Best and Worst Terms for Your Résumé

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 are worth noting if you are currently submitting résumés for job opportunities.

The 15 Best Résumé Terms

These are the 15 terms those hiring managers preferred to see on résumés.

Notice that these are mostly action verbs, probably describing the accomplishments (bet they were quantified accomplishments, too).

The preferred terms and the percentage of hiring managers preferring each term:

1. Achieved: 52 percent preferred

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 percent), "improved" (at 48 percent), and "trained/mentored" (at 47 percent) were preferred over "managed" (at 44 percent)! Interestingly, "under budget" and "revenue/profits" were very near the bottom of the list, but still preferred over the 15 worst terms.

Achievements, improvements, and training/mentoring are more important to these hiring managers than profits. Or maybe the managers in this survey weren't measured on profits.

The 15 Worst Résumé Terms

Notice that most of these are mostly 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.

The words that hiring managers liked least and the percentage of hiring managers who disliked those terms:

1. Best of breed: 38 percent rejected

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

While I think that excluding those terms is a smart idea, these terms weren't hated as much as the action verbs were preferred. So, if you feel compelled to include any of these terms, support those "empty" adjectives with proof -- preferably quantified -- that they were not empty at all. Easier to do for some of them than for others: prove "best of breed" by listing (if accurate) employee of the moth awards or sales quotas exceeded by more than any other sales person, and so on. Don't try to prove these adjectives with more adjectives and flowery language.

We think of many of these characteristics as desirable in a great employee. Perhaps these terms were used in résumés 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.

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Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for and This article was originally published on WorkCoachCafe.