When creating a resume, it’s easy to fall into the habit of using old-hat expressions. Here are 10 that have become meaningless and should be avoided at all costs.


I ran across a piece by the esteemed Liz Ryan, a 25-year HR veteran and former Fortune 500 VP, that just made me cringe with recognition. She wrote about those trite phrases that inevitably make their way into our resumes. It’s one of those things many of us do by rote without considering that they are red flags for, as Ms. Ryan puts it, the “vocabulary challenged.”

Before I list the phrases, let me explain a little about why they should be run out of town on a rail. Have you ever sat through a speech by a company executive who seems to communicate solely in business cliches? He’ll speak of synergy and paradigm shifts and value-added propositions until you want to impale yourself on the nearest sharp object. And the only value you take away from a speech like that is that you are, in fact, capable of a boredom-induced vegetative state.

Cliched forms of speech are crutches for the uncreative. And the frequency of their usage make them absolutely meaningless.

So do you want your resume to say, above everything else, that you are incapable of forming a new thought? No, you don’t. You also don’t want the people reviewing your resume to gloss over these trite phrases and not give you a chance. That’s why you should strike every occurrence of the following from your resume:

  • Results-oriented professional
  • Cross-functional teams
  • More than [x] years of progressively responsible experience
  • Superior (or excellent) communication skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Met or exceeded expectations
  • Proven track record of success
  • Works well with all levels of staff
  • Team player
  • Bottom-line orientation

Find better ways of saying these things. After all, just because you think of yourself as a results-oriented professional does not necessarily make it fact. Why not just list your actual results? You have a proven track record? Proven by whose standards? And if there is a “record” of it, why don’t you just give me its contents?

Met or exceeded expectations? Whose expectations? The guy down the street at the coffee shop? Tell me instead about the time you had to lead a project with a seemingly impossible timeline and budget.

I think you see where I’m going with this.

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