IT Employment

Words that mean nothing in a resume

Some of the most often used terms in resumes are also the most meaningless. Learn how to avoid that pitfall.

I would bet money that everyone reading this blog has, at one time, used these words in a resume:

Responsible for...

Experienced at...

Team Player

There was a time when I did it too. It's like there was one resume template written in 500 B.C. and we all stuck to it.

Unfortunately, those words are meaningless. "Responsible for..." and "Experienced at..." are completely subjective terms. You could say you're experienced at programming, but what does that mean? It could mean you once added some HTML tags to a web page, or it could mean you created a back-office tool for a company's e-commerce initiative. The person looking at your resume wants specifics that show your experience.

"Responsible for" is also nebulous. Your resume should be accomplishments-driven, not responsibilities-driven. Being responsible for a set of duties or a group of people doesn't necessarily mean you were good at it or that you accomplished anything while you were responsible for them. Being responsible for something also sounds kind of passive. You want a word that indicates an action on your part. So, instead of being responsible for creating documentation, say that you led the writing and editing of technical documentation of all internal processes.

A "team player" is a nice thing to be, but I would venture to guess everyone thinks they are a team player (yet many times they're wrong). Don't tell a prospective employer that you are a team player -- instead, show him or her. Maybe you helped create an app for the accounting department of your company. Explain why that proved you were a team player, e.g., "Collaborated with accountants to determine what their needs were, communicated those expectations to the programming team, and in turn communicated their feedback."

Check all the "action" terms you use in your resume to make sure they're not vague. A trick you can use to see if your action terms are meaningful if to ask yourself if they all answer the question "How?" That is, if you're a team player, does your statement demonstrate how?

What are some other resumes words that you think are meaningless?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

71 comments
mwendabai yeta
mwendabai yeta

I agree with the writer. I can relate and Its one of the biggest mistakes I have made. many thanks

garvanjones
garvanjones

one of the reasons people use these words in their resume is to safe on space otherwise you end up with loads of explanations and paragraphs about what you did, writing a resume is an art form almost, balancing conciseness, meaningfulness and showmanship, nonetheless i agree there are some words that are just throw away

captainanalog
captainanalog

Responsible for= I actually DID something for which I am accountable. I take credit, or blame for the results of my actions, a rare ocurrance these days. Is it any wonder that it means nothing to HR managers? Experienced at??? Another worthless concept. What you really want is some smiling intern who blindly accepts the way you do things. Team Player= A hard worker who will accept giving all credit, and bonuses to management for his hard work and innovation. Can't see why this would be meaningless. Multi-tasker= I can do five jobs for the price of one employee. Unfortunately none of these jobs will be done very well. We used to call that ADHD. Hard worker= I can be counted on to clean up your messes, as I wish for the project to succeed. In charge of= I am responsible, an antiquated concept. Educated= Meaningless. Once you graduate we can't use you as an intern. Intelligent= Dangerous

mac18999
mac18999

The length of experience in a particular job doesnt mean that your pay package is large. You need to balance the education and training with solid work experience

lassiter12
lassiter12

Remember that recruiters or HR people are often looking for something specific to their needs. Whether you use the terms "responsible for" or not, they may be looking for something specific. If they are looking for an IT manager, they may want to know how big and what kind of systems you managed and how many reported to you. Experienced in X may tell them whether you can program in a particular language or whether your experience is irrelevant to their system. I'm in favor of more rather than less. The higher you go on the food chain, the more likely they are to want to see your outstanding accomplishments. But a business with only a couple of dozen computers might find that intimidating and seek people comfortable and experienced at their level.

jeffatdell
jeffatdell

"award-winning" "total responsibility" for any idea, program or result (everything is collaborative in some way)

bluerandy
bluerandy

It seems that what will work in a resume depends on the person reading it. You could have two HR folks at the same company read the same resume. One tosses it into the trash and one forwards it onto the hiring manager. Just like a salesman, you have to know your audience (good luck with that). Is it some uptight old geezer who has been doing this for too long and is tired of the b.s.?, or some hip, type-A doofus who expects everybody to be a like him/her and dedicate their life to the job? It's mostly luck, I'm finding. That's why the shotgun-blast style of applying should also include using different styles of resume - it's a lot like fishing (what are they biting on today?)

wallingk
wallingk

These words are used as a starting point to a conversation whether on the phone or in an interview. Did your mother never tell you "Why would they buy the milk; when you've given them the whole cow?" Should these words be used with no further explination? No. Should you spell out ever job duty you've done in the past 5 - 10 years? No. That will get your resume tossed as fast as not using the correct key words for the specific job you want in your description. Tantalize the interviewer in to wanting to hear more with a few of these phrases. It could be the difference between getting a job you want that you may not specifically be qualified for but could learn in a short period of time. And, consider that leaving room for a conversation could lead to a, conversation. Maybe your personality will win them over enough to give you a chance. I've used those horrible phrases and have now been with that company, who had enough interest in me to have a conversation, for 7 years.

thincker
thincker

I think anyone who gives "professional" advice on career development should post their resume and job history along with their advice --- that way we can all gauge their "experience".

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

in bringing IT techs into the real err rest of the world. The larger message she brings forth -and a very valuable one- is in being aware of how best to quantify your past accomplishments. As a tech this would read something akin to... As lead (insert tile here) at (such and such company) I implemented a (policy or suggestion) that resulted in down-time of less than (percentage) which was a significant improvement from (whatever it was before). Now I am sure I may likely get picked to pieces with this example. I simply am trying to point out that a closed mind accepts nothing.

ColinFromTheCrypt
ColinFromTheCrypt

Not a bad article for newbies and novices. Points them in the right direction. I don't know what life's like in your neck of the woods but here in Oz the resume is only part of the process to get the job interview. And in many cases the job description includes the terms used in Toni's article, so it's an advantage to reiterate some of that to show the HR screening droids that you've paid attention to their criteria. I still enjoy reading these type of discussions, but my CV/Resume will keep a couple of instances of "..experienced in". After all, there is so-o-o much to tell! :)

prontocesped
prontocesped

Thank you for the examples!! What if I replace EXPERIENCED in.. for IN CHARGE OF... As an assistant is hard to give accomplishments. It is an everyday work ASSISTING someone ..to do their jobs.. I only did presentations for example to 1 boss - I dont have projects or sales volumes...or anything that can be put in numbers! -- Thank you

GreatChanakya
GreatChanakya

Agree with the author and others who have similar opinion. It doesn't mean much to the hiring manager, if the resume strictly focuses on using buzzwords and doesn't elaborate on the "how" part. But how far one can go on the how part? I see two issues: 1) If the resume has to emphasize on the how part then there is a danger of the resume running into multiple pages...and potential become a bible if you have a decade or more years of experience. 2) A lot of recruiters and career-guidance individuals suggest candidates to use these buzzwords so the recruiting tools can match & pickup your resume. Agree that one has to strike a balance between the two but....what is the purpose of an interview? A resume cannot & wouldn't include everything about a person's professional life in this dynamic environment. Would it be better if the hiring manager & interview panel get the candidate talking into what and how he or she achieved those accomplishments? And what is the meaning of those words? The really issue is that hiring managers need the best candidate on earth that can start doing magic from day one but don't have time or expertise to evaluate a candidate. I guess when the economy & job market is bad, all these things get greater importance than the candidate itself!!

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Removed as it was too unique and easy to Google.

Jeff West
Jeff West

What about the places where resumes are parsed by software before a human even sees it? You HAVE to have the proper buzzwords or terminology otherwise it just gets kicked out without being read by a real person.

SirVirtual
SirVirtual

I read then re-read this article and it occurs to me that Toni should not be writing for technical people (IMHO). I can't "quantify" my dollars and cents value to the company because I'm so engrossed in learning Exchange 2010 or Citrix XenApp 6.5 or Server 2012!! BUT, when a server or servers go down, when a network communication is lost......one guess who's phone lights up? Guess who has people lining up at my cube? Yep Toni - I keep things running and, if possible, keep them from ever going down. I supposed that is an "accomplishment" but most who read resumes don't have a clue about this.

kaur
kaur

Turn this around and apply to most job ads and you'll see the same phrases so people respond in kind.

jadkaizen
jadkaizen

@Toni Bowers: The use of "kind of" in the line "Being responsible for something also sounds kind of passive" is in itself passive. Or was that your intention? It would be better stated as, "Stating that one was responsible for something also sounds passive."

security101
security101

I find most of the articles on how to build the "perfect" resume laughable. A resume is first and foremost an avenue to get you in the door for an interview. Managers are so busy these days that they take a cursory glance at a resume, assure it meets the minimum qualifications for the job and then makes a snap decision on whether to interview the applicant. Of course, grammar and spelling are HUGELY important, but whether you use the words "responsible" or "collaborated" doesn't mean squat, in most cases. We all haven't worked projects that meant millions of dollars in new revenue to a company; many of us are just extremely well-versed in keeping the day to day operations of a company running. Stop putting pressure on people to come up with these grandiose resumes. Shine in the interview... be matter of fact in your resumes. This is the kind of article that just encourages people to lie on their resumes, as it paints an unrealistic expectation of what a resume should be.

Eric_the_Viking
Eric_the_Viking

Who is to say these words are outdated, you have 2 pages max to tell the prospective employer about your working life, if you are responsible for things then you need to put responsible for and so and so on. If we listen to all the CV gurus who want to make money off the backs of the people who want to find work then a CV would consist of your name, oh and don't add abreviations it is pretentious you know.

Brian.Buydens
Brian.Buydens

I was once part of a group that built software for satellite phones, which means I could have been anything from the manager of the group to the person who cleaned fingerprints off of the computer screens.

justusdj
justusdj

If you're just starting out, you might have a small enough list of accomplishments to fit on a resume. Eventually, if you're actually accomplishing things in your job, you list of accomplishments will outgrow a manageable resume. That also may not display the wide range of things that you can do. Just because my major accomplishments revolve around architecture, might not mean that I can't write HTML. Accomplishments are good, but employers want to know what you CAN do to match you up with what they need done.

maj37
maj37

"Collaborated with accountants to determine what their needs were," Is this really any better, in my opinion collaborated is no better than responsible for the difference is, like someone else said, it is one of the current trendy words while responsible for is considered out of date. There still isnt really any solid information there about what you actually did. I mean seriously how did you collaborate, and doesn't everyone today collaborate, so big deal. Hiring managers must all be idiots the way you portray them.

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

When I first saw the title, I laughed. Made it sound as if there were actual meaningful words in resumes. You know, words that would guarantee getting an interview at least. Most people have about 2500 words in their vocabulary they share with others (speaking and writing). How each person use those words is one of the ways we try to distinguish amongst them and decide who might be the most useful (profitable) worker.

&ltDTECH;
&ltDTECH;

- Perseverance - Willing to deal with staff of all levels - Technical experience and how can it contribute to the job that is being applied for....etc..

pete
pete

The word is resumé - without that accent on th efinal 'e' it's a completely different word with a different meaning. Of course, over this side of the pond we call it a CV (curriculum vit??)...

DROCK#
DROCK#

And being a little less specific about knowing, responsibilities and team playing might be the difference between getting your foot in the door or left with no response

Bill_M.
Bill_M.

Well then I guess you should also add these in your list: 1. Multi-tasker 2. Hard-worker 3. In-charge of Otherwise, further elaboration would be necessary.

laman
laman

Totally wrong. There is nothing wrong to use all these 'Responsible for', 'Experience at', and 'Team Player', just that you also need to include some examples such as 'I am responsible for the re-structuring of our operation team, reducing the overtime work from 20 hours a month to less than 8 hours on average, saving more than $30,000 overtime payment.....'.

muppetbam
muppetbam

Surely these expressions are relative. Sometimes there appropriate, sometimes not. You can't really see what people are like until you employ them. If someone says they were responsible for something, your reference from their previous employer will verify whether these were fulfilled or not. Sometimes you just have to gauge it from the interview. If your a good interviewer, you will draw out the personality of the person and reveal what they are really like.

jsan2424
jsan2424

Right, and a few years from now we'll see posts like this saying that the stuff people put in resumes now is outdated and offer up yet a new nomenclature without which unemployment is assured.

whart57
whart57

If you manage a team then how can you demonstrate that your team was important to the company without saying what they did - and that dreaded phrase "responsible for" must come into it. Likewise if you have been in a role like Support where your successes aren't noticed but your failures damn well are - if you've done your job well there is little concrete to show for it and you are left with just being able to point out the area of the company where disasters were avoided. "Experienced in" also used to mean just that, but presumably word inflation means attending a course is now experience. However it's not always possible to give real examples, if your work has been in areas of jealously guarded IP then you risk breaking confidentiality agreements by being specific. The context in which these terms are used matters

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

If you are overqualified for the small company, who cares if they feel your experience is intimidating? They'd be looking for the three line resume with high school, scouts and part time at McDonalds on it anyway, not going to pay for a qualified tech. If your resume is sensational, then you will be recognized by companies looking to pay for that experience. I think it's all relative. You can never over sell your skills though, unless you don't know how to sell them to begin with.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Knowing there are people like you in the world, offers great hope to people looking for work. Present enough information to create interest and wow them with achievements. The little details can get ironed out in an interview but the last thing I want to do in an interview, is explain why I am there to begin with. You couldn't possibly put enough info on a resume to eliminate all relevant questions.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

So any time you respond to a technical question on here, or offer advice in Q&A., you will respond with your resume and preamble to qualify your advice? What "experience: do you have that makes your question relevant? Why would anyone pay attention ?

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

First of all you are right and it's a pretty good example BUT..., you are also too passive. [i]As lead (insert tile here) at (such and such company) I implemented a (policy or suggestion) that resulted in down-time of less than (percentage) which was a significant improvement from (whatever it was before). [/i] Why would you describe ANYTHING as 'resulting in downtime'? Wouldn't it be better to say, 'resulted in 99.35% server reliability with a system that had only averaged 85% up time for the last 3 years. This saved the company a lot of time and resources that have since been focused toward......' Half empty vs half full. DON'T BE A TECH, BE A SALES PERSON!

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Experienced in and in charge of are two completely different things that wouldn't interchange. If you were in charge of something, why would you say you were experienced with it instead of saying you were in charge of it. More so, why say in charge of when you can say what happened as a result of you being in charge of it? Plenty of people are in charge of something, it doesn't mean they succeeded or had a clue what they were doing. For example: In charge of web deign vs Increase web traffic to 8,000 hits to 50,000 hits with 12,000 unique visitors each month. This increase in targeted visitors kept the sales team busy with strong leads, while increasing service revenue. If you don't have numbers, leave them out. The task and resulting success is what is really interesting after all, the numbers just add a bit of value. In the case of you doing presentations, were your presentations not used to close business? Did you ever build presentations targeted to a specific market segment and find it was successful? You have to think about the benefit of your efforts. You were hired for your skill set, you were used by that one boss for a very specific skill set that they saw great value in, what value did that boss find in your work, why didn't the receptionist do presentations for him? JUST like selling a product, you have to sell yourself, BE a salesman, even if it means reading a few sales books to get the right, positive words and terminology into your head. I find most job hunters write a resume like writing a spec sheet, you can bullet point the whole thing and it reads the same...just information. People BUY benefits, not features. Companies HIRE based on benefits, not features. Your skill set is merely a list of features, find the benefits that your skills offered the company and sell them instead.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

A few years ago sites started popping up where they leak the company's buzzword list. people just bought a subscription and peppered their resumes and found amazing success with it. Recruiters then started to ask companies to PLANT specific buzzwords, unrelated to the job really, just to find out who has been buying the buzz lists. Any company that STILL thinks they are clever enough to weed out resumes via buzzword searches are completely out of the loop and not worth working for anyway. Another angle http://www.npr.org/2013/02/28/173122980/job-applicants-are-wary-of-firms-resume-sorting-software

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

"A resume is first and foremost an avenue to get you in the door for an interview. Managers are so busy these days that they take a cursory glance at a resume, assure it meets the minimum qualifications for the job and then makes a snap decision on whether to interview the applicant." And that's EXACTLY why a compelling opening statement is effective. I posted a few lines from a friend's resume, a copy writer, and you would have read it in detail if it was 10 pages. It was like reading a motivational book, captivating in fact! I deleted it though as it was so unique, copying just on or two lines had Google popping it up as the #1 hit. If you think for a split second that a simple attention grabbing resume will get you in the door, you better be one hell of a copy writer. "Stop putting pressure on people to come up with these grandiose resumes. Shine in the interview... be matter of fact in your resumes." Missing the point? You can't "shine in the interview" if your resume isn't unique and simply DRAWS someone into reading it in detail. If you have a 'matter of fact' approach, you better be sure that your skill set is so unique and unmatched that the reviewer is amazed, in order to GET that interview for you to shine in to begin with. There's no need to LIE about anything, just learn how to write and how to SELL YOURSELF. The interview is for negotiating and closing a deal, not getting past the secretary's desk. Finding a job is no different than selling a product, in this case, yourself. You have to either get to the top contact right away and PITCH THE BUGGER, or you have to get past the gatekeeper (secretary/HR) and then go and pitch the boss. If you think for a split second that you can write a resume, the way techs write brochures, you are in for a shocker. Techs write technical information, I have yet to see a tech write a proper brochure that actually SELLS something as opposed to just being informational, to the point....matter of fact. Without a proper presentation, you wont get past the secretary, you won't see the boss and you won't be "SHINING" for anyone in person.

justusdj
justusdj

If your references are the same as your LinkedIn endorsers, how is that worthless?

mckinnej
mckinnej

You're right and it was a nice try, but your accented character didn't make it. On my browser your post says "resum", which IMHO is worse than giving in to the flaws of technology and just using "resume". At least my spell checker doesn't freak out. :) It's the same problem with "cafe". Hardly anyone writes it with the accent, but we know how to say it. However, on a hardcopy resume (or CV in your case), I would make sure those details are covered.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Seems like [i] "I led the team for the re-structuring of our operation, reducing the overtime work from 20 hours a month to less than 8 hours on average, saving more than $30,000 overtime payment.....'. "[/i]- sounds better to me. I tend to agree with the author on this - If you want your resume to stand out, using tired old euphemisms will not garner you notice.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Few previous employers will offer any job reference beyond date hired and date terminated. The immediate supervisor may choose to do so, but will usually do so as an individual and not as a representative of the company. Too much risk of lawsuits, dontchakno?

nvgtoga02
nvgtoga02

Interesting: so, do you think things don't change or do you think things shouldn't change? Either way, of course you are wrong. Things will change and very likely they will change faster than you think. My guess is resumes will soon be nothing more than interesting antiques from a time when employers did not have more accurate measurement tools, like Virtual Job Tryouts. Likewise, college degrees, long considered a bastion of the resume, will finally mutate into something meaningful to an employer, probably replaced by certification systems that measure recent and relevant academic knowledge of a specific desirable and applicable subject area. Everything points to this....but maybe you're right. Maybe nothing will change....

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

Or add to that, 'site inflation.' There have been several recent sets of articles/comments about LinkedIn - the once useful professional site, pre-social networking. The current move of 'endorsing' others for often-phantom skills in hope of similar endorsements in return makes use of the site as a reference on a resume a bit of a hazard.

bob.estes
bob.estes

I think that saying that you "managed a team that did something specific..." or "lead a team that.." is always go going to be better than saying "responsible for something vague..." Likewise, even if you are in support, reference quantifiable measurements of success "lead the systems support team that provided 99.99% system availability, meet 100% of service level agreements, and reduced mean time of problem resolution by 35%"

rafezetter
rafezetter

From personal experience sometimes all you get is: "Here's the problem...fix it - I can't tell you how, because if I knew, you wouldn't be here"... That's essentially how I got my last job - retail management wasn't even my previous field, I had to learn stuff; and set up stuff, from scratch, but that's one of my many talents, I can join the dots when others can't see how. How would you otherwise describe that, or should I use the above paragraph, adding to the aforementioned novella instead?

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