Resume Clichés to Avoid (and the Buzzwords to Use Instead)

Knowing the difference between using a cliché and a buzzword may be the key to that coveted interview, or your resume ending up in the bin.
The gradsingapore Team
The gradsingapore Team
Resume clichés to avoid


Being a recruiter sieving through resumes is much like being on a dating site. You look through their profiles, read their “About Me” section, and then either swipe left if they don’t fit the bill, or swipe right if they stand a chance. Sometimes, their interests are just not compatible with yours. But other times, they could be someone that fits every single point on your checklist. Unfortunately, you’re just turned off by their cliched profiles of “I love to take romantic walks down the beach”, so you swiped left.

That’s the same case for recruiters. You may have the exact education qualifications they’re looking for, acquired every skill set on their requirements list and have more than the minimum number of years when it comes to working experience. Yet, they still swiped left on you.

If you find that to be a common occurrence, don’t despair and accept that as your fate. The likely reason you’re not getting any positive response despite meeting all the job requirements is your resume’s inability to convey that you’re the right person for the job.

Relook at your resume and spruce it up. First, make sure you have the basic elements for an acceptable resume. Then zero in on any cliches and replace them with the appropriate buzzwords. Here are some of the top clichés you should discard:

Cliché #1: Creative

Surely if you’re a creative person, you would use a more… creative word to describe yourself. But that doesn’t mean the only solution is hitting the thesaurus and just replacing the word. Instead, let your work show your creative side. Share examples of some of your creative works or how you’ve executed new ideas to solve problems in a project.

Resume cliches to avoid_Creative

Cliché #2: Team Player

Almost every Tom, Dick and Harry includes “a great team player” in their resume, which doesn’t surprise anyone that the phrase has since lost its meaning. Not to mention that we’ve been doing project works since our secondary school days, so being a team player should be a basic skill set and not something to boast about. However, there is some merit to being able to successfully illustrate your team spiritedness through actions and achievements. 

Resume cliches to avoid_Team Player


Cliché #3: Passionate

Some things are better shown than said, and this includes the word “passionate”. Anyone can be passionate about anything, that doesn’t mean they’re good at it and seeing it on paper doesn’t mean anything. The most you’ll get out of it is an eyeroll from the recruiter. Replace a point about your passion with information of your side projects and volunteer stints. Then when you get that interview, follow up by demonstrating your passion for the job role during the conversation.

Resume cliches to avoid_Passionate

Cliché #4: Hardworking

Instead of saying you’re hardworking, show it by providing proof or figures. If you’re hardworking, it means you go beyond your scope of duties that enables you to achieve more than expected, so surely you have some evidence to back up your claims. Otherwise, it just means you’re putting in effort without getting the results. And if you’re just working hard instead of working smart, recruiters will see right through that and give you a hard pass.

Resume cliches to avoid_Hardworking

Buzzwords to use instead

While having buzzwords help to give your resume that bit of oomph, don’t depend your life on it. Use it sparingly but more importantly, use it correctly. Check out some of our favourite action words!

Creative skills: Conceptualised, Customised, Designed, Developed, Initiated
Technical skills: Applied, Installed, Upgraded, Performed, Implemented
Leadership skills: Executed, Led, Administered, Managed, Oversaw
Problem-solving skills: Created, Tailored, Recommended, Solved, Established

Removing clichés and using the right buzzwords is only one step. Ultimately, you must make sure you’re including the right skill sets in your resume and matching them to the job that you’re applying for.