7 Words You Can’t Say in a Resume

Every industry has its lingo and its culture. Some words work, and some will, frankly, get you blacklisted or banned. Resume writing is no different. Expert resume writers understand that powerful language conveys powerful meaning, whereas bland, dull words do not capture anyone’s–much less a leader’s–brand. Your ability to convey on paper what makes you special, unique, talented, growth-focused, and brilliant might be the fulcrum on which a hiring team’s decision rests. Take advantage of meaningful language and eliminate that which does not serve your resume’s goal: To ensure that your selection for an interview is an unequivocal slam dunk.

Thus, the rules for good writing, especially resume writing, hinge on the principle of “show, don’t tell” and should clearly demonstrate

  • what you have done
  • why your experience is phenomenal
  • how you can hit the ground running on the first day of your new job.

You’re an extraordinary candidate: Present your career history in extraordinary terms!

Want to amaze your reader? AVOID using these 7 words in your resume—choose action-oriented, powerful verbs that demonstrate why you’re the best person for the job.

1. Responsible for

Responsibility is a good thing. Taking responsibility is also a good thing. Passively suggesting that you were somehow involved in some activity at your place of work? Not such a good thing. Explain how you project managed a sales project yielding 35% ROI, jump-started new a new promotional technique, or delivered top-line revenue increases.

2. Managed

To manage a task means to control it, guide it, or, in the case of people, coach or mentor them. To manage to do something, however, implies just getting by, a capability that no job candidate wishes to offer a hiring manager who doesn’t have time to waste on apparent slackers.

3. Acted as

This one makes one wonder if the candidate was really doing X or Y, or was he simply acting that way. Substitute engaged as, in the case of a candidate’s being asked to do something apart from his standard job description (think: consulting engagement).

4. Grew

Flowers grow, and gardeners grow flowers. I tend to think that if it’s not organic with stems full of leafy greens, it’s not going to grow. Try increased or generated. Even enlarged will work, in the case of territories or markets. Developed is a good possibility as well.

5. Was involved

Like “responsible for,” this one brings to mind someone who stood and watched from the sidelines. Spice up your accomplishments by telling the recruiter or hiring manager how you identified a new sales opportunity, introduced a new method of communicating across silos, or piloted an investigative project that ultimately yielded $5 million in new business.

6. Brought

“Brought” implies hand delivery, but your resume is a professional, not personal, document. Give displayed, demonstrated, arranged, or exhibited a try to emphasize your strengths and accomplishments.

7. Assisted

Even if you think you only helped to accomplish a project, demonstrate through careful and strong writing how you teamed with executive management or collaborated with division director to introduce a new product or process.

Not sure whether you have adequately messaged your meaning or thoughtlessly swallowed a thesaurus? Ask a trusted colleague, mentor, or friend whether the statements in your resume successfully convey your expertise.

Still not sure how to choose your words? Ask an executive resume writer for the right language to captivate future hiring team.


Updated August 2020. With grateful homage to George Carlin, RIP.