The ten most overused words in resumes

The 10 most over-used words and phrases in Canadian resumes

Peter Harris|

Workopolis has literally millions of resumes in our database and roughly 1,000 new ones are added daily. Analyzing the content of these shows us some distinct patterns of how Canadians are marketing themselves – and how some improvements can be made. Here’s a look at some of the most often-repeated wordings and phrases in resumes that could really stand to be replaced with more creative alternatives.

Don’t say resume in your resume

A scan of the Workopolis resume database turns up many thousands of resumes with the title Resume, C.V., or Curriculum Vitae. Employers already know what a resume is, so labelling it as such is a waste of valuable real-estate. This is your headline, the first thing anyone will read on the document that is their first impression of you. Make it count. Your resume should be titled the name of the job that you are applying for – or how you best describe your career.

Nobody cares about your duties

In the body of resumes, by far the most overused wordings are “responsible for” and “duties include.” Both of these phrases come from an outdated style of resume writing by template, and they generally introduce a series of tasks cut and pasted from the job description. This leads to creating a very generic-sounding resume – where anyone in that same role would look exactly the same on paper. Far stronger would be to list specific accomplishments that set you apart on the job with words such as, “Orchestrated,” “Planned and implemented,” “Launched,” “Spearheaded,” “Increased (revenues/sales/customer satisfaction…),” “Decreased (costs/time/losses…),” etc.

Similarly, many resumes contain sentences describing tasks beginning with ‘helped,’ ‘handled,’ and ‘worked.’ These are too passive and vague to sell a candidate’s achievements in a role. For example, rather than saying you helped with a project, list the ways that you fine-tuned, streamlined, or improved the process. Verbs should describe the results they generated.

Show, don’t tell

Adjectives such as ‘creative‘ and ‘excellent‘ should be demonstrated by the quality of your work and accomplishments rather than stated outright. Creativity should be conveyed in a resume by the originality of your writing, not by calling yourself creative. ‘Motivated‘ is likewise a judgement call for others to make, and further, it has no alternative. It is meaningless to claim to be motivated in a resume, because no candidate would ever describe him or herself as ‘unmotivated.’

Don’t state the obvious

Finally, far too many resumes end with the phrase, “references available upon request.” (Or worse, actually listing references in the resume itself.) It can be assumed that a candidate will offer references when asked, so there is no need to say this – or to provide them before they are requested. It would be far better to use the space for more experience, skills and accomplishments – or even just aesthetically-pleasing white space.

So, to summarize, avoid these:

The 10 most over-used words/phrases in resumes:

  • Resume / C.V. / Curriculum Vitae
  • Duties included
  • Responsible for
  • Helped
  • Handled
  • Worked
  • Creative
  • Excellent
  • Motivated
  • References available upon request

The first impression that employers most often have of candidates is through their resume. It is critical to stand out from the crowd of generic applications with a document that really sells your skills and accomplishments. This deserves more than a cut and paste of new job details into an old template.

Think about those things that most make you stand out on the job. Then write them down as they relate to the job you want. They can make you stand out on paper too.


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter


Follow Workopolis

Category: Job Search Strategies, Latest News & Advice, Resumes and Cover Letters
  • David Gay

    Interesting. I found a few of the no-no’s mentioned in the article in my resume. What’s interesting about that? The resume was re-worked by an employment assistance centre, a place that is supposed to help me get a job. This means one of the following are true:

    1) The article above is wrong, since the employment assistance centre would NEVER sabotage my job hunt, either accidentally or intentionally….right?

    2) The article is right, and the employment assistance centre that redid my resume (as well as the previous employment assistance centres that also redid my resume) have no clue what they are talking about. This means my tax dollars and my time are being wasted. Oh, and the centre owes me a job.

    3) The whole job search process of today (especially the interview process) in this Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery is one big mind-game that devalues the job seeker and does nothing to ensure the best person for the job opening is selected.

    Hmmm. I think I’ll go for 3).

    • yogaFlo

      Well, you’re right David about all your points.

      Most people who work in those agencies aren’t helpful at all. They rarely help out, they give out poor advice a lot of the time, and seem to have little information about how to get a job. Often, if I have any questions, I have to make an appointment, which I have to wait a week for.

      I wonder if they’ve ever helped anyone get a job? The centre is often empty or has few job seekers there. There are a lot of unemployed people where I live; they don’t bother going to the centre because, it’s a waste of time!

      I can’t believe that this is allowed. The government has these job centres so they can say they’re providing services for unemployed people, but the system is not working!

      • David Gay

        Hi Flo. Thanks for your comments. My past experience with employment
        assistance agencies is that only one out of the five I’ve worked with
        over the past 4 years has actually cared about my job search. It’s
        actually the one in Kitchener, the city I moved to to find better
        opportunities. The other 4 were in Toronto.

        Your question is still an important one to ask. We have a serious unemployment issue that appears to affect nearly everyone from all walks of life. If we are going to invest our tax dollars into these services, these services in turn must prove they are helping people out, as opposed to the government just saying they are .

        • yogaFlo

          Hi David,

          Yes, I’ve long thought that changes need to be made in the way employment agencies are operated. I have wanted to bring this to someone’s attention that might care and be in a position to rectify these problems. Most of the “counselors” stay in their offices with the doors shut. They don’t appear to be doing anything except looking at their computer screens or talking to other employees.
          I just am not sure who to approach. There must be some interested journalists or MLA out there. Maybe, I should write an article myself, as I have a writing diploma (which never helped me get a job!)
          If you like contact me at


          • David Gay

            Hi Flo. Expect to hear from me very soon via Yahoo. If you are a writer, and you have not started a blog yet, may I humbly suggest starting a blog using WordPress, Ghost, or whatever? You’re probably better at it than my own efforts with my blog, and you do have the education background to write a blog.

          • Geraldine Chambers

            I’m sitting in one such place right now and that’s exactly what they do every day. Shame.

          • yogaFlo

            Yup, I truly think we should do something about it, but what? There must be some strategy to get attention to this matter. Those people who work in those agencies are there for the paycheque and that’s it. I really wonder if they ever help anyone get a job?

          • David Gay

            Geraldine & Flo, that’s a good article idea for Workopolis to write about…do employment assistance centres really help the job seeker?

          • Gerry

            I work in one of those centers and I can say for a fact that I have assisted many clients get jobs and I have the thank you letters to prove it.

          • mam

            Hi. I also like your answer. No need to write an article, these type of blogs are good enough in getting our point across, me thinks. It’s great we can get feedback back and forth.

        • praveen

          i have 3 years experience in pharmaceutical marketing as a pharmaceutical sales representative . i want to know about job opening in Canada and U.S. please if you find anything in at. or call to me .

    • Tamara

      for the win with number 3 my friend!

    • Geraldine Chambers

      All of the above. The agencies for the most part are a waste of money. I have lost count how many I’ve been to. I think number 3 is the main culprit. I’ve decided to go directly to an employer for advice.

      • David Gay

        That’s an excellent idea, Geraldine.

    • Andrea Shortreed

      I imagine a bunch of reviewers shuffling three times, picking two or three for interviewing and that’s it! Their job is safe!

      • David Gay

        It certainly seems like a roll of the dice at times, doesn’t it?

      • Roustam

        Yes,it looks like many of them do this just to keep themselves busy.

    • Çapulcu MacLean

      You nailed it. They also left out the word “passionate”. Is anyone actually passionate about selling motor oil or socks?

      • David Gay

        I think you just gave me an idea about what I should write about in my next job search blog post: how to answer the question “Why do you want to work at [insert company name here]?”

    • smscamp

      Sadly, what is most important is what is stated on your employment equity/affirmative action questionaire and sadly, not even the ability to speak French anymore, but the ability for a Francophone to speak French well.

      Those doing the hiring are more concerned with appeasing Obama types who put symbolism in achieving diversity, reflecting the population and whatever the excuse of the day is that is total dishonest because these types do not justify such reasons for e.g. hiring quotas for men in female dominated jobs, or you will never see e.g. no Blacks and Whites need apply in a position that Blacks are too heavily dominant compared to their population.

      It has become an out of date joke, where they are still giving women hiring preference in jobs that have female dominated because the feminists would complain if having to reflect reality.

      Simply put, EE/AA has become nothing by appeasing such types who want revenge for past decades of only hiring white males.

      Because of appeasing such groups, you have true discrimination in only wanting to hire their own kind, as sadly a few Trudeau French Supremacists have taken over hiring in govts in areas with any form of a French population as official bilingualism has become only French speakers need apply, and since they know they will get away with it, this very, very, very tiny minority of Francophones too often has decided to hire only Francophones like themselves.

      • David Gay

        I’m all for fair hiring regardless of what colour the person’s skin is or the gender or age. It’s all about the right person for the job, based on the qualfications and nothing but. EE has backfired in it’s original (and noble) intentions to ensure fair hiring. It also has fermented a disturbing undercurrent of resentment that groups like the former Heritage Front attempted to tap into.

        With the open-mindedness of today’s younger generation to easily work with people regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. the EE/AA quota system is no longer needed. Society down the road will correct any imbalance without government meddling.

    • mam

      Lol! Well said…indeed. I believe that it also depends of the person on the receiving end, the interviewer. We all interpret and perceive things differently. So, there is no right answer. Although, I do agree that there are better strategies the potential employee can use to help manipulate their chances of selling themselves, that is why these blogs will never go out of style.

    • Roustam

      Greetings David Gay.
      You know, recently I did some research and I found the position of Quality Control for bakery. Guess what: I went to the website and found out that the bakery was not even built yet! Then, I found the job position to fill of Machine Operator in Wonderland to control Roll-a-Coaster. And that thing was posted in the middle of winter. In addition, I found the same position sent all over again even though I found and applied for it two times. What I mean David Gay, that I have impressions that no all positions are posted are for the sake of hiring.

      I see from your posting that you are the man of knowledge, wisdom and experience. I’d love to know your option about that.

      • David Gay

        Hello, Roustam.

        Thank you for your kind comments. The postings might have been preliminary planning, meaning the staff should be ready to go the moment the building construction is done. Having said this, it is possible to plan too far ahead of time and make an error in the required hiring numbers. One good example was a Target store that opened in Toronto (when I still lived there) with a lot of cashier stations. During the first few weeks, not all the stations were being utilized, even during peak periods, so they sat empty. Within a few months after the opening, some of the the empty cashier stations were replaced with self-serve kiosks so customers could ring in their own goods.

        • Roustam

          Thank you for your fast answer. I really appreciate it.

  • Carolyn Matyjanka

    I felt the same way about references until – after including them for my husband’s application on a hunch – his prospective employer had pretty much already hired him before the interview because of what a reference said! My theories and suppositions went out.the.window!

    David Gay, the ONLY expert in your job search is YOU – and your prospective EMPLOYER. Make it as easy for them to hire you as is humanly possible…leave nothing to chance! But don’t bore them with details they don’t care about, either!! You sound very discouraged, but remember that no one is out to get you! They don’t KNOW you – try not to let a down mood sabotage you!!! Good luck in your search!

    • David Gay

      Hi Carolyn, thank you for your comments.

      I’m not sure if you read my job search blog, watched my job search video series on YouTube, seen my “David Needs A Job” Kijiji and Craigslist ads or any other posts I’ve done on sites such as this, but I’ve been looking for work for over 4 years. I’ve tried everything the career coaches and employment assistance agencies told me to do (workshops and 30 second elevator speeches). I’ve looked for work both within my 20 year information technology career track and outside it (I’ve applied for work at less than minimum wage and even did a flyer delivery job that paid 6 to 12 cents per house). I’ve gone to various job fairs, researched companies I had interviews for, and networked like a Windows server (yes, that was a computer joke). I was not fired from my last job.

      Despite all this, I lost my apartment, the life I enjoyed, and had to move to another city to start over, which makes the job search even more challenging without a social network since I’m new here. It’s no wonder I am discouraged. I’ve had more than my fair share of “emotional flat tire” moments, but I never stated everyone is out to get me.

      I’m still looking for work, on all fronts, and using any methods necessary at my disposal. I will continue to do so until I finally do get a job, or go down swinging and in defiance.

      • disqusdis2012

        David, I’m sorry to hear about your wows but at first glance it seems to me you’ve lost focus… with 20 years in IT you should know one thing you’re really good at and stick to it. Based on what you’re saying your attention seems to be scattered, hence your energy to find something is thin… also instead of traditional full time employment you should try consulting, they need guys like us to come in and solve their IT issues on the spot, younger guys can’t do that…Good luck!

        • David Gay

          Hi Disqus, for the record: during my first year of looking for employment in 2010, I did concentrate solely on trying to land IT work. When that did not pan out and I was in danger of eviction, I cast my net out in 2011 to, as is my well known chant by many who know me, “do any sort of work I have skill sets for”. That bought me some time and it also silenced those critics who said “get off your self-entitled butt and grab any job you can do”. In fact, I’m heading off to Zoup! in Waterloo to apply in person for a job. That’s just the kind of guy I am. I want a job, and so do many people here who are sick of the games.

          As a consultant yourself, you no doubt understand the fierce competition between agencies who hire out support for network and programming. I do not have the finances nor the rep to go up against the heavy hitters in the Greater Toronto area.

          I don’t think I’m spreading myself out thinly. I spend six hours (sometimes longer!) five days a week looking for work, with some checks here and there over the weekend based on tips. I go to job fairs, network like a server (ha-ha, IT joke there), and use employment centres. I have a video channel on Youtube about my job search as well as a blog, various web sites including my “David Needs A Job!” page, and even posted on Begslist and Kijiji and Craigslist. I’m out there like a tsunami hitting every chance I can get.

          • yogaFlo

            To Disquis (maybe he/she’s left the building)?

            Well, I am not sure about David’s circumstances, but I do know that
            people, who are unemployed, are often somewhat cut off from the rest of
            the world. Everyone needs to express themselves, build new skills, and
            have social outlets. Perhaps, that helps explain David’s and so many
            others’ online activity.

            I mean after 5 or 6 hours of job
            hunting a day, and very little expendable income, this is what we do in this
            age; we turn to social media.

          • David Gay

            My current situation is the odd gig and temp work punctuating a very thorough job search. But you are right, Flo. I treat the job search like a real job and at the end of the day, I need to vent my spleen and get things off my chest. It’s great to hear the challenges other job-seekers have in finding work, just so I don’t feel like it’s just me.

      • oicu0rt

        The Canadian job market is strange one. I find it an affront to the (potential) employee that salaries are rarely posted and applications are rarely responded to. The whole reliance on networking undermines the process of finding the best talent. People who just work hard and plug away are ignored. Talent is talent and companies should be working hard to find that talent and respect the candidates that come in.

        • David Gay

          A good point, but I think companies should also work closely with government and employment assistance centres and schools to ensure the demands of the labour market where shortages occur are addressed, or at least re-training through job-shadowing or mentorship programs at the entry-level employment opportunities.

          • yogaFlo

            Yes, David, you’re right on again here. There are so many post-secondary programs in good schools, where there just aren’t enough jobs for graduates.

        • Segr

          Very well said! It’s why Canada is such a mediocre place……

      • Alessandro B

        Hi David, I feel your pain. There are times that challenge us A LOT.
        In one of these moment I read “who moved my cheese?” a very little book from Spencer Johnson. It helped me a lot to trim and fix my mood and my perspective. I hope it helps.

        good luck!

        • David Gay

          Hi Alessandro. Thanks for the reference. I will try to find that book if it is at the library or buy it if it is not.

          • yogaFlo

            I have read that book; it was and maybe still, a best seller. It was okay.

            But, you know, what David really needs is a job!

          • Alessandro B

            i’m not an employer .. sorry!

          • Chisty

            Do you have programming experience? If so, can you apply as PHP developer? This is the one which has got some job scopes in Canada (I’m saying this because two of my friends: one migrated from Aus who is currectly in Winnpeg, another from Bangladesh, currently in Toronto) got a job within weeks, and working as PHP developer.

            I can tell the situation about Sydney (where I live), job market for PHP developers are pretty much open here, compared to other sectors in IT (i.e. Networking, DB specialist, Java/JEE, DotNet developers).


          • David Gay

            Hi Chisty, no I do not have PHP experience. I cannot afford to go back to school to upgrade my skills, because the best I can do is the odd temp job and employment gig (the unemployed make lousy consumers, as I once stated in my videos and blog).

            Tried to apply for Second Career (provincial government funding) training but that was a washout.

  • Birgit Hora

    I am so sick and tired of the changing “psychology” of a resume! At the end it still ALL depends on the persons view who is hiring you. They may want an old style, they may want a new fashion, they may want a crazy resume! Nobody knows.Someone wants extra details, another one gets bored. So you CAN NOT win!

    • Alessandro B

      if you start with : “I cannot win” you lose FOR SURE.
      When I moved to north America the biggest lesson I’ve learned is :play the game”. The goal of a resume is catching the attention of who reads the resume. Instead of being mad at this article we can consider what it says and try it. Negative thinking always drives us to fail. it’s just the approach to the reality not the reality itself…. reality will stay the same, but we feel better. I hope this makes sense for you. Good luck

      • yogaFlo

        I think Birgit’s point is that she has tried it; she’s tried it all! I’ve probably had 30 different employment “counselors” review, revamp, or otherwise criticize the wording, the style, the content of my resume. I always take their advice…until the next person gives it a go.

        It’s a game where no one really knows the rules, because there aren’t’ any!

        • Birgit Hora

          Yes yogaFlo! Your words exactly describe my situation/life!

          • Jasvir Virk

            If you go to 10 “career consultants” to review your resume, they all will have their own 10 individual opinions, which means there is no rule. Ultimately it is “you” 11th who has to decide.

      • 1evolution

        @Allessandro; pretty sure you missed the point Birgit was making. The point is valid. Your self-help pseudo-science non-sense just muddies your response. Of course you can’t win if you don’t think you can but that wasn’t the point; the point is that it’s all relative. I’ve turned away resume’s because they had stupid designs in the their headers, or used coloured fonts, or BIG BOLD LETTERS. Some might like that; I personally hate it, you may as well have handed me a resume in crayola if you’re going to do that. Could have had the perfect candidate in any of these instances but when you’re handed a pile of 100’s for a few openings’s easy to dismiss the most minute detail according to preference.

        • yogaFlo

          Totally agree with you 1evolution! Nothing is more irksome than to hear people say some pseudo psycho babble about staying positive, having a good attitude and all the rest of that new age bologna!

          It’s like blaming the unemployed person for not having a job. I’ve even heard people blame cancer victims for their illness. “Well, if they would just have a better attitude, this would never have happened to them.

        • Roustam

          Are you the one who turned people down including me? Is that why you are too scared to show your real name? Do you belong to the type of people who seems enjoy playing games with the other people who are desperate to find a job?
          I think that you are paying too much attention to the outside look of the resume, but fail to see through. Don’t you know that it is not right to judge the book according to its cover?
          On the other hands I would agree that using big bold letters and putting some silly design is not the best way of impress an employer. No, it is better to keep to standard and that’s what I do. However, to be honest, even here the exceptions should be made for the sake of good. If one day you really get resume in crayola, please don’t ditch it down but really read it. You may be glad that you did. Isaac Newton was a weird man who was afraid women. But you we both know that his contribution to the world was enormous.

          • 1evolution

            Your questions are absurd. And your response isn’t clear; what’s your point? I hope you spent less than 60 sec. formulating your response because if it’s any amount exceeding that’ve wasted your time. Based on the # of convoluted responses you have on this thread, you may want to consider spending more time on your CV, your grammar and your general use of the English language as opposed to writing comments on an obscure article. I do like the way you comment as if your opinion is fact – it makes it more enjoyable for me. Thanks for reaching out Roustam.

          • Roustam

            So ready to be offensive, but so reluctant to be honest and considerate. Are you still too scared to show your name? You don’t have too. We live in free-speech country.
            I don’t need you phony thanks. Your message only supports my suspicions about you as dishonest and heartless individual. You have no good or valid arguments against me; so, I guess that is why you decided to attack my English writing. By the way, you made one mistake in one of your sentences: “I do like the way you comment…” I am sorry you should have written the word “comment” in the past form. Stop embarrassing yourself.

          • 1evolution

            LoL those are some interesting suspicions, you want honesty ..stop wasting your time. You confronted me and a valid point that I had made with gibberish. And now, just look at your previous post – how is that relevant to anything? Scared to show my name, if you haven’t noticed it’s a msg board. Dishonest and heartless, how on earth do you deduce that? Dumb defensive? What does that even mean? Thanks for the laughs there Roustam. I won’t be responding again so enjoy confronting others with your idiocy.

          • Roustam

            You still don’t get it. And you still haven’t answered the questions which I have given to you from the first time. 1evolution is not even a name.

            I am not wasting my time. You know why? because I made you type, I made you write the message after the message. And look how quick you are on reply. And you are laughing! I know that you laughing because you want to cherish yourself by thinking how great you are and how low I am. Darn, you are still embarrassing yourself. It is not me who confront others with idiocy, but you.

            So, keep up to your promises and don’t respond.

            There is one reason I wrote the first message to you. When the first time I read your personal message addressed to Allessandro (who I believe is an awesome man), I I felt very distressed to know what kind of people are put in charge of selecting right candidates for a job. I really wanted to know that you are the individual of honour and dignity. I really wanted to know that I was wrong and my questions had nothing to do with you. You just proved how right I am.

            If you hadn’t responded to my messages, at least you wouldn’t embarrass yourself the way you did.

          • 1evolution

            I’m breaking my promise lol ..I have to, can’t bite my tongue must be hard being you. arguing in circles, never really making any sense. if you understand yourself then good for you. because I still don’t know what the hell you’re talking about in half of this. you don’t address ANY of the pts. that were relevant to the initial comment. out of curiosity I re-visited this convo on my disqus feed since I had ignored it initially. it’s as idiotic as I expected. I don’t want to put you down but you bring it upon yourself with this nonsense. thanks for the laugh (again) Roustam. good luck with your life. you and Allessandro will have a beautiful life together, I’m sure.

          • Roustam

            So much for the words “I won’t be responding again”. If you don’t want to be honest with me, at least be honest with yourself. By the way, I believe that I have never ever made you laugh. I made you angry or agitated.

          • 1evolution

            You certainly have agitated me with your responses. That’s something we can both agree on.

      • Alessandro B

        What I wrote to Birgit comes from my personal experience.

        I spent years applying for jobs thinking “I CAN NOT win!”, as mentioned in the original post.

        This made my life hard and weakened my success in finding good jobs. My purpose is only a suggestion to change attitude. No new age or mumbo jumbo involved at all, only a sharing of my experience.

        I agree with all of you that there is no golden rule, but just suggestions. I apply myself to jobs and I perfectly know that the approach to read it is very personal. The game is “catch the attention of the person who reads my resume”. In this, I keep reading resources like this one and taking advice. Then, in the end, I apply what I feel is good for me (not everything). It’s a frustrating process? YES! Do we have other options? …let’s explore.

        I hope now my thoughts are clearer in this form. Good luck

        • Roustam

          Dear Alessandro. Let me “tell” you something. Many people are mad about those articles because they quite often don’t reflect reality and good sense of judgement and good work. More than that – they contradict one another. One article encourages putting words “Excellent” and “References” in resume while the other one opposes such act. So, what should I do where should I go?
          I know from my own life experience that should I completely follow those job-related articles my chance of finding a job would go down considerably. I might even end-up in mental clinic instead (and I think that would be not only me)… Harsh but true.
          My life taught me to be cautious while doing anything including reading those articles. Therefore, I read job related articles and pick only the parts from them which make sense to me and hopefully to my new dear employer as well.
          It is good that you are positive Alessandro, but don’t let those many articles mislead you and reduce your progress in finding job of your dreams. Peace.

          • Alessandro B

            Hello Roustam, thank you for your words and suggestions. I see that there are a lot of contradictions, and it’s difficult to pick the “right” thing.

          • Roustam

            You’ve got point Alessandro. It is indeed difficult to pick the “right” thing. Sometimes we have to pray about it, what do you think?

          • Alessandro B

            you made me smile: I agree with you. Personally I try my best to make my resume good and try to impress the person who reads it. There is no way I know what the person wants to read. This make me pick form the various articles like this one, what I like, what I fell I can use for good. Other than that …probably pray is what’s next.

  • Sarah Khan

    I agree this type of language works for people who have work experience under their belt, but I teach in a business program at College and a LOT of my students don’t have experience having DONE much other than “duties”. So for them to parade a list of accomplishments is unrealistic. The job market is a weird place for anyone with little to no experience, or oftentimes too much experience. So I don’t always teach to the curriculum…I focus on skills that cannot be taught … SOFT SKILLS. PEOPLE SKILLS. Problem solving / conflict resolution, self awareness, goal setting and achievement, productivity, time management, communication, etc. Because, yes, what an employer sees on a resume is always dependent upon the person doing the hiring.

    • James Tong

      I agree. Too often do I hear about advice telling people to list accomplishments when the job is just a friggin clerk/processing job! How much additional revenue has been earned or how much expenses (or time) has been saved because of a person who does data entry and filing all day?

  • yogaFlo

    The advice about showing, rather than stating always has one example. IE: “increased sales by some percentage, or decreases costs by whatever. I have never worked in sales! I’ve worked in libraries mostly. Stating I increased sales isn’t possible

  • Ashfaq Rahim

    It is true! The job market is not good and was never good before, I moved to Canada 17 years from oversees, with advertising background as creative professional. I was told, you don’t have Canadian experience, then what, go back to school get the loan and pay back, if you fortunate enough to get a job. If you have Canadian experience you might be over qualified. I got a job in US after graduation in 2001 because Canadian have the same question, you don’t have this or that and now in resume The 10 most over-used words/phrases in resumes. I am an excellent example, since I moved from US since 2006. I am trying to get a job since then but no LUCK! I have done what David mentioned and keep trying to find a job to run my daily expenses.

  • theta53

    Hey David; I feel your pain too. Sounds like you’re doing everything you can to find employment. If I needed an IT guru, you’d be the guy I hire.

    • David Gay

      Thanks for the words of support, Theta. Believe me, it is fuel that keeps me going when the February blahs hit. I hope your fortunes, employment or otherwise, continue in abundance

  • Michele R.

    I had my resume re-done through a private Employment Centre, and went through the TIOW program. They did a fantastic job. Not one of the “no-nos” was mentioned, and they provided ongoing job coaching and were relevant to today’s market. I found exactly the type of employment I was looking for. Other employment services did not offer anything close to what they did. If anyone is interested, or in Renfrew County, I highly recommend looking into Tyerman & Daughters.

  • Heather

    Another blogger has listed ‘soft skills’ and ‘people skills’ as a valuable marketing tool for job seekers. This is so true! Yet so often omitted! We all have to exhibit at least a little ‘salesmanship’ on our resumes – particularly in the more competitive job markets.

    I think the key is being willing to change up your resume regularly – often – even weekly – if you’re not getting responses.

    No one knows what employers are looking for – usually those very same employers don’t have a clue what to look for in a resume either!!

    I say, no holds bar, the sky’s the limit, to heck with rules of any kind where resumes go. Your true gauge as to whether your resume is working is: how many calls are you getting? If you’re sending out dozens of resumes a week and not getting ANY calls, then one of the following is true a) your resume is trash and needs to be totally redone, or b) your applying for jobs that you’re clearly not qualified for!

    You say, “Oh, yes I am qualified!” My answer, “What’s on your resume to PROVE that your qualified?”

    IMO, do whatever it takes to prove that you’re qualified. I’ve even seen a resume that contain links to college program descriptions – which I thought was ingenious! Who knows if just the imagination & creativity of putting this on a resume is the proof you need to exhibit your qualified beyond all the “planned,” “implemented,” and “spearheaded” jargon??

  • Geoff Campbell

    Warning. A lot of resume advice is personal opinion. Opinions of ‘experts’ may contradict one another. Apply your own good sense and proceed…

    • Roustam

      This is what I actually “said” a minute ago. Thank you very much for your support!

  • Crafts Crafts

    ““Orchestrated,” “Planned and implemented,” “Launched,” “Spearheaded,”
    Meet the new words, same as the old words. The words “duties” and “responsibilities” don’t sound half as bad as the words suggested above.

    • David Gay

      Won’t get fooled again, that’s for sure.

      (I’m sorry, I had to say it)

  • Janis Cathcart

    In my experience of trying to make it to the interview phase in the job hunt, I have found that the resume is NOT reviewed to any degree at all and is almost useless. If you have applied electronically, the search team may never actually see it. The cover letter is the most important thing. Don’t follow the rules of the “proper” resume – they change almost yearly so don’t believe the “experts”. Pray that there isn’t an internal candidate that the employer already has in mind – the posted job vacancy may be just a formality. Then, if you make it to the interview pray you are the right age to fit in with the other members of the existing team. The job search as we knew it 5 years ago, is not more. Very disheartening for candidates with any experience.

    • Albert Giesbrecht

      Not to mention the job search as we knew it 30 years ago,

  • Ihor Nedoshytko

    What is required is a good working example of the type of resume described here!!

  • NewIdeaGuy

    The taxpayer scam is that third parties get paid insane, and in excess costly office space lawyers would envy, in many ways, and clear from too many copiers to far too much floor space and empty desks, strange gadgets, and computers and many-many mindless meetings. Why? To insanely over prep maybe five candidates at best so four further waste time, motivation, and initiative, energy, gas, for the one job that hundreds of others also apply for. Simply insane waste of taxpayers money to wasting the youth of youth.

    Paid an insane amount of money to have a thousand files supposedly meaniing something to do with value in redundancy and futher supported by intrusive excess audit and reporting like poor want to be poor with added forms for the most minor of extension and needless review after review and audit as to make work and billable services at the poor and unemployed expense. This seen from ottawa to cost. By next federal election the lid blown off this fraud of taxpayers paying for results not simply a visual performance. The blatant legal optics overwhelming.

  • Albert Giesbrecht

    I worked at RBC for several years, I never once “Spearheaded” anything. If I came back from lunch they were happy. Should I put that on my resume?

  • Anthony Ademola Adesina

    With all said, If one is not careful the hope of a better life in Canada can slip away from anybody because the system itself is not encouraging a bit especially for an average immigrant. The job market is harsh and unfriendly. What I have observed is that there are as many rules out there to write a resume as there are “specialists”! Almost every “specialist” comes up with some “great” ideas on how to write or un-write a resume but none of those ideas are scientifically tested or proven, and as someone said here, there are no rules guiding this. It is completely useless to teach someone to quantify his/her accomplishments when it is practically impossible. We all don’t work in sales that can easily be quantified with a percentage. But above all I think it is important to be optimistic in the job search an never think “they” are out to get you. It is important that one has to keep his head high and continue to train with some concentration in a discipline. I am an avid advocate of continuous studies and training. Train and plan to be a specialist in the discipline and most importantly find a way to be a consultant in that field and run your own business. I guess if we all keep waiting till some less educated, less experienced employer or recruiter out there hire us, we would waste away! By the way pls. send an e mail to me at if you want some great way out. Otherwise you can reach me at 416.788.2146. Today is a bright day. Let us go out and win. Best wishes to all.
    Tony Adex

  • Sharon Edwards

    I have sent a resume recently using the word Excellent. What you are saying this might just limited my chance of an interview?

  • UnbiasedOpinion

    I have to chime in because I feel there is a lot of ranting going on here so let
    me try to balance the scale. At the end of the day what we’re all reading
    comments from people who at one point have struggled to find a job. I wouldn’t
    say this is the best source of advice. Now on that note I do agree that many
    employment centres and government agencies in general have people who just
    don’t seem to give a F about people. But for the ones that do care, this post
    is for you.

    Many people walk in these centres expect to be spoon fed a job
    without lifting a finger of their own. Many people here lost their job for a
    reason so instead of taking the time to stay relevant and improve on ones
    skills they rant in the comments section in an article and expect the
    government to bail them out. If that’s you, then the reason why you can’t find
    a job is because of your own personality and not a poorly written resume. Your
    resume gets you the interview and YOU sell yourself in the interview. Not an
    employee at a government agency. The people that do get help at these agencies
    are people who are less capable, maybe a little less savvy with the English
    language and don’t even know about this site. Those are the people that are
    being helped. Not everyone here who is intelligent enough to search for this
    article and post an intellectual argument. I would guess the employees at these
    centres deal with so many people who come in feeling like the government owes
    them and they’re the reason why the staff get desensitized to your problems
    because they deal with people with much bigger problems every day.

    I’ve been to an employment centre and found that asking the right questions gets me the right answers. I actually got to know my counselor and found that the government makes them jump through hoops for administrative work and documentation so they don’t get sued by the all the greedy opportunist people out there. Those people are the ones eating up our tax money. Maybe I was fortunate and had a good experience and an employment centre but I have to defend them and point out that maybe it’s not the staff but the system. I challenge anyone to work at an employment centre and see if you have the patience to put up with what they go through each day. Until then, study hard, practice interviewing and be persistent when it comes to job searching. Don’t blame your resume or someone who took the time to HELP you for your own struggles.

    • David Gay

      I see a lot of blaming the unemployed for their own misfortunes in your post. If the amount of frustration and anger job seekers are expressing here is not proof enough, I’d like to quote someone who commented on Workopolis that blaming the unemployed for their own misfortune is like blaming a cancer victim for their own sickness.

      Simply put, being unemployed is not a crime.

  • André Noël

    I’ve been ashamed several times to show a resumé that had been reworked by a “professional” who added stellar statistical increases and accomplishments to my own resumé. Or, who even told me that they “had to make stuff up” to land their own job. I was told, “That’s what we all have to do these days!” I guess the words conscientious and ethical are also no-no’s in a modern resumé.

  • Sticky Fingers

    I agree with David Gay. Resume writing and what is politically correct or accepted today is one thing – but to state this the way Peter Harris has done here is probably nothing more than a catchy article and an exercise in journalism. I’ll go for 3) as well. What a joke

  • Sticky Fingers

    In addition – the electronic job systems are seriously broken – they are really ineffective and do not a lot more than provide jobs for few more people, IMHO

  • James Tong

    I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with resumes ever again. I understand about the frustrations of trying to put on as good of a resume as I can. Those days are over.

  • Erable_Rouge

    I doubt if resumes have got anything to do with actual employment, except for few entry level candidates or those with poor knowledge of English.

    Every employment consultant has some corrections to suggest and explain what is not working, but they are absolutely incapable of helping procure a job.

    Also, the nexus between company’s recruiting teams and outside agencies is the main reason for filtering out resumes. I have serious doubts if ever they bother to read the resumes.

  • Beverley McBean

    I have paid $60+ to have my Resume drafted in a professional way, and those very words listed are in it. When I took it to the Job Search Centre it was so critiqued. The
    person at the Centre drafted a more simple one, but downloaded duties, etc., to fill in
    the blanks. There were so many spelling errors, and yet they held a position to help others. I sometimes don’t see the need for a fancy Resume or any at all. If the person
    has the ability to do the job, and there are good references, both background and work experiences, depending the type of job, why is there the need for resume when the person sits face to face with you in an interview. Ask all the questions you need then and there to satisfy your decision making.
    Hands on is always better than reading then apply.

  • Kimberley D.

    I am a career advisor in a post secondary setting. I work very hard to keep up with what’s trendy and what’s not acceptable in résumés and cover letters. The problem is that most don’t. However I have also seen for-profit résumé writers make the same errors. The onus is in the job seeker to do their research as well.

  • Steven Stewart

    So I bet the same people telling us to get rid of these phrases also send out emails starting with “Please find attached…”

  • Jeremy Dutton

    The most important one is the show don’t tell. Another way to think of this, is demonstrate how you have applied a specific skill or competency, rather than simply declaring that you possess it. The other tips are also good, but if you leave the word Resume or References Available, etc. in your Resume, it is not the end of the world (but neither are really helpful or relevant).