The 10 Absolute Worst Buzzwords to Put on a Resume

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Are you a responsible, innovative expert who’s driven but patient? You and everybody else. Social networking site LinkedIn revealed the 10 most overused buzzwords of 2013 by its 259 million members. If you’re trying to stand out on the website, or on a resume, these are the words to avoid:

  1. Responsible

  2. Strategic

  3. Creative

  4. Effective

  5. Patient

  6. Expert

  7. Organizational

  8. Driven

  9. Innovative

  10. Analytical

This is the fourth year the company has revealed the most-used words. “Innovative” is the worst offender, making the list all four years. “Organizational,” “analytical,” and “effective” are also regular inclusions that are unlikely to catch an employer’s attention.

LinkedIn has some recommendations on how to craft a more engaging profile. If the opposite of your descriptive word is obviously negative (i.e. ineffective, impatient), bosses probably assume you have this skill already. Specificity also helps in a resume or LinkedIn profile—if you describe your accomplishments in detail, these more generic attributes will be self-evident. Gathering endorsements and recommendations for your profile can also help show that other people believe these words describe you accurately.

At the very least, bust out the thesaurus if you’re desperate. That should provide a few creative alternatives to the word “creative.”


The only word I would avoid using is, "organizational," as it lacks meaning when used as a noun (I was organizational).  All of the other words are fine, on the condition that the candidate is able to substantiate using them.


I understand that everyone needs to differentiate yourself to have your resume stand out from the pile. Utilization of buzzwords I think are almost required though due to the way that resumes are screened, especially in larger companies. They are not screened by a human, they are electronically scanned for specific words or phrases. If you do not use the buzzwords that the recruiter plugs into the search your resume will never be seen. A good resume must be tailored to make it through the initial search then also must differentiate the individual.


What if you are a "Creative" Director???


Phew. Just sent off my CV to two potential employers, and am glad none of these words feature in it.


Not really "breaking news" here, but this post does draw attention to the critical need to differentiate yourself from the rest of the "herd" when it comes to job applications. And, as another commenter points out, it truly does depend on the situation as to whether or not these words can sound the death knell.

I urge/prod/goad my students to focus on real-life accomplishments in their various internships and/or part-time jobs. What did they do that made them different from the others who held similar positions? What gets them really excited when they're asked what it was about a position that they liked!

It's all about creative thinking and expression...tied in to the requirements of the specific position for which you're applying. Cookie-cutter resumes and cover letters don't work these days.

Be you. Be real. Be persuasive. Be hireable!!

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

Associate Professor, Communication/Public Relations

Curry College, Milton, MA


I don't think these are particularly bad, if you use them in the context, and avoid excessive repetition.  For instance, "Led a 25-person marketing team under a $10M advertising budget, with responsibility for developing driving brand and bottom line growth for major CPG brands including..."  I think where a lot of these verbs come under fire is in the summary or objective statement, where they're used as bland descriptors without any backup of their claims. In other words, can the words you're using to describe yourself just as easily describe someone else?  Or do they provide unique insight into your actual capabilities?  That's the question.


@DanaLeavyDetrickDana, Respectfully,

Your "..."Led a 25-person marketing team under a $10M advertising budget, with responsibility for developing driving brand and bottom line growth for major CPG brands including..." is not complete until you indicate an [approximate, if necessary] percentage of increase in market share and a resulting [approximate, if necessary] increase in $ profitability. This way your assertion is grounded and will also cause the Resume Reader to pick up the phone to ask you how you got to those metrics.

Just Sayin'...

Paul Forel