Anyone can string a few powerful words together on their resume to make themselves sound amazing, but employers aren’t looking for great writing skills (at least, not by themselves). Instead, they are looking for demonstrable results that illustrate a candidate’s ability to contribute to the company’s production. There are six seemingly powerful words that can actually hurt your resume, and here’s how to fix them.
Words That Can Hurt Your Résumé: Ambitious
All employers want an ambitious employee, right? Of course! Ambition is what creates managers out of service employees and executives out of managers; it’s what sets a company apart from its competition. But telling a prospective employer that you’re ambitious on your resume isn’t enough; in fact, it’s an empty claim. Instead, give specific examples about what you have done to illustrate your ambition.
Words That Can Hurt Your Résumé: Aggressive
The only resume for which I would use the word ‘aggressive’ is for an outside sales position, but even that is pushing it. Aggression is not necessarily a positive quality and can conjure up negative emotions in the employer. Instead of saying that you are aggressive, try mentioning specific instances in which you have pushed the envelope to make a positive change in your employment situation.
Words That Can Hurt Your Résumé: Competent
Competent is a mediocre word at best and says that you are just good enough to get the job done. It’s certainly better than incompetent, but it isn’t going to impress a prospective employer. To beef up your statements, give the hiring manager numerical values. For example, you might be competent at typing, but if you can type 75 WPM, you need to give that number.
Words That Can Hurt Your Résumé: Experienced
Employers view the word ‘experienced’ as a non-commital way to say you’ve done something before. Just because I’ve typed a table in Microsoft Excel doesn’t mean that I can accomplish anything with the program, and it doesn’t mean anything to the employer. Rather than saying you’re experienced with something, give the number of years you’ve used it or done it and your exact proficiency level.
Words That Can Hurt Your Résumé: Flexible
Employers love employees who are flexible but the word itself isn’t descriptive enough. I might mean that I’m willing to work long hours or perhaps I’m referring to my advanced Yoga posturing. Instead of saying that you’re ‘flexible’, tell the employer exactly what you’re willing to do in order to get the job done. For example: “I am willing to work evenings, weekends and holidays as necessary.”
Words That Can Hurt Your Résumé: Independent
To be independent can have a host of connotations, not all of which will be pleasing to a prospective employer. This word is vague at best and doesn’t give the concrete data necessary to impress. To fix this, you might want to add something to it: “I’m able to work independely without supervision as soon as I’ve mastered a skill.” You could also add that you enjoy working with others to offset the assumption that you’re a “lone wolf”.