Words to stay away from on your LinkedIn profile

These days your LinkedIn profile is as important as your CV when it comes to an initial assessment - and first impressions matter. 

In the past there were certain words that would make recruiters' eyes glaze over when they read them on CVs, and now those same words are making profile after profile on LinkedIn look like a thousand others.

LinkedIn actually publishes a yearly top ten of the most over-used words - here's 2013's. It is important to stand out, and so that often has people reaching for the superlatives, the cliches; words they think sound good but actually don't. So have a look at these words and phrases. If you are using them, it's time to rethink your profile!

'Responsible for...'

This was in the 2013 top ten. Of course you were responsible for something, and even if that sounds impressive on the surface ("responsible for a team of 30 and a marketing budget of £10 million annually...") it's actually not going to impress a recruiter. What they'll want to know is what you delivered on, and what you achieved as a result of your responsibilities. Using the example we just gave, what were your targets and KPIs? Did you meet them, and what ROI did you deliver with that £10 million and 30 people? That's what impresses.

'Hardworking' or 'motivated'

Let's hope so. You might as well add 'punctual', 'polite', 'patient' and 'effective' (these last two were in the 2013 top ten, as were 'organisational' and 'driven') and and be done with it. Here's a good general rule: if the term you want to use has an opposite meaning that is awful (so 'lazy', 'unmotivated', 'late', 'rude', 'impatient', 'ineffective', 'just drifting along' and 'disorganised') don't put it in your profile.

Did you mean you go above and beyond the call of duty and have exceeded expectations? Then describe how. Did you deliver on a superhuman amount of work to help your employers in an emergency? Did you manage to cover not only your own but someone else's commitments when it mattered? Did your initiative and commitment lead to wins for your employers? Again, it's the specifics that will impress.

'Team player'

Again, let's hope so, because most jobs these days involve working with others. Dig a bit deeper: what roles have you held in teams and what part did you play in the successes that the team enjoyed? Think about the skills and aptitude that you want to demonstrate and give examples of teamwork that illustrate your ability.

'Experienced in...'

That shows you've been around, but everyone but juniors has experience. Do you have wisdom? Do you have insight? And do you use this to achieve things or to make the right decisions? That's what we want to know. Describe what you've achieved, not what you've done: there's a big difference.


This was the single most overused word on LinkedIn for 2012 and 2013 and it's particularly awful to read on profiles for those working in the marketing and communications industry. Use it and you are actually giving the impression of a lack of creativity to someone who spends their days looking at profile after profile.

'Goal-oriented', 'detail-oriented' and 'strategic'

These are all too vague and none of them mean anything either!

  • If you managed to stay focused on a challenge and deliver despite problems, then say that.
  • If your attention to detail led to insight that contributed to a win, then say that.
  • If your shrewd planning made things simple, or your quick and appropriate reactions turned unforseen and unwelcome developments in a project from setback to success, then say that.

'Problem-solving skills'

Toddlers have problem-solving skills. Enough said?


Even if you are pedantic, obsessive and nit-picky, do you really want to advertise that fact? One of the biggest secrets to success is recognising that good is good enough. For most business owners, this word translates to 'time-waster' or 'difficult to work with'.


The overall thing you need to remember is this: if the way you describe yourself is with words that people keep seeing and almost expect to see, then they are going to assume that these are the only qualities you have. That says 'average' - and that's a truly dangerous word for those that want to progress their career.

Instead, here are the right ways to stand out:

  1. GET SOCIAL - we've written before about building a Social Media presence.
  2. GET WRITING - link to your blog, or post on LinkedIn.
  3. GET ENDORSED - just like specific achievements impress, so do specific recommendations from others.