Keep These Words Off Your Resume If You Want The Job


photo: Julia Manchik

OK, it’s time to get real. I handed out hundreds of resumes when I was younger, and wondered why nobody got back to me. I made the number one mistake and called myself a perfectionist during my job interview (please, please can we stop doing that?) and I also used a textbook resume template I’d found on the internet.

So many mistakes. So, if you really want the job, it’s time to take these words off your resume for good!

Hardworking: Yes, this isn’t such a bad one – and yet. It’s on almost every resume, and it’s kind of expected. Nobody wants to hire someone that’s lazy, that’s a no-brainer. It usually comes hand in hand with the dreaded ‘team-player’, but try to be a bit more creative. Is there anything else about you besides the fact you’re hardworking?

Perfectionist: Are you? Are you really? I am always hit with instant disappointment when I see or hear this word, but it’s not your fault. We’ve all been told this is a good answer. So we all spout it off thinking our interviewers have never heard it before. Worse still, when we explain by saying we can’t hand something in until we know it’s perfect, and we’ve just go to ‘let it go’. Done is better than perfect, always remember that.

Team Player: Another word that everybody uses. This one is supposed to make you seem more likeable, supposed to say ‘I’d fit right in at the office!’ But being a team-player is the minimum expected, putting it on your resume doesn’t tell the hiring manager much. You don’t know what kind of team you’re getting yourself into, maybe they’re a miserable bunch. Instead, try to say something like, “Sociable,” or “Easy to get along with”. Just a different way of saying it can make your resume stand out.

References available upon request: I’m so guilty of this one. Yes, my references were available but I couldn’t be bothered to contact them and get them all typed up and signed and what-not, so I just slapped that on the end of my resume and hoped nobody would ask. But companies know that the least they can expect is a reference from a previous employer, if they’re so inclined to call. So don’t waste words.

Honest: Woah. When I see this word, the opposite immediately flashes before my eyes. Why would someone have to include this in their resume? Are they hiding something? It’s just such an expected trait, and somehow seeing it written down flags up the negative connotations. So, stay away from this and the implications it could cause.

Punctual: Great! Your time management is amazing, mine wasn’t, but I still used this word on all my applications. Don’t worry – it’s got much better, I’m rarely late anymore. But yes, it’s just a word, and it doesn’t prove anything.

Ambitious: Personally, I like seeing this word, I don’t feel like I see it enough. But some people think this is another trait that’s simply too obvious. Yes, you should be honest, a team-player, ambitious and punctual – most people are.

So what we’ve learned is that instead of tailoring your resume to some formula, you should try to come up with your own adjectives to describe yourself. If I was to write my resume again now, I’d go for words like meticulous, inventive, adventurous, funny. While it might turn off some recruiters, it would attract a company that I’d be happy at, one that appreciated those traits.

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  • Zoe Mountford

    This was really helpful, I don’t have any of these on mine! x

    Zoe Mountford x

  • Camille Beygui

    Such a helpful post thanks for sharing

  • Cristina

    Ok, so now my CV is technically empty. What words should we include?


    • EbonyFre

      Haha. I know right

  • Renee Alexis

    I mist definitely have used “hardworking” so many time! I must update my CV right this instant!

  • Aïchatou Bella

    HA! SO many great points! Definitely need to go take a look at my resume.


    Aïchatou Bella,

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