stands out from the crowd of applicants. Here are the seven worst commonly used phrases you can put in your resume and what you should include instead.

1. “Works well with all levels of staff.”

This phrase is often a remnant of a bygone era where senior managers only had limited exposure with lower level employees. Nowadays, almost all companies have a more relaxed management structure and there is little separation in hierarchy. Highlight instead any mentoring experience you may have in the professional field, whether as a mentor or a mentee. This reveals your ability to develop strong relationships with those higher up or lower ranked than you. As an added bonus, businesses these days are looking to hire those with an interest in professional growth and training. Your participation in a mentoring programme will demonstrate your initiative in developing yourself professionally. 

2. “Possess excellent communication skills.”

This is one of those phrases on almost every single resume recruiters receive and is completely useless in conveying any real ability to communicate effectively. If you have such excellent communication skills, why does it need to be stated? Shouldn’t the communication within the resume speak for itself? The answer is a resounding yes! Instead of telling the hiring manager you have stellar communication skills like everyone else is doing, focus on demonstrating your communication prowess through the text of your resume. 

3. “Strong work ethic.”

While it certainly is crucial to have an admirably work ethic, merely listing it as a skill or strength on your resume does very little in convincing the recruiter of this. Rather than insisting that someone take your word on this, include examples in which your work ethic benefitted your previous employers.  

4. “Met or exceeded expectations.”

This is yet another overused and completely pointless phrase to include in your resume. Of course you should have been consistently meeting or exceeding expectations! Meeting expectations is simply doing your job right and exceeding expectations is the only way anyone will ever advance in their career, or at the very least, stay employed in a challenging work environment. It’s best to leave this dead phrase off your resume and focus on more significant career accomplishments. 

5. “Bottom-line oriented professional.”

It’s safe to assume that anyone who has or has held a job with any company (other than some government agencies and NGOs) is a bottom-line oriented professional. This statement sheds no light on your achievements or capabilities. It’s merely a filler phrase and any recruiter will see right through it. Put weight behind such a claim by providing a story or example of how you took action that directly resulted in an improved bottom-line.

6. “More than X years of experience.”

Here’s another useless filler statement that dilutes the impact of a potentially strong resume. Your experience should already be outlined in your resume so there’s no need to reiterate this. Secondly, years of experience does not necessarily demonstrate talent or aptitude. Hiring managers are looking for skills and professional strengths in future employees. Highlight those aspects of your career for more impact instead of the number of years you’ve trudged along in a particular field.

7. “Team player.”

By now, everyone is aware that a majority of companies across all industries are looking to hire individuals who can work well with their colleagues. The phrase “team player”is so overused that it’s become cliche. Instead of stating that you can work well with others, find ways to draw attention to any leadership role you may have held. With everyone else so concerned with being a team player, give yourself a resume boost by featuring the ways in which you’ve shined as a team captain. 

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