In a recent CareerBuilders survey, over 2,200 hiring managers were asked to rank the terms they typically see in resumes as good or bad terms to use. 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 percent
2. Improved: 48 percent
3. Trained/Mentored: 47 percent
4. Managed: 44 percent
5. Created: 43 percent
6. Resolved: 40 percent
7. Volunteered: 35 percent
8. Influenced: 29 percent
9. Increased/Decreased: 28 percent
10. Ideas: 27 percent
11. Negotiated: 25 percent
12. Launched: 24 percent
13. Revenue/Profits: 23 percent
14. Under budget: 16 percent
15. Won: 13 percent
Notice that “achieved” (at 52%), “improved” (at 48%), and “trained/mentored” (at 47%) were 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 up with quantified accomplishments. Perhaps that’s how the surveyed hiring managers viewed these terms – empty and meaningless:
1. Best of breed: 38 percent
2. Go-getter: 27 percent
3. Think outside of the box: 26 percent
4. Synergy: 22 percent
5. Go-to person: 22 percent
6. Thought leadership: 16 percent
7. Value add: 16 percent
8. Results-driven: 16 percent
9. Team player: 15 percent
10. Bottom-line: 14 percent
11. Hard worker: 13 percent
12. Strategic thinker: 12 percent
13. Dynamic: 12 percent
14. Self-motivated: 12 percent
15. Detail-oriented: 11 percent
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 the prospective employer believe that those are not just empty terms.
If you want more details on this CareerBuilder study, find it here.
More About Effective Resumes
About the author…
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, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org and is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.