6 Resume Clichés Keeping You from Getting the Job

Candidates often feel like they are under scrutiny from potential employers — that is because they are. Their qualifications and experience are on display with each resume they send out. And they are lucky if those qualifications actually get reviewed by a hiring manager. 

To make matters worse, candidates know absolutely nothing about the person reading it on the other end.

That is why many jobseekers will throw in keywords or jargon or carefully curate a stiff, boring history that bears little resemblance to them at all. Others pad their resume with clichés that add nothing but more noise. It is all an effort to impress the mystery hiring manager and potential employer.

Do you feel that same sense of angst when you respond to an ad? You hope you have written the right things and that by some miracle your resume will find its way into the right hands. But mostly you just want someone to see the potential in you, and give you the chance to prove yourself.

Your resume is an employer’s first glimpse of the possibilities inherent in you. That is why it is important to steer clear of words that will only detract from the overall picture.

When I have the opportunity to review resumes at Aha! I am always on the lookout for the ones that that present a clear picture of what the candidate has done and where they are headed. Others stand out for different reasons — and not all of them are good.

To that end, I wanted to share a few resume clichés that our team has run across lately — and hope to not see again:

Ninja
Some candidates call themselves a “ninja” to indicate some mastery in their craft. But when I see this word in a resume, it gives me a negative mental picture and a strong reaction — and it makes me wonder what the person might be slicing and dicing. Unless you are truly are a superhero or applying for a position as a chef, please do not call yourself a ninja.

Evangelist
This started to become popular in the late 1990s and unfortunately, it stuck. And it is almost always an exaggeration. Unless you are the person running a big product, heading up a communications team, or crafting the social media strategy for your organization, you are not what I have in mind when I think of an evangelist preaching on the big stage.

Guru
You may be developing expertise in a certain area, but unless you have earned a Ph.D. or published an entire body of work, you are probably not considered a guru in your field. (If that were the case, you would probably not be applying for a job — you would be a big-fee consultant or running your own company.) Most employers are looking for people who are learning and have room to grow — gurus need not apply.

Strong communication skills
I see this phrase in nearly every cover letter or resume. The problem (and irony) with this one is that it tells me very little about the person’s ability to communicate. Strike this phrase from your resume and instead share the proof. Maybe you have led a cross-functional team or been responsible for your company newsletter. 

Results-oriented
I do not mean to sound facetious, but my reaction when I see “results-oriented” in a resume is “I hope so. What else would you be?” This cliché simply states the obvious and uses up valuable space on your resume. Instead of saying “results-oriented,” show proof of your results with metrics that demonstrate your effort and achievements.

Self-motivated
You do not have to tell a potential employer that you are motivated. Instead of writing that you are motivated, let your work provide all the evidence an employer needs to see. And more importantly, if you are not self-motivated, who else is going to drive you to be phenomenal? Motivation comes from intrinsic aspirations — not employers.

Before you apply to the next job post, look at your resume with a critical eye.

Are there any clichés that are just wasting space? I guarantee that there are. Go ahead and take a few minutes to get rid of them so the real you is easier to see. Let your resume tell your story — not some Teflon-version of who you think you should be.

You may not be a guru or a ninja, but that is quite alright. You only need to find the one job that is right for who you really are, right now.

What other clichés should candidates avoid?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap and marketing planning software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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