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The Keywords Your Resume Should NEVER Have on It

With applicant tracking systems (ATS) in place in most Fortune 500 companies – and many smaller businesses – using keywords is key to writing a strong resume. However, when it comes to using the words you see on a job listing in your resume, it’s easy to go too far and start using terms that hiring managers don’t want to see.

So, let’s look at the other side of the keyword coin.

Here you’ll discover the five types of keywords that expert resume writers say will make a hiring manager cringe as soon as they see them.

image of a paper with the words "Words To Avoid"

Keyword Type 1 – Anything That’s a Given

“I’m a hard worker who is a total people person, making me an ideal candidate for a front-serving role.”

That seems like an innocuous sentence. The writer has highlighted a pair of qualities and associated them with the role for which they’re applying, which seems like what they should be doing.

However, there’s a problem – that sentence contains two examples of a type of keyword that hiring managers hate.

These are called the “givens,” which are words that explain that you have qualities that the hiring manager would expect you to have. In this example, “hard worker” is one of those givens. No hiring manager is looking for a lazy worker, so having “hard worker” on your resume is a waste of words that you could use better elsewhere.

The same goes for “people person.” Apart from being a cliché, it’s another given seeing as the role relates to front-serving, which puts the applicant in front of customers. These keywords are bland and generic, telling the hiring manager that you offer what they’d expect any applicant to offer to the role. Replace them with action statements and examples of you putting those qualities into action, both of which are more tangible and useful than these clichés.

image with orange background and the words "Keyword Mistakes To Avoid"

Keyword Type 2 – Self-Aggrandizing Keywords

Yes, your resume is supposed to be a document that highlights your skills and – to an extent – talks you up to a hiring manager. But it’s possible to go too far and slip into using keywords that focus too much on you and not enough on how your talents apply to the role.

Examples of these types of keywords include "visionary" “best in breed” "thought leader" and “go-to person.” Both are intended to show that you are the best applicant for the role. But neither really says anything. In the case of “go-to person,” that could mean practically anything to the hiring manager. Were you that person because you project managed a full team, in which case you have plenty to talk about without a useless self-aggrandizing phrase? Or were you the “go-to person” for cashing out a till at the end of the day, which may be a far less useful skill for the role?

The hiring manager won’t know.

As for “best in breed,” this is a strange keyword that’s become popular to the point of cliché. Frankly, it makes a candidate look like the best choice at a dog show – not the impression you want to create with a hiring manager.

Keyword Type 3 – Responsibility Keywords

Showing that you’re responsible for something is a great way to strengthen your resume.

But only when you’re specific.

This keyword type includes words like “responsible,” “punctual,” and “results-oriented.” All three fall slightly into the “given” category mentioned earlier. However, and more importantly, all three are vague keywords that are little more than you can handle the mechanics of the role for which you apply.

Every resume the hiring manager receives will show that.

Much better is to provide examples of how you are responsible, rather than simply stating the fact. For instance:

“Led a 12-person team to complete a house renovation project with a budget of $200,000.”

That phrase contains specifics – the 12-person team and the budget – and the hiring manager can infer that you’re a responsible and diligent person because you led the team. You don’t need to tell them you’re responsible. Let your achievements speak for you.

image with a bunch of resumes with red x's and green check marks

Keyword Type 4 – Salary Negotiable Phrases

This is less a keyword type and more a singular keyword:

Salary negotiable.

The hiring manager knows that the salary is negotiable. Reaching a clear figure is one of the purposes of your interview, assuming the hiring manager believes you’d be a good fit for the role.

By adding “salary negotiable” to your resume, you’re simply wasting space, with a hiring manager possibly thinking that you’re padding because you have nothing else relevant to say. That’s counter to your intent to show that you’re a flexible employee, so leave all mentions of salary off your resume.

You’ll talk about money when the time is right.

Keyword Type 5 – Pointless Buzzwords

“Best.” “Proven.” “Motivated.” These are just a handful of examples of the business-related buzzwords that many applicants throw into their resumes.

And they’re all words that hiring managers hate to see.

That’s according to the Open Business Council, which points out that 76% of employers hate to see the word “best” on a resume. Almost the same amount – 71% - say that they don’t like seeing the word “motivated,” while about two-thirds point to “proven” as a word that irritates them.

The reason is simple – these buzzwords are all just padding for things that a hiring manager can infer from the examples you provide. They don’t care about the “proven” result. They just want to see the result itself and can look for proof when they check your references.

Avoid the Keywords That Hiring Managers Hate

The words you shouldn’t use on your resume are just as important as the keywords that need to be in the document. In the case of the latter, properly used keywords ensure your resume makes it through an ATS system and lands in the hands of a hiring manager. But for the five types of keywords listed here, you’re simply filling your resume with padding that the hiring manager doesn’t want to see.

Don’t do that.

With Expert Resume Pros, you work with Denver’s top resume writing service to trim the keyword fat out of your resume and create a document that grabs a hiring manager’s attention. Try us today – our 45-day guarantee ensures you get an interview in 45 days or your money back.

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