10 Words to Stop Using in Your Job Search


Employers get it: you’re responsible and driven and maybe even patient, but that’s not going to impress them.

A new survey from LinkedIn reveals the 10 words that appear so often in users’ profiles that they’ve lost meaning to employers.

“These words sound smart, but everyone uses them and they have lost their efficacy,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. “Using these words means you sound just like everyone else, and in this labor market, that isn’t going to help you find a job fast.”

Most Overused Words in LinkedIn Member Profiles

  1. Responsible
  2. Strategic
  3. Creative
  4. Effective
  5. Patient
  6. Expert
  7. Organizational
  8. Driven
  9. Innovative
  10. Analytical

The most overused word in 2013 was “responsible”,  but the list also included strategic, creative, effective and patient.

While Williams says there is nothing wrong with using these words, she tells job seekers they would be better off finding alternative words and taking the approach of showing, not telling, when trying to show value to employers.

“Creative” has made the list for the last three years, making it old-news for hiring managers. “Saying your creative isn’t going to cut it; prove it with examples, statistics and even images and videos when necessary. That will go a lot further than just claiming you are creative,” recommends Williams.

She adds that having a complete profile or an experienced-loaded resume with no grammar or spelling mistakes will better convey responsibility, effectiveness and organizational skills.

To determine if a word should appear on a resume or in an online profile, Williams suggests thinking of the antonym and whether that would ever be used to describe a professional brand.

Companies are getting flooded with resumes in the tight labor market, forcing many to use technology looking for certain keywords to whittle the pile of potential candidates.

“Definitely still use the words in the job description, even if they are on this list,” advises Williams. “But still describe how you produced results and bring value.”

Here are three tips on how to write a resume and online profile that accurately reflects your skill set while still grabbing the attention of employers:

Provide Proof. Scott Dobroski, community expert from career website GlassDoor, points out that many of the words on the list are adjectives and don’t show value. “It’s OK to use some of these words, but use them sparingly and underscore them with metrics."

“If you say you are an efficient roofer, the next line should give your monthly completion percentage, customer satisfaction rate and any expansion progress or plans,” he says.

Don’t Overload. Applicants should avoid detailing every past experience and skill set on their resume and online profiles.

Dobroski recommends reviewing the job post to identify what the employer wants, and then selecting three to five examples from past jobs that highlight the sought-after skills.

“An effective resume should act as a teaser and should not include everything in your career. This is hard for a job seeker to understand, but find the experience that best fits the job and then save the rest for the interview.”

Get Thoughtful. There’s more than one way to showcase experience and skills, and Williams recommends looking for words that better fit with the specific requirements along with relevant experience and references.

“Using more specific words to describe your experience along with reputable sources can emphasize your qualifications.”