12 Mistakes You May Be Making on Your Resume and What to Do Instead 

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To make a strong first impression on potential employers, it’s essential to effectively showcase your marketing, people, organizational, and project management skills, experiences, and achievements through your resume and cover letter. As a marketing professional, the language you use can significantly impact how you are perceived by hiring managers and recruiters. To stand out for all the right reasons, it’s important to avoid overused buzzwords, clichés, jargon, vague language, generic statements, weak verbs, irrelevant information, negative language, and personal pronouns. Instead, provide specific examples and evidence of your achievements, tailor your resume to the job description and company culture, and focus on concise language that conveys your value proposition.

An effective resume serves as your first impression to potential employers, making it essential to showcase your skills, experiences, and achievements effectively. To ensure your resume stands out for all the right reasons, let’s explore some words and phrases that you should avoid and what to do instead.

Words and phrases that have been overused in resumes can come across as cliché and lackluster — even devoid of meaning. They often tell little to nothing of your actual accomplishments and instead can appear self-aggrandizing. It’s one thing for a well-known figure in your industry to call you a guru, but calling yourself a guru comes across as arrogant and egotistical.

Some common examples include:

MISTAKE #1: Using Cliches and Buzzwords

Team player
Think outside the box
Excellent communication skills
Strategic thinker
Value add

What to do instead:

Phrases like “team player” or “go-getter” are empty words that tell little about your
actual achievements. Instead, show, don’t tell. Use specific examples and achievements to demonstrate your qualities.

MISTAKE #2: Using Jargon and Acronyms

While industry-specific terminology can demonstrate your expertise, using too much jargon or acronyms can alienate readers who may not be familiar with them.

What to do instead:
Industry jargon and the use of technical terms might show your expertise, but if overused, it can alienate readers who don’t understand them. Use clear language and only include technical terms if necessary, explaining them for clarity.

MISTAKE #3: Using Vague Language

Avoid using vague or ambiguous language that fails to convey your specific contributions and accomplishments. Phrases such as “assisted with” do little to highlight your impact.

What to do instead:
Words like “assisted with” are weak. Instead, use strong action verbs and quantify your achievements whenever possible, providing clarity and context. 

MISTAKE #4: Using Self-Praising Adjectives

This is a very common sin of marketers’ resumes and cover letters. Many of us are experts at how to promote the brands we’ve managed. The problem is self-promotion lacks credibility. Words like “exceptional” or “world-class” when stated about oneself are boasts without proof.

– Thought leader
– Guru
– Leading expert

What to do instead:
Let your achievements speak for themselves, and only use quotes bestowed by respected organizations and figures in the profession and industry. If a top figure in your industry publicly praised you as a thought leader, it’s okay to use the quote. But calling yourself a thought leader simply doesn’t carry much weight. 

MISTAKE #5: Passive Voice / Weak Verbs

Using passive voice in your resume can weaken your message and make your accomplishments seem less impactful. Instead, use active language.
–  “Successfully completed tasks,” or “Effectively managed projects.”  Instead of saying, “Tasks were completed,” or “Projects were managed,” use active voice to highlight your role and achievements.
– Helped with: This conveys minimal involvement. Use stronger verbs that showcase your specific contributions and leadership.
– Assisted: While acceptable in some instances, using stronger verbs like “spearheaded,” “managed,” or “developed” will make your achievements stand out.
– Participated in: This implies minimal impact. Replace it with verbs that demonstrate your initiative and ownership, like “led,” “organized,” or “implemented.”

What to do instead:
Use active language and examples that convey your intended message. 

MISTAKE #6: Using Irrelevant Information

Be mindful of including irrelevant information on your resume, such as outdated skills or experiences that are not applicable to the position you’re applying for. 

What to do instead:
Focus on skills, experiences, and accomplishments and skills relevant to the job you’re applying for. That’s what they care about. Make their job easier. 

MISTAKE #7: Using Empty / Vague / Generic Phrases

Avoid using empty or vague phrases that lack substance and fail to provide meaningful insights into your abilities.


– Hardworking
– Team player
– Passionate about marketing
– Excellent problem solver

What to do instead:
Writing “team player” or “passionate about marketing” doesn’t impress a prospective employer, it’s a meaningless claim. Provide concrete examples of your passion and how it translated into positive results.

MISTAKE #8: Using Redundant Information

Ensure that every word on your resume serves a purpose and contributes to showcasing your qualifications and experiences. Avoid redundancy and unnecessary repetition of information.

What to do instead:
Every word counts. Avoid repetition and focus on conciseness.

MISTAKE #9: Using Negative Language

Steer clear of using negative language or phrases that may raise red flags for potential employers. 

What to do instead:
Keep it positive! Focus on your strengths and achievements, and avoid mentioning reasons for leaving previous jobs or highlighting weaknesses.

MISTAKE #10: Using Phrases from Templates

Using generic resume templates or pre-written phrases can make your resume blend in with the crowd. 

What to do instead:
Customize your resume for each application, using language that resonates with the company’s needs and culture, highlighting your most relevant experiences and qualifications. 

MISTAKE #11: Overusing the Pronouns I, Me, My

If your accomplishments constantly show you taking credit for everything and not mentioning others that you worked with, it can convey to prospective employers that you’re a self-promoter and not much of a team player (as mentioned earlier, don’t merely state that you’re a team-player; always illustrate it through examples).

What to do instead:
Show how you’ve successfully led or played a specific role in specific projects and/or campaigns, interacting with others. Don’t convey that you’re apt to take credit for every project or raise a concern that you may not work well with others. 

MISTAKE #12: Failing to Convey Your Relevance

This mistake is a sin of omission. Employers are looking for marketers that are staying up on technology, on AI, analytics, CRM, marketing automation, and personalization — the latest trends. Make sure that your resume and cover letter provide clear examples that convey that you’re knowledgeable and up to date on technology, AI, analytics and the kinds of software tools they use.

Wrapping It Up

Crafting an effective resume as a marketing role requires careful attention to language and phrasing to ensure you make a strong impression on potential employers. By avoiding overused buzzwords, clichés, jargon, vague language, generic statements, weak verbs, and instead use clear, concise communication and showcasing your achievements through concrete examples, and relevance for the role you’re applying, crafting a resume that stands out and gets you noticed by the hiring manager. Remember, your resume is a marketing tool – use it to effectively stand out in a competitive job marketing and help you get to the next step in landing the job you want.


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