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Hiring Challenged? Sift for These 17 Worst (and 15 Best) Résumé Phrases

To find ideal employees, these key phrases can help inform your decision.

"I'm a real go-getter who always thinks outside the box, demonstrates thought leadership, and proactively motivates myself!" If this sentence made you cringe, you're not alone. These phrases come from the new CareerBuilder survey on the best and worst résumé terms.

The company surveyed 2,201 hiring managers and HR people to come up with the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

The Worst Résumé Terms

1.      Best of breed: 38 percent

2.      Go-getter: 27 percent

3.      Think outside of the box: 26 percent

4.      Synergy: 22 percent

5.      Go-to person: 22 percent

6.      Thought leadership: 16 percent

7.      Value add: 16 percent

8.      Results-driven: 16 percent

9.      Team player: 15 percent

10.   Bottom-line: 14 percent

11.   Hard worker: 13 percent

12.   Strategic thinker: 12 percent

13.   Dynamic: 12 percent

14.   Self-motivated: 12 percent

15.   Detail-oriented: 11 percent

16.   Proactively: 11 percent

17.   Track record: 10 percent

The Best Résumé Terms

1.      Achieved: 52 percent

2.      Improved: 48 percent

3.      Trained/Mentored: 47 percent

4.      Managed: 44 percent

5.      Created: 43 percent

6.      Resolved: 40 percent

7.      Volunteered: 35 percent

8.      Influenced: 29 percent

9.      Increased/Decreased: 28 percent

10.   Ideas: 27 percent

11.   Negotiated: 25 percent

12.   Launched: 24 percent

13.   Revenue/Profits: 23 percent

14.   Under budget: 16 percent

15.   Won: 13 percent

Considering, according to this survey, the average hiring manager spends two minutes looking at a résumé (and other studies have shown the time to be 45 seconds), it may be worth your time to rewrite your résumé to reflect what hiring managers want to see.

But, if you're the one doing the hiring, stop and realize your own biases and maybe vow to spend a bit more time looking at résumés. After all, it's not about what the résumé says (unless you're hiring professional résumé writers); it's about what the person can do for you.

Though you may want to immediately reject someone because he or she threw a word like synergy around, that might not always be the best course. Take a closer look and see what the person has really accomplished. After all, your goal should be to hire the best people for your business, and that may mean people who aren't the world's best résumé writers.

Last updated: Mar 14, 2014


Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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