IT careers: 8 words and phrases to stop using on your resume

Are you a jack of all trades or a quick learner? Watch out: A job hunter's resume needs to show, not tell, say recruiters and IT hiring managers.
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Your resume may be the first thing a hiring or recruiting manager sees. So when it comes to standing out from the pack, every word counts. Yet even seasoned IT leaders may be tempted to use some of the same phrases, expressions, and statements they always have.

The resume’s job is to communicate your value. Keep that in mind when you find yourself calling yourself a team player, listing responsibilities, or bragging about those top-notch communication skills.

Resume tips for job hunters: 8 phrases to avoid

Here are words and phrases that may cause the reader’s eyes to glaze over – along with what you should articulate instead. Consider this expert advice from recruiters and hiring managers about what works:

1. Stop using: Team player and quick learner

If you find yourself writing your resume the way you think a resume is supposed to be written, stop. Some overused words you should use minimally or avoid entirely include participated, evaluated, worked with, part of a team that, team player, and quick learner, says Keith Sims, president of Integrity Resource Management and a member of executive recruiting network Sanford Rose Associates.

Try instead:

“Eliminate and replace meaningless and overused text with value statements,” advises Sims. Here are some active verbs to consider:

  • Delivered
  • Designed
  • Created 
  • Implemented
  • Improved
  • Enhanced
  • Eliminated
  • Replaced

If you feel compelled to describe yourself as a quick learner, make sure to immediately follow with a strong, specific example. Rather than calling yourself a team player, consider taking credit for team deliverables, using active verbs.

[ Want more advice? Read also: How to get a job during COVID-19: 9 smart tips. ]

2. Stop using: Jack of all trades (JOAT)

“Typically, when someone puts this on their resume it shows they may have come from a small IT environment and wore many hats in their role. People use JOAT to explain that they have experience in many different areas of both high and low skill,” says Jenna Spathis, practice manager, enterprise systems at technology staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network. “Using this phrase on your resume as a catch-all to explain your experience is nondescript and passive.”

Try instead:

It’s still important to highlight the fact that you have multiple skills; the best IT professionals do. ”Instead of using this umbrella term or other qualitative phrases, use quantitative data,” Spathis says. “Listing out tasks in detail, like ‘migrated 80 end users from Windows 7 to Windows 10,’ will give hiring managers a better idea of your experience and ultimately help tell your story better.”

3. Stop using: Results

To be clear, it’s important to communicate the actual results you’ve delivered in previous roles. But phrases like “results-focused,” “results-oriented,” or “results-generating” are empty.

Try instead:

“Make sure you always include recent, relevant results in each employment section and summary at the top of your resume,” says Lisa Rangel, a former recruiter and managing director of Chameleon Resumes.

4. Stop using: Lists of trendy technology terms

You’re familiar with Big Data? AI? RPA? Cloud? Get in line.

You’re familiar with Big Data? AI? RPA? Cloud? Get in line. “‘Used BIG DATA to solve longstanding company issues’ is a real example from a resume,” says Sims.

Try instead:

“If you are working with big data or any of these trendy terms, then you are working with a product and solving a specific problem,” Sims says. Be specific about the technologies you are using and note the outcome or impact that you delivered using these capabilities. Sims offers this example: “Used Splunk to aggregate data from SAP and eliminate previously unknown security risks across all corporate operations, completely eliminating audit risks and protecting shareholder value.”

[ Which IT jobs will position you well for the future? Read also: 5 flourishing and 5 fading IT careers and 8 IT jobs in flux. ]

5. Stop using: Outdated technology

If you’re a skilled IT leader or manager, you’ve worked with a long list of technologies, some of which most enterprises no longer find valuable. Leave those behind, advises Spathis. “Hiring managers want candidates who are forward-thinking and trying to learn the most recent tech releases.” 

Try instead:

Explain your experience using only the most recent technology. “Be detailed and include the different versions and systems you are native with and the projects you’ve done with them,” Spathis says.

6. Stop using: Good communication/good communicator

Nearly everyone is guilty of putting this on their resume. Delete it. “No one would put ‘bad communication’ on their resume, so including filler phrases like these are undemonstrative,” Spathis says.

Try instead:

These phrases won’t help you get an interview, says Spathis, but including details on your responsibilities and projects that called for communication skills will. Use your precious resume real estate to show, not tell, your leadership and communication prowess.

7. Stop using: "Responsible for"

This is “a worn-out phrase that tells a reader that a job responsibility is coming, but no outlined accomplishment depicting how well one did this responsibility,” Rangel says. “It’s a bloated phrase filled with hot air and no substance.”

Try instead:

Write an actual achievement pertaining to a responsibility rather than the responsibility itself, Spathis advises. “Try to avoid this phrase and opt for action verbs instead to explain what you achieved. So, instead of writing ‘responsible for Office 365,’ write ‘deployed Office 365 to 150 users.’ The more detail you can include on your resume, the more likely you are to stand out.”

8. Stop using: Over/more than 25/10 years of experience

“This is a phrase that often gets used by senior executives and professionals who then get upset that age may be being used against them,” Rangel says. “Don’t lead with the chin.”

Try instead:

Focus on the value you’ve added rather than your longevity in the IT field. “Frankly, relevant accomplishments are relatively ageless, so lead with those instead,” Rangel says.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.