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Never Use These 3 Words on Your Resume

Resumes can be a pain. People stress about writing them. Hiring managers are always trying to decipher them to figure out if the candidate has what they need. I say that most people seem to think that there is a secret formula to writing resumes that nobody will tell them about.

My simple answer is that you need to think about who is reading the resume and then write like your audience. It’s really that simple. Resumes are just the information the hiring manager might need to have in order to take the chance to bring you in and talk with you more about the position without wasting everyone’s time.

In order to do that, you have to give a clear picture (in words) of what you actually did. This might seem simple but so many people miss this. I read hundreds of resumes a month and I’ve found three words that are endemic on resumes that don’t do anything to bring that clarity. I cross them off almost every time I see them (granted, there are always exceptions).

Here they are.

  • Assisted: This can mean anything from “I got coffee” to “I did my boss’ job and didn’t get credit for it”. When I see it, I assume coffee, not executive. If I read this, I’m making up stories in my head about what you actually did. They may not be what you wanted me to think.
  • Helped: See above.
  • Worked: Were you in the fields or the mines? This brings visions of either someone under a vicious task master or someone just hanging out waiting for something to happen. Either scenario doesn’t encourage me to think of you as a self starter.

So, what can you say instead? Well, what did you actually do? If I were watching you while you were there, what would I see? Researched 5 new clients and wrote a summary for your boss? Reorganized the inventory system? Produced and assembled 100 press kits? Tell me that!

Using vague words like helped, assisted, and worked will put more questions into the reader’s mind than will do you good. Be clear and detail what you have done to your best story telling ability. If you can’t be clear on your resume, do I think you will speak clearly to me and my customers?

So, what did you actually do on that job?

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  1. ianlekus

    So I’m doing the radical re-write of my résumé, & I got rid of one “assisted” pretty easily after reading this. I have one “helped” left: “Helped coordinate financial expenditures and direct programming on summer study abroad program in Latin America.” In this case, there was a program director who did most of the program development & financial planning work, but I was in fact a helper – that is, I filled in where needed, from handling petty cash expenditures to setting up film screenings & extra trips to hike in the cloud forest. It was all pretty ad hoc. How might you re-articulate this for a resume?

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