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Words to use and don’t use in your resume

Are there words you should use or shouldn’t use when writing your resume? Words that turn recruiters and potential employers on or off? Words that make you sound impressive or arrogant?

You bet there are.

Here are four rules to apply when writing your resume followed by our expert tips on each:

  1. Make every word count.
  2. Demonstrate, don’t just state.
  3. Avoid overused words, buzzwords (jargon) and bureaucratic terms.
  4. Use strong words that pack a punch.

Make every word count

To keep your resume from turning into an encyclopedia, make sure every word is as good as gold. If a word doesn’t add value, cut it so your writing is short and sharp.

Don’t pack out your resume with overused words that waste precious space. Don’t, for example, state you’ve worked on a ‘very important’ project. An ‘important project’ is strong enough. You don’t have to have achieved ‘a total’ of 10 KPIs. Achieving 10 is impressive on its own and is a ‘total’ anyway.

Demonstrate, don’t just state

There’s no reason for a recruiter or employer to take your word for something. It’s your role to provide evidence that shows your experience and performance.

Saying you’re a successful project manager or an efficient operator isn’t good enough. Back up your claims with facts, figures and proof.

When describing your contribution to a project, for example, think about these types of convincing facts:

  • saved the company more than $xx
  • achieved efficiencies of xx percent
  • renegotiated a contract valued at $xx
  • rolled out implementation avoiding all potential risks identified.

Avoid overused words

Recruiters and employers get tired of reading overused words in resumes, especially words that describe attributes they assume you should automatically have as a responsible employee.

Most resumes are laden with words like ‘motivated’, ‘punctual’, ‘honest’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘hard working’, ‘ambitious’ and ‘loyal’. Shouldn’t you have all these attributes anyway? You are, after all, getting paid to do your job, and do it well. The same applies to broad descriptive phrases like ‘team player’, ‘good communicator’ and ‘go above and beyond’.

If you include these words or phrases, provide evidence for each. How are you motivated? How are you hardworking? If you state you’re a team player, for example, illustrate how you went above and beyond to achieve a major goal.

Other words or phrases to avoid unless you provide proof:

  • results-driven
  • seasoned
  • experienced
  • dedicated
  • highly qualified.

Use strong words

Words that don’t shine, don’t shine, so why not use those that do? That includes powerful action verbs.

Saying you ‘did’ something isn’t as strong as saying you ‘achieved’ something. Saying you ‘helped’ with a project isn’t as strong as saying you ‘supported’ a project.

Other action words include initiated, managed, progressed, developed, turned around, and created.

Final tips

Spellcheck but also proofread

Spelling (or grammar) mistakes on a resume are a no-no and could leave the impression you’re not detailed or careful.

Always set your spell checker to Australia. Always use spell check but also read your resume several times (spell check won’t, for example, distinguish between words with completely different meanings like ‘sing’ and ‘sign’, or ‘plague’ and ‘plaque’). Make sure you have a third party read your resume with their fresh eyes.


Your resume should look smart and professional and use effective white space. Why not use one of our free resume templates?

Use a recruiter when looking for work

Recruiters know what makes a great resume and can support you to make yours a cracker. face2face offers services to candidates looking for new opportunities for free. We also have access to positions that aren’t advertised in places you may traditionally look. Register with us online or contact

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