The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Five Phrases That Mean You’re Not Hired

Put down that pen, Ben. Turn that computer off, Geoff. That brilliant resume that you are writing for that fabulous job that you’ve been dreaming about? Not going to happen. Too bad, Brad. You might as well not even try.


It’s not your lack of a quality education — though I personally think that being chief toothpick sharpener at Des Moines School of Dental Hygiene is an honor of which you can be proud — nor is it the series of increasingly pathetic and ill-paid positions that you have the nerve to call your career.


The words that you slip into your resume are why your dream job is going to give you the slip. But don’t take my word for it. These resume-busting ideas come from Hannah Hamilton, and the provocative, evocative article she wrote for her Monster masters at the Monster website.

Yes, I was rocked when I read “Five Phrases You Should Never Put On Your Resume,” and you’ll be rocked, as well as rolled, when you discover the popular phrases that send up the red flags.

Like “Hard Worker.” Now, it is very clear that the only person with whom you’ve ever worked who would use this phrase to describe you is you. Still, the problem Hamilton sees with the phrase is not that it is a risible lie, but that it “doesn’t prove your worth and may even undermine your value as a candidate in failing to show you are different.”

One wonders what would happen if you described yourself with another phrase, like “Goof Off,” or “Lazy Bones,” or “Major Slacker.” These phrases are definitely different and they do have the advantage of being true. Alas, like “Hard Worker,” they don’t provide the word that the job experts believe job hirers want to see in the resume of a job hunter. That word, I’m sorry to say, is “results.”

“Avoid describing duties and instead focus on results,” says author Karen Southall Watts. “Focus on concrete skills and accomplishments instead of relying on personal description through adjectives,” agrees operations executive David Allocco of PierceGray, Inc.

This is a problem. The good news is that you definitely do have results. The bad news is that all your results are negative. Makes me think that it is best if you altogether skip any description of your results, or your work habits, since you don’t have any.

Since you can’t talk about the way you work, you can certainly talk about the way you think. If that is your belief, think again. Consider the phrase you always use to describe your ill-considered, thoroughly crackpot approach to any assignment. You always think “out-of-the-box,” even if it usually leaves you “out-of-a-job.” Alas, this is also one of the five phrases you simply cannot use.

“Avoid overused and tired business idioms: out-of-the-box, win-win, core competencies, empowered, best practices,” cautions Southall Watts. “They’ve been so overused that people are sick of them.”

Fortunately, there is a way around this situation. While using any one of these phrases could be a risk, what company would not want to hire someone who uses them all! As in — “My core competency of out-of-the-box thinking has empowered best practices, which result in win-win outcomes.”

Sounds good, does it not? [And I’ve even thrown in a “result.”

The next verbiage no-no will not surprise you. According to resume writer George Bernocco, one word you definitely do not want to use is “salary.” As Bernocco so pithily puts it, “any mention of the word ‘salary’ on a resume sets off red alarms to an employer and would discourage them from bringing you in for an interview.”

Makes perfect sense. In this competitive economic environment, who wants to hire an employee who is so full of themselves that they actually think they should be paid a salary? Still, I think you can safely use the s-word if you handle it right. Simply conclude your resume with the must-hire phrase, “salary optional.”

The last two no-hire phrases that should not appear on your resume are, for you, no-brainers. “Reference available on request” is not necessary, since you know you have a pretty darn good chance of getting a glowing review from Mom.

Finally, don’t talk about your “objective.” You are sending a resume, so your objective is fairly clear — you want to get a job. If the company cannot see that obvious fact, you’re in luck, Chuck. An employer that dumb is very likely to hire you!

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


You may like