As a recent high-school or college graduate, you may have little or no experience. This is why it’s critical that the experience you do have is presented on your resume in a way that makes an impact. Most prospective employers won’t consider moving forward with an applicant whose resume appears sparse, weak, or not compelling. What can you do? Avoid overused or weak language and instead, convey your experience in a way that shows off the work you’ve done. Use these quick fixes to transform your resume from dull to polished.
Examples of words and phrases that don’t belong on your resume and what to use instead.
1st Person/Personal Pronouns: The first-person pronoun “I” Is implied and does not belong on a resume. Using it is repetitive and takes up space. Instead, start statements with an action verb. Use: Researched data about city demographics. NOT I researched data about city demographics.
Responsible for/Duties included: These phrases are passive and overused. Everyone is responsible for something; everyone has duties. Using action verbs and being specific draws greater interest. Instead of: Responsible for handing out shoes and cleaning bowling balls, use Performed customer service by providing customers with the correct shoe selection.
Assisted/Helped: This can appear vague or passive. Although there are instances when this is appropriate, use it sparingly. Instead, describe the specifics of what you achieved to provide more insight into your abilities. Instead of: Assisted with research regarding mental health policies in the state during Covid, use Gathered information about state policies implemented from a legislative standpoint on mental health among youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Familiar with: This doesn’t tell the reader much. Specifying your experience or ability will better portray your skill level. Instead of: Familiar with disabilities, be specific about your knowledge: Coached individuals with developmental disabilities to compete in the 2019 regional Special Olympic Games.
Highly qualified: While you may think using this term will get you a call, employers may it as a red flag if your claim isn’t backed up by support. This should be used only in instances where you have a history of experience or professional credentials. If you worked at a lab one summer, saying Highly qualified to perform common lab techniques could be misleading. Instead, factually state your qualifications: Equipped to perform gel electrophoresis with supervision.
Hard worker: Do not list this as part of your skill set. You are expected to be hardworking! Instead, think about what particular area in which your hard work has paid off. Weave language into your Experience section that shows off this skill. For example: Volunteered to work overtime to ensure meeting project deadline.
Enjoy working with people or People-oriented: This is a phrase that almost everyone uses when they are trying to show that they can work collaboratively. Most jobs expect you to work with people, so specify what makes your communication skills more impressive than another applicant’s. Instead of: Enjoy working with people or Great at group projects, be specific: Achieved the completion of a major food pantry project by efficiently collaborating with other students and community members.
Taking the time to review and improve the wording on your resume will pay off. Remember that the employer doesn’t know you yet, and their first impression of you is your resume. It is your first chance to introduce yourself and the key to making a memorable first impression.