10 Zombie Phrases that Kill Your Resume

These days, a resume is a branding document. Our goal when writing a resume today is not to sound like a robot, but to sound like your personal brand – you!

If you’re going to put a human voice in your resume for 2020, here’s how to start. Begin by getting rid of these zombietastic phrases that have been cluttering up your resume.

These are the worst of the Standard Corporate Zombie Speak phrases that have been showing up in resumes since Cyndi Lauper ruled the airwaves, or before. Get rid of them as fast as you can, Revive your zombie branding document.

Results-oriented professional:  What does this goofy phrase even mean? It’s become shorthand for “I don’t have a clue about what to say in my resume.”


Motivated self-starter:  Talk is cheap. Anybody can call him- or herself a ‘motivated self-starter,’ Better said, “Show Them”, “At Acme Stuff – created the e-commerce site that let us launch our first modular, shippable stick dynamite product and increased revenue to $9M in one year.”


Meets & Exceeds expectations:  This vile governmental phrase shows up in at least ten percent of the resumes we read, and it makes no sense! If you exceeded your goals at your past jobs, why on earth would you also mention that sometimes you merely hit them? This is the most brainless Zombie Speak we know. Instead, add your top performance rating. “Received a 5 in rating year over year“.


Excellent communication skills:  Excellent communication skills, you say? Evidently not! Anyone with excellent communication skills would not use the phrase “Excellent communication skills” as a way of getting that attribute across. USE your communication skills instead of talking about them. “I love to help small brands get a lot bigger through smart PR” sounds like a person is talking to us. That’s what we want!


Bottom-line orientation

Tell us about a time when you saved your employer money or improved a process to make the place run more intelligently. Otherwise, we can’t tell you from any other zombie job-seeker we might happen to meet. Bring your personality and spark across on the page!


Negotiation skills, organizational skills, administrative skills, etc.:  Thirty years ago some dastardly person started the Transferable Skills craze, convincing working people that we need to say, “I have negotiation skills, administrative skills and interpersonal skills.”


Opinions of self need to be compelling and held by a short story of your success.


Works well with all levels of staff:  We see this in resumes all the time. It’s the resume equivalent of generic oatmeal, or wallpaper paste? Of course you work well with all levels of staff!   Again, give a story of how you “collaborated with others”.


Fast Learner, Hard Worker, Great Team Player:  Your hiring manager doesn’t know you when s/he first encounters your resume. He or she can’t determine whether your self-conferred descriptors are accurate from his or her point of view, or not. It’s not that we don’t believe you, it’s that you don’t stand out.  Add quotes instead like, “Branded top performer” by ABC Company CEO”, or labeled, “Named as Top Team Lead” by Director of AB Dept.


Adept at Managing Cross-Functional Teams:  I’m an opera singer, and I get to say certain things about that in my self-description if I want to. I can tell you that I’m a dramatic soprano and that I love to sing Puccini. I can tell you which roles I love the most. I can’t say “I’m an excellent singer” because that isn’t for me to claim. Only other people can say that, and only if they’ve heard me sing!


Tell us about the results you achieved, and we’ll decide for ourselves whether we think you’re awesome at what you do.  Give us stats, metrics and award names.


Out-of-the-Box Thinker:  Whatever you do in your resume, don’t say “I’m an out-of-the-box thinker.” !


The problem with this ancient cliché is not only that nearly everyone uses it. Another problem is that it’s not believable. Give us a specific example of a time when you stepped out of a box, so that we can believe what you say!

Original Writer:  Forbes/Liz Ryan

Abridged – CulturaMINDS 10/3/2019


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