Six Words or Phrases Not To Use in Your Resume or Cover Letter

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Writing a quality resume and cover letter isn’t an easy task. These promotional tools take time, great thought, and many revisions in order to create a document that can really sell you. In this week’s blog, I’m outlining a thought for you to consider as you analyze the effectiveness of your resume and cover letter. My writings for this blog are an adaptation from a recent article written by Catherine Conlan from where she identified eight words and phrases that should not be used in your resume. I have adapted this and outlined six terms that you will want to carefully consider not using as you polish up your resume and cover letter. These six terms are:

Results-Oriented – The general thought is that the term “results-oriented” is not very descriptive. Instead, you should provide specifics about what you accomplished. It is best if you describe the project, share the actions you took, and discuss the results or outcomes.

High Technical Aptitude – Again, this term isn’t very specific and appears that you’re trying to hide your lack of experience. If you truly have a high technical aptitude, discuss a specific program you’ve worked with, explain what you did, and share what you accomplished (or what the results were). In a compliance office this could include working with CAi or LSDBi.

Assisted – Most people who work in the sports world work in a team setting. In this role they are constantly assisting others as they strive to achieve the outcome of the project. Stating that you assisted someone isn’t very impressive. Instead, state what you did. Provide examples of your experiences. For example, as an intern you may have assisted in game management, but be more descriptive. Instead, let the hiring manager know that you have experience in game management, ticket sales, and in-game promotions.

Use of Trendy Adjectives – Don’t try to impress the search committee by using terms such as “cutting-edge” or “ground-breaking”. Instead, clearly describe what you’ve done or what you’ve accomplished.

Self-Starter – The term self-starter is a pretty generic term and working in the sports world requires working long hours and having the initiative to complete projects. Be more descriptive and share with the committee what projects you have worked on and what the results were. You will also want to share with the employer what strengthens and skills you would bring to their organization.

Detail-Oriented – All employees should pay attention to details. Instead of using “detail-oriented” to describe yourself, try sharing some projects you’ve worked on that requires a real attention to detail. For example, if you work in a compliance office, it requires that you are detail-oriented, that’s a given. How much more impressive would it be to tell the search committee that you have experience working with NCAA eligibility reports, hardship waivers, squad lists, etc. You get the idea.

The six terms listed above are similar in that they aren’t very descriptive and they lack detail. People quite often use generic terms, such as these, to describe themselves when they don’t know their strengths, skills, abilities and accomplishments. As you write your resume and cover letter, make sure you understand your attributes and are able to clearly communicate them.


Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University. He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach. He is also an author of 9 books. Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at or his new book Execute for Success at


The #1 Careers Book in Sports

2nd edition Image

In Getting Hired In College Sports you will discover:

  • The types of jobs that exist in college sports
  • How to plan and navigate your career
  • How to create an effective job search campaign 
  • The proper way to create an effective resume, cover letter, and sales pitch
  • How to properly brand yourself
  • Techniques and strategies to prepare for your interview
  • How to properly prepare yourself for the five types of interview questions 
  • How to properly follow-up after the interview in order to influence the decision of the hiring manager

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“I have recommended this book to many aspiring sports administrators.  This is a must read for anyone who has a goal of working in athletic administration”

-Bill Fusco
Director of Athletics
Sonoma State University




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