Tech & Work

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?


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.

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