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As we all know, all employers and recruiters are confronted with more job applicants than ever before. So, if you want to ensure that your application isn’t quickly discarded (the average recruiter might spend under 15 seconds looking at if you’re lucky) here are some problem words or phrases to leave out of your cover letter and resume.

Empty words and phrases to omit from your resume or cover letter

It’s a good idea to leave out words that don’t serve any purpose on your resume or cover letter.

  • Awesome This one is a little slangy and is a little too unbusinesslike. Avoid this word in combination with the word really ( as in “really awesome”) and avoid using the word ‘really’ on its own. The word ‘really’ doesn’t do much to enhance your communication.
  • As to whether — This one is too wordy. Once upon a time, this kind of bloated phrase was fashionable and conveyed a tone of authority. These days, there is still a misperception that wordiness =important sounding. No so. Cut this one down, and leave off the “as to”. Conciseness is in. Wordiness is out.
  • A lot — You made a lot of sales, you supervised a lot of people. Vagueness is your enemy in any form of business or job search writing. Use numbers to walk your talk. You increased sales by 25%, you supervised a team of 100 people. Also watch out for writing ‘a lot’, instead of ‘a lot’ (in case you do use it). Many people these days think ‘a lot’ is one word (a lot).
  • Because — May people are in the habit of using this. Why not translate this one to English and say “because” or “since”. Leave this phrase off your resume or cover letter and any other business documents.
  • Every This phrase has what I call ‘clutter’, (i.e.) unnecessary words. Clutter has no place on a resume or a cover letter. Just use ‘each’. Always streamline your writing. Wordiness will cause your reader to stop reading.
  • Proven ability According to who? This is an over-used phrase that says nothing. The show, don’t tell. Use facts, figures, and examples that demonstrate something. If you have ‘proven writing ability’ published samples speak a lot louder than just telling someone on your resume and cover letter. If you have increased productivity, then used numbers to demonstrate that.
  • Proactive This is another over-used phrase – What does this word mean? Isn’t everyone proactive? Why not say you took the initiative to develop a new training program. That is the meaning of the word proactive-acting on your initiative.

Weak Phrases

  • I believe my experience — Be concrete. Use accomplishment statements that start with active verbs and indicate results, and let the reader decide for him/her self that your experience is a good fit.
  • Duties included — Listing your duties does little to sell you. Again, be more specific and mention accomplishments, or at the very least use active verbs that indicate what you do
  • Regardless — This is not a word, though it sounds like a very important one.
  • Knowledgeable — This is another vague term. If you know a certain software, for instance, it’s a good idea to say what you can do using that software. Being knowledgeable is wide open to interpretation. That reminds me of a time when I applied to a newspaper in Montreal, Canada where French is required. I said I had some knowledge of French. I got an answerback, saying, “you either know French or you don’t”. Being knowledgeable about French wasn’t good enough. Perhaps writing my cover letter in French might have proved the point a bit better. Nowadays we have to walk our talk.


There are always words that are fashionable to use, and then we hear or see them too much and it’s time to stop using them.

  • Robust — This one is a throw-back to the 80s, and was often used when talking about technology.
  • Leading-edge — Everything is leading edge. Today’s technology is obsolete tomorrow. That wasn’t the case when upgrades were every few years rather than every few months.
  • Out of the box– This one has lost its meaning. It used to be fashionable to refer to someone unusual or creative as an “out of the box” thinker. It’s not so unusual to be creative anymore.
  • Over the top — This is one of those corporate buzzwords that has also been overused and no one knows what it means anymore. It is somewhat vague.

Science Fiction Type Words

  • Mission-critical — Are you applying for a job in the space program? If not, then use another term.
  • Morph-This is probably OK if you are writing an email to a comic book company to pitch a story.

Clinical and Stuffy Words

  • Necessitate Sounds very stiff. Using this word necessitates the need for another word.
  • Orchestrate This one is Ok if you are a conductor.
  • Rectify — Why not just use the word “fix”
  • Maximize– Avoid any “size” form of a noun which makes your writing sound stuffy and less friendly.

Tips to Use Action Verbs in Writing Cover Letter & Resume for Postdoctoral/Research Scientist Positions

Writing a compelling cover letter and resume is a daunting task for candidates who wish to apply for a doctoral, postdoctoral, or research scientist position in industry and academia.

Numerous applicants from all over the world will be applying for any advertised research or scientist positions. Employers in both academia and industry select few potential aspirants from the pool of applicants for the next step of the hiring processes; that is, telephone or personal interview. This selection is purely based on the cover letter and CV of the candidate.

Contents in the Cover Letter or Resume of a Research Scholar

The cover letter and resume of a research scholar describe the past and present research accomplishments, employment history, teaching experience, technical expertise, publication, conference attendance/presentation, reviewer, and fellowships/grants.

Almost all applicants will be stating these attributes in their cover letter and resume. However, only a few of them are picked for the next round of interviews because their cover letter and resume persuade the employers about their academic and research activities.

How to Write an Appealing Cover Letter and Resume?

One way to make your cover letter and resume attractive is to use appropriate action verbs to describe your achievements in the field. Applying suitable verb phrases will make your cover letter and resume stronger and compelling. Moreover, the action verbs will help to catch your employer’s attention.

For instance, you may write your research work as follows: I have investigated the role of nerve growth factor protein in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Another example, I discovered that vitamin A rich food improves memory and cognition. No doubt, these sentences sound good. However, these sentences also indicate that you are the sole researcher for making this discovery.

At the postdoctoral level, most of the research work is performed under supervision. Most of the publications in the science field are multi-authored. Therefore, this sentence may not be appropriate to style your achievement.

Let us write it as; I have contributed to investigating the role of nerve growth factor protein in Alzheimer’s disease. Here the verb contributed suggests that you have played a critical role in this project, and the discovery made is teamwork. Most of the research projects in both industry and academia involve expertise from several scientists. Employers expect a postdoctoral fellow to be a team player. Likewise, you should use the right action verbs to state all your accomplishments.

Tips to Use Action Verbs in Your Cover Letter and Resume

As a first step, prepare a separate list of all your activities that you want to put in your cover letter and resume.

Usually, in the cover letter, you may want to state briefly about your present job, duties, education, technical expertise, teaching experience, and several publications. It depends on an individual’s achievements in his/her field. Start constructing a sentence for each of your skills using appropriate action verbs (see the below table for examples). You may find such an action verb list by Google search.


p id=”h.gjdgxs”>For example, if you are describing your research skills, you can use the action verbs such as collected, investigated, identified, examined, clarified, etc. Similarly, to describe your technical skills use verbs: designed, trained, assembled, computed, etc. For teaching experience you can use verbs – set goal, coached, explained, etc.

Written By
Terry Stone is the co-founder and strategist at BuyEssayClub.

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