Résumé fluff and filler are those words and phrases that many jobseekers include in their document to “beef it up” for whatever reason.

Maybe they lack some experience, skills, or education and because their résumé is a little on the lean side, they think by adding a bunch of filler is going to help. It doesn’t.

Maybe they want to make their résumé sound impressive and think that adding a bunch of filler is going to do the trick. It doesn’t.

Maybe they just add things because they think they should be included. They shouldn’t.

The sad thing is that many candidates actually have a strong work history with some solid accomplishments, but you’d never know because they’re relying on filler words to “impress” the reader what they should do is include interesting and relevant career stories using thoughtfully-crafted impact statements.

Let’s face it – it’s way easier to plug a bunch of impressive-sounding words and phrases into a résumé than to create career stories that effectively communicate your value.

The problem is, without “showing” the reader the kinds of positive results you achieved, you can add all the amazing fluff and filler words and it won’t help.

So, what exactly is the fluff and filler I’m taking about?

#1 – Adverbs to describe your actions

I see a lot of résumés that are filled with adverbs like  “successfully”, “expertly”, “effectively”, “accurately”,  “efficiently”, just to name a few.

While adverbs might make the verb sound more impressive. I mean,  who wouldn’t want to “expertly assess” or “successfully lead”?   But using adverbs doesn’t mean that you actually “expertly” did anything if you haven’t backed it up with a specific example of what you mean.

You would need to elaborate a bit about the desired positive results that you achieved by “expertly assessing” or whatever it is.

#2 – Adjectives to describe you

Just like with adverbs, the usage of adjectives isn’t really doing anything other than just adding unnecessary words to a document  where the “less is more” rule should be observed.

So, be careful when you include adjectives like “detail-oriented”, “dynamic”, “motivated”, “experienced” among others. 

Using too many adjectives can make you sound a little too boastful especially if you haven’t given any clue as to why you are what you say you are.

It’s okay to use the odd adjective here and there for some dramatic effect or to punctuate a career accomplishment.  Make sure to explain how you are “detail-oriented” especially if it’s a job requirement. You need to give a specific example in every case.

Instead of saying you’re “experienced”, it’s better to be specific and say something like you have X years experience in doing Y. Just saying “experienced” doesn’t mean anything. What makes you “experienced”? That’s very broad and subjective.

Then there are some adjectives that sound silly, like “game-changing” and “mission-critical”. I mean, who talks like that?

If this kind of over-the-top language is part of your brand, that’s fine, but if it isn’t, it’s best to use words that are in keeping with your personality and style otherwise you can come across as not authentic.

#3 – Nouns to describe you

According to some industry experts, some of the top résumé words to avoid are  “team player”, “achiever”,  “rock star”, and “hard worker”.

I think “rock star” just sounds lame and I’d avoid it at all costs unless you are of course, an actual “rock star” in which case you wouldn’t be reading this article.

“Achiever” isn’t that bad, but I wouldn’t use it unless I immediately explained why I am an “achiever”. As in, what did I achieve exactly and why should the employer care?

“Team player” is one of those words that just got overused to the point that now experts say to not use it. I think it’s okay if the job posting emphasizes “team player” and it’s obviously an important keyword. You have to use your best judgment.

Even then, I would elaborate on what makes you a “team player”. Did you win an award for supporting team members?  How do you collaborate with others and how does it help stakeholders?

Using “hard worker” isn’t something you need to call out because at the very least, you should be a hard worker.  It’s also something that’s very subjective and could mean a whole bunch of things depending on who you ask.

It would be better to use the term “strong work ethic” and show how you are disciplined, finish tasks promptly and accurately, are self-motivated, and go above and beyond your job title.


More “filler” words and phrases you can eliminate from your résumé


#4 – References available upon request

There is no need to add this to your résumé because it’s a given that you will provide references and if you can’t, that’s something you need to address.

#5 – Résumé

Don’t ever label your résumé a résumé. I’ve actually seen this and it just looks lame because it’s perfectly obvious it’s a résumé.

# 6- Written Communication Skills

I actually see this on job postings but it’s very vague and I’m not sure what it means. Like, are they looking for someone who knows how to write an email?

I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “written communication skills” because it’s too broad. However, if you have specific writing skills that are a match with the job posting, such as copywriting or technical report writing, then that’s worth including.  But remember to expand a bit on how you excel in this area.

#7 – Filing

When I think of filing, I think of paper files from decades ago. This isn’t something you want to emphasize or even include in your résumé because it could make you look very dated and technology-challenged.

However, if  you are an administrative person and you are doing a ton of paper filing that saved the company time and money, then you could include it if it’s relevant to your target position, otherwise leave it off since it’s probably not a sought after qualification.

If you have a lot of current electronic filing experience, I would only include it if it’s a job requirement and then I would mention how this produced desired results for the company.

Less is more

The main reason you want to eliminate useless, filler words and phrases is to elevate the quality of your résumé by excluding the fluff and including the really important things like how you made a positive difference to the companies you worked for and the people you collaborated with.

The other reason is that you want to create a résumé that is highly readable by including only as many words as you need and not one word more. It’s the while “less is more” theory which holds true with résumé writing.

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Hi! I’m Diana.

I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.

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