The words to delete from your resume ASAP

March 10, 2015


What are your least favorite resume words? My own is “utilize” — there isn’t a single instance I can think of where it would be inappropriate to substitute “use.” Every time I read “utilize” on a resume I always feel like the writer is trying to be unnecessarily fancy.

Answer below by Erin Berkery-Rovner, career advisor and former recruiter.

Various. It is single-handedly the most useless adjective on a resume — it essentially boils down to saying nothing new about the nouns that it prefaces.

Worked on various projects.
Held various jobs over the course of the internship.
Used various word processing programs.
Wrote various words on my resume to sound important.

In almost any example I can think of, it replaces the word ‘different’ — people are using it to demarcate separate projects they worked on or duties they performed. Except if you were to write the word ‘different’ instead of various, your resume would come off like a sullen teen:

I worked on a few different projects, but whatever, they weren’t really descriptive, just various.

I really think that if you are going to use the word various, you should delete it. The difference between this sentence: Worked on various projects, and this one: Worked on projects, is nothing.

Nobody read the second sentence and thought, “Well, they didn’t specifically say that they worked on different disparate projects, so despite the plural nature of the word projects, I’m going to assume that they only worked on one project…” And really with various, why bother? You should be specific or go home. Either tell me how many projects you worked on or what they were.

Let’s face it, do you want to hire this gal: Worked on four monthly projects with collaborative teams. I have no idea what she’s doing except working with people in a project-based environment, but it’s still it’s better than this: Worked on various projects.

I delete various from almost every resume I review, and I have not yet encountered a sentence that didn’t make logical and grammatical sense without it.

Answer below by Quora users Shefaly Yogendra and Sang Young Noh.

Here are some words I see often and find useless: visionary, expert, futurist, seasoned, change agent and results-oriented. A few more to add to the list: innovative, creative, energetic and out-of-the-box.

Quora user Jim Broiles adds the word very to this list: ‘Very’ should be banned from use in resumes or any kind of professional communication. It adds nothing to the meaning of the communication and only serves to expose one’s penchant for hyperbole.

Answer by Quora user Brian Hennessy.

This is an easy one for me — any derivative of the word ‘synergy.’ Synergies, synergic and synergism (which actually sounds a little profane). This was actually a clever buzzword about ten years ago, as I would often hear it at pretentious cocktail parties and trade conventions. Then I saw it popping up in just about every context on every resume that I would come across. Now it just makes me roll my eyes.

Often called upon to be responsible for the synergy of department resources.
Consistently executed the synergy of company directives.
Developed, managed and cultivated the synergy of all employees.

It’s blatantly overused and needs to be at the top of the list.

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