Resume Buzzwords That Can Hurt You

Certain words can ruin your chances at getting an interview

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Photo: Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

When applying for a job, a cover letter and resume are your first opportunities to make a good impression on a potential employer. However, certain buzzwords can prevent you from getting a first interview.

“Resume buzzwords are commonly used words or phrases that hiring managers tend to see too much of,” said Linda Shaffer, chief people and operations officer at background screening company Checkr. In her six years at Checkr, Shaffer has conducted between 600 and 700 interviews and reviewed countless resumes.

In her experience, resume buzzwords are words that seem overused, vague, and lack originality. “The main buzzwords I'd rather not see on resumes are ‘hard worker,’ ‘team player,’ and ‘results-oriented,’” Shaffer said.

According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, two of five hiring managers reported spending less than a minute reviewing a resume. You don’t have much time to impress the hiring manager.

Key Takeaways

  • Resume buzzwords are commonly used words and phrases that hiring managers often see, made up of vague and unoriginal language.
  • Resume buzzwords don’t give potential employers insight into you as a job candidate.
  • A buzzword-heavy resume or cover letter could hurt your chances of getting an interview or job.
  • Avoid resume buzzwords such as “hard worker,” “team player,” and “results-oriented.” 

Hard Worker

Shaffer dislikes the term “hard worker” because all employers want hard-working employees—it’s a necessary quality for every position. “Most often than not, experience and accomplishments would speak for themselves,” she said. “Saying that you're hardworking feels like overselling yourself.”

Instead of calling yourself a “hard worker,” provide more concrete details about your work history and accomplishments. This gives the hiring manager a better sense of you as a job candidate.

Team Player

Since you’re applying to work at a company with other people, being a team player is an important quality for any job candidate to possess. But just calling yourself a “team player” doesn’t tell a hiring manager anything about what it’s like to work with you.

Shaffer encourages job candidates to include specific examples of being a team player, such as the types of teams you’ve worked on and how you’ve contributed. For example, set yourself apart from the competition by sharing examples of your involvement in a remote or hybrid team environment.


Always focus on showing, not telling, in your resume and cover letter.


According to Shaffer, job candidates should avoid referring to themselves as results-oriented because in many ways, it’s a given. “Of course, you want to achieve results in your career,” she said.

“Highlighting your successes and showing what you've accomplished is a much better way to demonstrate this quality than simply saying that you're results-oriented,” she said. But be careful not to exaggerate your previous experience. Overusing buzzwords can look like you’re trying to overstate your abilities.


Try to use numbers or other concrete measures of success to indicate your accomplishments.

7 More Resume Buzzwords To Avoid

Jobs website Careerbuilder surveyed hiring managers and found that these were the seven least-liked terms to spot on resumes:

  • Best of breed
  • Go-getter
  • Think outside the box
  • Synergy
  • Go-to person
  • Thought leadership
  • Value add


Many employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that attempt to match up your resume with the job’s requirements, right down to the words used. It’s another reason to cut the buzzword fluff—to ensure your resume includes words and phrases found in the job’s description. But don’t include keywords or phrases if you don’t have the described experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are buzzwords?

A buzzword can be a trendy term, part of a field or industry’s culture, or overused words or phrases that lack originality. Many resume buzzwords don’t give a sense of what you bring to the table as a job candidate. In other cases, judicious use of industry-specific buzzwords and acronyms may indicate you know your field. If an employer relies heavily on buzzwords in the job description, it may be uncertain about company needs or isn't being upfront about an unpleasant work environment.

Why can buzzwords hurt my chances at an interview or job?

Shaffer said she usually skims over buzzwords since they don’t give her any new information. “I'm much more likely to remember a candidate who highlights specific examples of their skills and experience,” she said. Using too many buzzwords can make it harder for you to land a job interview or get hired.

What are the main buzzwords to avoid?

Shaffer recommended avoiding the terms “hard worker,” “team player,” and “results-oriented” in your resume. Instead, demonstrate your experience and the results you’ve created at previous jobs. “If you want to catch the attention of a hiring manager, focus on using language that is clear, concise, and specific to your experiences and skills,” she said.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Careerbuilder. "The Truth About Lying on Resumes."

  2. Careerbuilder. "Which Resume Buzzwords To Include (and Which To Avoid)."

  3. The Ohio State University. "Avoid the Resume Black Hole by Understanding ATS."

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