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5 Common Mistakes That Will Ensure Your Resume Gets Tossed

Here's a prediction: If your résumé feels boring, stilted, and borrowed, no one's going to want to hire you.

Recruiters look at a résumé for six seconds. So how do you stand out from the crowd, aside from awesome design?

By avoiding threadbare phrases like "stand out from the crowd," as David Mielach observes at Business News Daily. Once distilled, his points flow like this: Get as specific as possible, avoid tired phrases like the plague, and show—don't tell—the hiring manager why you're the person they need.

Chuck-worthy offenses include:


Don't lean on buzzwords like "innovative," "team player," or "results oriented," says Employmentology author Darnell Clarke. Better to get specific.

"Instead of saying you have extensive experience in sales," Clarke says, "note that you've worked in sales for 10 years, hit your quota the last 12 quarters, and note specific deals you've closed."

References available upon request

Never let the above phrase pollute your most precious page. The whole "references available by request" thing is already understood by recruiting and hiring managers—it's kind of their job to know that—so trotting out that formality is a waste. If they want your references, they'll request them.


Hiring managers want to know your skills and experience—they don't care about your objective, says Stefanie Carrabba, senior consultant at Eliassen Group.

"Candidates should never put an objective on their résumé," she says. "Their objective is to get the job."

Vague claims

Kimberly Bishop is an executive recruiter. She reports that on a recent search, 75% of the candidates had "transformational leader" on their résumé, a description that "doesn't specifically mean anything that translates to a specific experience."

Rather than claiming to be transformational—without explaining what that even means—Bishop recommends carving out exactly what your skillset is.

Qualitative descriptions

Want to get glossed over? Opt for jargon like "seasoned," "experienced," "creative," and, again, "innovative."

"I would leave off any qualitative description that is not accompanied by an example or metric," says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career and business expert at SixFigureStart. "Just give me years of experience and what exactly did you start or improve."

And while you're at it, give a little thought to your cliche-strewn personal brand, as well.

Words to Leave off Your Résumé

[Image: Flickr user Leland Francisco]

Add New Comment


  • Carla Danielson

    Bottom line is, your resume should brand you. Just like any other product that is for sale, when that recruiter or hiring manager is done reading your resume, they should be able to have a good feel for who you are, your top skill sets, what you have to offer. I have 20+ years in corporate branding, and a personal resume is no different. WHEN I WRITE RESUMES for clients, we study the industry and hone in on their stengths. The objective area should be your billboard, you only have a few seconds to capture their attention, who, professionally are you?! An objective? No...they know the position they're hiring for, they want to know you. Many chronological write their resumes from a standpoint of where they've been and cross their fingers and hope the hiring manager reads between the lines, need to write your resume to point and "show" where you want to go and why you are specifically qualified. Carla....theshrinkwriter @ gmail

  • Zahra Sheriff


    Recruitment is a part of my Job. I accept what you mean about deleting the 'objective' from resumes, however I am not entirely convinced.

    From my experience, in the absence of a cover letter, the objective on the resume, gives a quick, (however, brief) insight to the applicant's vision...impulse . However, this should be no more that 2-3 sentences tops, and should exclude jargon - 'buzzwords' that you mention so articulately in your discussion.

  • Stacey Olson

    If your job posting is written using buzzwords and keywords, don't expect anything different from the resume responses.... just sayin. There's a lot of talk about resumes, but I would like to see some attention paid to the job postings companies write and approve to post. As a technical writer, I have helped countless friends write a resume response to hollow and limp job postings.

  • Liashelle Scott Mpm

    Well said. I cannot count the number of recruiters, that have called for the client and did not know what the client really needed nor really took the time to read my resume.

  • Human Resourceless

    How about someone write a book that gets turned into a miniseries ad call it "Game of Keywords"...

  • zadigfate

    Hard to avoid clichés when most resumes are run through screening software that filters for exactly those buzzwords... sorry, "keywords".

  • Chrisw

    Great advice but as to the Objective: Please use this opportunity to identify the exact job title for the reader. They may be hiring for several positions and if you don't have the job title in your resume they will never know which job you are applying for. Don't set yourself up for the round file.
    Chris Wright
    Employ-Ability Program
    Neil Squire Society

  • jmco

    College and university resume centers and career counselors continue to push the addition of the Objectives sentence or two at the top of the resume. I told my students, years ago when it first started appearing, this is stupid. Put it in your cover letter instead. The resume should be like an info graphic of your history. Fast to scan and only the vital info on it. Six seconds or LESS!
    But again and again and again, they would come back later and it was still there. I would tell them again, loose it. It just takes up space and time. But the career center people brainwash them into thinking it is a "must have" element of any resume. Even non education career advisers sometimes push it. Ugh. No. Not needed.
    Also, when you make a resume, keep it really simple. White paper. No water mark! Plenty of white space around the outside. Keep line length about half to two thirds the width of a page (give or take) at most. Use a basic typeface like Times, Garamond (of which there are many, Adobe's is a good one for most purposes, Galiard is also good), Lucida Sans, Georgia, Gill Sans (light, reg, bold, and italics - NOT the extra bolds or condenseds), Helvetica Neue, Interstate, Myriad (excellent). Avoid Arial (might as well use Helvetica), Optima (it is a great typeface but routinely used incorrectly, so just don't ever use it, ever), and of course crazy wrong stuff like Comic Sans - unless it is a resume for the circus.
    Don't ever, ever, ever mess with letter or word spacing unless you have a BFA in graphic design or set type by hand on a letterpress for a year..
    All of these same principles apply to a resume page you make for a web site too. Keep it open and concise.

  • MyOvient

    Follow the advice given to most writers: "show" don't "tell." 

    Don't simply TELL them that you are innovative, demonstrate with examples that SHOW you are innovative. This is useful advice for interviews, too.

  • Isis Marques

    I actually disagree about removing the "objectives" section of the CV. Because it suggests (exactly as the text says) that the only thing the person wants is to get a job (no matter in what), and this shouldn't work like this.

    And, of course, there's always the chance that you'll send your CV without having a previous job post, so is nice for the recruiter to know in what you'd like to work. Just because you have 10 years of selling experience, doesn't means that you want to spend the next 10 years doing it again.

    I think the most common mistake is to write "CV" or even worse "Curriculum Vitae" because, com'on, everyone knows that is a CV! =) 

  • Gazella

    I want to indicate that résumé and CV are two different things. A curriculum vitae is simply a specific type of resume commonly used for medical and academic (teaching and research) positions.

    The c.v. is more conservative than a typical resumé—almost never
    listing an objective and seldom having a long narrative profile. The
    c.v.’s emphasis is on content, favouring a plain look without fancy
    bullets or borders. Unlike a resume, a c.v. may comprise several pages.
    However, it should be very neatly organized, with clear headings and
    distinct conceptual divisions that can be skimmed as easily as a
    two-page resume.

    The curriculum vitae, or c.v. is an important marketing tool for
    graduate-level students applying for medical or academic positions.

    Hope the clarification helps.

    Thank you,


  • Lolaz

    As someone who writes resumes professionally, I think this article offers some good advice (especially about leaving out "References Available Upon Request" and an objective on resumes). But you also need to keep in mind that some "cliches" resonate with certain organizations.For instance,  I regularly write resumes and prepare resumes for people looking to work for an organization that wants candidates to talk about being a "team player" and wants to see evidence of their leadership and teamwork skills on their resume and hear about them during interviews. And leadership and teamwork skills are regularly included in the selection criteria in the job postings of that organization.So, you can't always generalize.

  • Yvette+Brad+Leigh+Gil+Scott

    Has anyone asked Yvette what she does to women in America? Go ahead ask her about Leigh, and Gil and Scott and Nathan and of course the little schnooker Brad the Midget.

  • Brad+Scott+Yvette+Leigh+Gil

    How much did Gil pay Brad to put video cameras in Hotel rooms and try to Intoxicate, Seduce, Video Tape and send to the jerks in Syracuse?

  • TrueCopy

    I believe the point is, if you're going to reference skills or terms like these, it would be better to be specific and have examples of teamwork, rather than just saying, "I'm a team player."

  • References Available On Demand

    I dropped the References Available On Request years ago because 1) almost everyone else has it in their resume (and therefore does not differentiate myself) and 2) it adds no value.
    Instead I have included in my resume a link to the references on my LinkedIn profile which contains recommendations from an array of people I have worked with including my management, direct reports, customers, peers, etc. My view is that this pro-active approach shows initiative, as I am providing references without the recruiter having to ask for them, which can expedite the recruitment process and put you ahead of other candidates.