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12 Words That Ruin Resumes

Project management employment opportunities are highly competitive. Jobseekers cannot afford to make poor word choices on their resume. Unfortunately, no matter how qualified you are, there’s always the risk of misrepresenting yourself. Just one word choice can colour a company’s perception of you. This blog post will go over the traps you can fall into, and how to avoid them with the right words.


Recruiters and potential employers make decisions based on substantial evidence. Buzzwords are a thorn in their side because they’re overused and lacking in real meaning. Think of how many applications use the same buzzwords. A lot of them don’t even make much sense taken out of a business context. Think about it, would you use any of these words outside of a situation where you have to prove how smart you are?

  1. Synergy
  2. Innovation
  3. Cutting Edge

These words, at first glance, sound impressive. However, employers won’t want to hire someone who thinks they can bluff their way into a job by saying the ‘right words.’ Successful projects require clear communication, and using convoluted terms does not signify good communication skills.

Words that don’t make you stand out

So many professionals make this mistake without realising. It’s taking something that’s a core requirement for a good employee, and touting it like it’s a distinguishing characteristic. Many jobseekers are guilty of overselling these basic requirements:

  1. Punctual
  2. Honest
  3. Motivated

Realistically, none of them differentiate you from other candidates. Take ‘punctual’ for example. If you think that you’ll be hired based on the fact you’ll turn up on time every day, then you mustn’t think the bar is set very high. Instead, talk about how you exceed core expectations. Are you proactive? Do you regularly suggest improvements? Do you contribute to the business’s long-term strategy?

Words that require a follow-up

As previously stated, when assessing a potential new hire, employers want evidence. Anyone can claim to be a top project manager, but not everyone can prove it. This is how the wheat get separated from the chaff. Take a look at the following words:

  1. High achiever
  2. Results driven
  3. Accomplished

They all mean nothing without a sufficient explanation. What were the results of your last, or most successful project? How were you instrumental in the project’s outcome? What have been your greatest accomplishments? If you want to be known as a go-getter, talk about what you’ve gone out and gotten. In other words, try less ‘I am’, and more ‘I have’.

Words that can be misinterpreted

No matter what you may know about a role or a company, you’re still an outsider. Therefore, it’s hard to assess how you’ll fit into a company’s culture. Honesty is important, but you could also shoot yourself in the foot. Exercise caution with these types of words:

  1. Ambitious
  2. Assertive
  3. Outgoing

Calling yourself ambitious may mean you’re going to move on to something better at the first opportunity. Call yourself assertive, and employers may think you’ll bulldoze over anyone that disagrees with you. Call yourself outgoing, and it may seem you’re more interested in making friends than getting the job done. It’s smarter to focus on your skills and accomplishments, and describe your personality in more neutral terms.

At the ILX Group, we have a nuanced understanding of employability in the project management industry. Our 30 years of experience makes us ideal for helping aspiring professionals find their perfect role. This is why, as well as training and consulting, the ILX Group also specialises in recruitment. If you’re interested in starting or advancing your project management career, click here to learn how we can help.