Job Search Advice

Do’s and Don’ts of Resume Buzzwords (with Examples)

Generic and overused buzzwords can filter your resume out of the running, and make it hard to get hired! We teach you how to use resume buzzwords correctly.

Tanishi Naik
Published: (Updated: ) - 7 min read

Photo by THE 9TH Coworking / Unsplash

Writing a resume is difficult enough on its own, and worrying about what kind of language to use or avoid can feel like extra work, but it’s important to avoid resume cliches and buzzwords that might instantly signal to a hiring manager that you should not be hired!

Over 2,000 hiring managers indicated that overusing buzzwords in an applicant’s resume were disengaging, but the key is not to avoid buzzwords but to learn how to use these words to write a more straightforward and successful resume that showcases your unique skillset.

  • The problem with overused resume buzzwords is that they’re usually vague, don’t tell an interviewer anything important about the candidate, and take up too much space in a resume
  • To use resume buzzwords correctly, connect buzzwords to an example that will show an interviewer how exactly you embody that buzzword
  • Check out the bottom of this article for examples of resume points loaded with cliched buzzwords turned into a sentence an interviewer will actually read!
Looking for more resume advice? Here are some tips on the most important skills to include in your resume.

What does a resume ‘buzzword’ mean, and are resume buzzwords bad?

Resume buzzwords, also known as power words and action verbs, are words used to describe or sum up a candidate. Common buzzwords are adjectives like “detail-oriented” or “dynamic.” These words are commonly found on resumes, and while they’re not bad to use, they certainly get overused, and over time, hiring managers look out for these terms as a ‘red flag’ for candidates.

Why? Because although as a candidate you might think that these words help to save space and time when writing a resume, and are a convenient way to summarize who you are, these terms are actually vague and don’t actually provide the interviewer with any real information about you.

When used incorrectly, and overused, these words:

  • Tend to take up too much space in a resume
  • Signal to a hiring manager that you’re not being authentic about who you are
  • Make you seem unoriginal
  • Don’t actually say why you should get the job

Instead, that space could be used to showcase your experiences, your unique skills, and why you should get hired.

How to avoid resume buzzwords

Use specific examples

When using a power word to describe yourself in your resume, use the space on your resume to explain how you are embodying that buzzword.

Describe impact and past experience when using a buzzword to explain why you’re adding that word to your resume, and why your interviewer should know this about you. Being specific and explaining the buzzword demonstrates your value as a candidate.

➡️ Being specific and explaining your buzzword eliminates vagueness from your resume. Adding context to any buzzword you use is what will give your buzzword meaning!

Use language from the job description

When writing your resume, and even a cover letter, reference the kind of language used in the description of the job you’re applying for to show why you’re a match for this position in particular.

As long as you follow the above tip of connecting these buzzwords to past experiences, interviewers won’t feel like you’re just copying their job description, instead, they’ll see that they found their perfect candidate!

➡️ Using language and words from the job description connects you to the position and makes you more relevant to the role.

Every job posting on Simplify includes a list of desired requirements and a job description for you to conveniently reference! 

Be honest

Buzzwords being so commonly used across resumes may tempt you to use and throw into your resume, but this takes up valuable space in your resume and are by no means a requirement to include unless they are actually true to you and your experiences.

Being honest might even result in you using uncommon buzzwords, and this is a plus! Interviewers are more likely to take notice of unique and standout candidates than someone who’s following the trend of using overly common power words.

➡️ Being truthful about the buzzwords that describe you prevents cliches and unnecessary jargon.

Examples of common resume buzzwords + what to use instead

Don’t use creative ➡️ Use resourceful

  • Saying you’re creative is too unspecific, and can even be out of place if the posting doesn’t really call for a creative individual
  • Instead, saying you’re resourceful demonstrates you know where to look for answers and you know how to use your environment to your advantage; you will positively come off as an out-of-the-box thinker

Don’t use passionate ➡️ Use ambitious or eager

  • Being a passionate person is great, but if you don’t say how your passion is relevant or what makes you so passionate about this job, this word feels out of place and ultimately pointless
  • Instead, say ambitious or eager to show your excitement for:
  1. The position
  2. To learn new skills
  3. The field you’re applying for
  4. Advancing in this role

Don’t use detail-oriented ➡️ Use analytical

  • Saying you’re detail-oriented is unnecessary because hiring managers are typically trained to be able to tell from a candidate’s resume and interview skills if they’re actually detail-oriented
  • What being detail-oriented means is that you’re an analytical individual, a skill that is highly desired by most positions, and should be stated clearly

Don’t use professional ➡️ Instead of saying you’re a professional, say you’re a candidate or if you’re using this word to describe your mastery of a field or skill, reference your skill level and use novice, intermediate, or master

  • Saying you’re either a professional who is applying or a professional at a certain skill is something that is implied and expected of any employee
  • Just state your level of skill, resulting in a more effective description
  • Try using descriptors like you’re a “master coder looking for a challenge” or a “novice copywriter seeking a learning opportunity”
  • Bonus Tip: For positions that specifically mention that they’re looking for someone with 1-2 years of experience, or a senior manager, stating your expertise like this will also help the hiring manager see if you fit the profile of who they’re hiring for
Describing your level of skill tells an interviewer a lot, including where you are in your journey, what you’re looking for out of this role, and the specific skill you’re bringing to the job.

Other key ways to improve buzzwords

Use quantifiable words and metrics

Support your buzzwords by pairing them with quantifiable terms and metrics from your past experiences. This not only gives concrete evidence to support the claims about what a great employee you are, but shows the impact of your work, and what you’re willing to bring to your new job.

These resumes are prioritized for the strong level of clarity and information they provide to a hiring manager.

⚠️ Metrics could look like user statistics, click rates, profit generation, time saved, or any other positive outcome from projects that you’ve worked on.

If you’re a problem-solver, you should discuss what problem you solved and what the result was.

🤔 Did you save your colleagues' or users' time by streamlining a workflow? Did you reduce bugs and fix commonly reported user errors?

Ask yourself these kinds of questions and reflect on the impact of your work to guide your use of the right buzzwords.

Passive voice vs. Active voice

Avoid using your buzzwords in sentences that are less confident and more personal.

Buzzwords are commonly found being used in sentences like “I lead an organized team” or “I’m a professional in marketing.”

Although these two sentences are trying to show that a candidate is either an organized leader or that they’re an intermediate in the marketing industry, they’re missing a ‘so what?’ (context) to the buzzwords, and are informal in tone.

Instead, try using buzzwords in sentences that are passive-action phrases. These sentences sound more confident and usually provide more information about yourself ⤵️

The two sentences from before sound better as “Lead a team to develop and launch 3 Android apps” and “Created and managed 35+ marketing campaigns using Salesforce and MailChimp over 3 years.”

These improvements make a resume rife with information and make any candidate look more credible.

Use industry-specific words

Buzzwords that are generic will be overlooked, but using relevant industry terms demonstrates why your experience is relevant to the position, and shows how knowledgeable you are.

Research trends in the industry you’re applying for to learn more about the kinds of words you could use in your resume, but be careful not to be dishonest or use terms you know nothing about.

Job descriptions will usually mention software or projects they want you to work on. Reference industry terms having to do with the asks of the description, and you’ll help a hiring manager see what you know about the job.

Improving buzzwords is about showing the results you can deliver, establishing your credibility, and separating yourself from other candidates.

Examples of how to use buzzwords correctly

1. Marketing Example - How to cut out generic cliched buzzwords

Don’t use: “I’m detail-oriented and I have a strong work ethic”

Use something like: “Managed 12 newsletter campaigns using Asana and Notion while simultaneously organizing and launching 10 webinar campaigns”

This example:

  • Shows how strong your work ethic is
  • Has a quantifiable metric supporting your claim
  • References industry-specific terms, like project management tools, that are desired in business, and the kind of marketing you have previous experience with
  • Shows you must also have been organized and analytical to take on this degree of work at the same time

2. Tech Example - When you’re trying to show you can both work in a team and independently or as a leader

Don’t say: “I’m both a team player and a leader”

Instead say: “Lead research to solve an application bug causing crashes for 20% of users and worked on a team to collaboratively launch the Patch 1.0.0 software fix.”

This example:

  • Shows how exactly you’re both a team player and a leader
  • Has a quantifiable result from your work
  • Demonstrates the kind of industry work you are capable of, including research and software development

3. Writer/Artist Example - How to properly reference an award in your resume

Don’t stop at: “Award-winning writer”

Explain: “Wrote a collection of essays on public policy and governance, winning the 2023 Pulitzer Prize”

This example:

  • Demonstrates what you can do about achievements like hackathons, scholarships, or awards that are relevant to mention
  • Explains the descriptor and makes it relevant to the posting
  • References industry-specific terms for an individual interested in public policy and political science
  • Demonstrates the candidate's strong writing skills
  • Bonus Tip: Students are familiar with writing well in a short period of time, and often will scholarships for their writing. You can mention this type of work to showcase you have fast writing skills and research skills – These skills are valued by many positions!
When applying to your dream job, you want to have the right resume, so use the tips above to avoid overused and generic buzzwords, and instead apply with an informative and unique resume that shows exactly who you are and why you should be hired. Start applying today using Simplify to get matched with your dream job ASAP!