Resumes are not legal depositions. In fact, many people try to puff up their credentials by using meaningless jargon. If you’ve ever gotten a resume from a “detail-oriented, self-starter,” you probably know this firsthand.

While these jargon phrases are somewhat harmless, they could be enough to eliminate candidates if you have a lot of competition for an open position. Why? Well, these terms are often outdated phrases people slapped on their resume a decade ago and haven’t bothered to update. Or, they might be vague phrases that overcompensate for a thin set of qualifications.

Instead of using jargon, candidates should be providing concrete examples of the positive impact they could provide for your company. Below are a few examples of red flags phrases and what you might want to see instead.

“Detail Oriented”

From meticulous to obsessive, “detail oriented” can mean a lot of things, and therefore the phrase doesn’t really mean much. In fact, someone’s decision to use it shows a serious lack of creativity.

Instead of telling you they have an eye for detail, applicants should be showing you by saying they were able to, for instance, save a company thousands of dollars a year by combing through procedures and eliminating small, wasteful steps.

“Outside the Box”

There probably isn’t a more ironic phrase in business today than “outside the box” – a phrase so overused it’s actually “inside the box” thinking to use it. In addition to telling you they aren’t particularly creative, an applicant that uses this phrase could also be suggesting that they like to do things their way, or “outside” the company’s way of doing things.

Candidates wanting to show their creativity should be able to describe at least one creative solution they developed to address a significant problem.


One of the more groan-inducing terms out there, “synergy” is business jargon and should never be used by anyone, ever.

If a candidate wants to talk about how they’ve produced results by bringing together different ideas or processes (synergy?), they should give you a specific example.

“Willing to Go the Extra Mile”

At first blush, this seems like a harmless phrase to toss out there. However, it is a bit meaningless and it could suggest a person equates working long hours with being a good employee when being highly productive should probably be more important.

Candidates can show their willingness to put in extra work by mentioning the things they’ve done in their career without being asked, such as getting heavily involved in a professional organization or developing a new process through hard work done outside of their normal job duties.

“Thought Leader”

This is one of those buzz terms meant to sound important but is mostly meaningless. It suggests this person spends a lot of time networking on social media.

While networking is perfectly fine, it should be producing tangible results. An effective networker should be able to talk about the fruits of their labor, such as the following on social media they’ve cultivated or events that they’ve been invited to based on their prominence in the field.

At Cornerstone, we sift through resume red flags so your company can focus on achieving its core goals, instead of sorting through lackluster resumes. Please contact us today to find out how we can help your organization reach its goals.



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