You’re writing your resume, and you’d like to make your accomplishments stand out. You think to yourself, “How can I spice this up and get the manager’s attention?” You think of some of your favorite workplace-related films and the cool business lingo you’ve heard the actors throw around. You decide to call yourself a ‘rockstar’ at sales.
The hiring manager sees this, sighs, and moves on.
Just as there are words that can help you stand out or get through resume processing tools, there are plenty of words that might seem clever but actually hurt your first impression. Resume.com believes that not only can an employer learn about your skills and qualifications but also your communication skills and personality.
The experts at Indeed, Glassdoor, and Monster each have their list of words to avoid on your resume. We combine these into three categories of pitfalls to avoid before your next job search.
1. Overused buzzwords
We’ve all seen movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross where we see actors playing suave businesspeople comfortably dropping impressive-sounding jargon and we want to emulate. Maybe you believe that your thought leadership created an ecosystem of synergy, causing everyone to buy-in. Perhaps we’ll get off on the next exit and discuss these findings at the next junction. But for most managers, buzzwords like these are overused and mostly used for padding.
In a compilation of most hated resume words by AvidCareerist’s Donna Svei, the buzzword “dynamic” made the list. Polled career advisor Bob McIntosh had this to say on the word,
“Your resume and interview presence should give a “dynamic” meta-message. If they don’t, using “dynamic” on your resume won’t get you an interview or a job offer.”
A common mistake is trying to make an entry-level job sound much more exciting than it actually was by throwing out jargon and synonyms, but a skilled hiring manager knows all the tricks. It’s much better to be clear, concise, and direct.
2. Telling instead of showing
The above words can be all sizzle, no steak, and fall into our second pitfall: telling instead of showing. Monster uses the phrase ‘hardworking’ as an example. Anyone can say they are a hard worker, and most organizations would like to assume every candidate they consider is willing to work hard.
Instead of saying it, use your resume to show how much of a hard worker you can be. Use examples and numerical data to back up your claim. What hard work have you done in your career, and how can you show it to the organization? ‘Detail-oriented’ is another common case. It’s a trait employers want every candidate to have, and it will make every mistake you make in the process more glaring.
Other common words and phrases falling into this pitfall include ‘accomplished’, ‘people-person’, ‘team-player, and ‘expert’. You want to avoid cliches whenever possible, but if you’re ever in a situation where you feel like there is no better way to express your point, make sure to back up your point with clear, expressive examples. Almost every career option will need to work with other individuals; don’t call yourself a team player. Instead, tell the employer how you led a team to increase brand awareness by 13% over the last year, and explain how you did it.
3. Unnecessary information
Hardworking and detail-oriented aren’t the only unnecessary words or phrases that make up a good portion of resumes. Once you’ve finished describing your experience and education, it’s easy to fill up extra blank space with phrases like ‘references available on request’ or ‘salary negotiable.’
These types of statements apply to every candidate and don’t deserve space on your resume. They can also make you look overeager; traditionally, salary discussions shouldn’t happen until later in the hiring process, and not being negotiable would be a strange stance.
In addition, anything resembling an objective summary is unnecessary. The content of your resume should make your skills apparent.
“If your resume is self-explanatory, there’s no need to take up valuable space with anything that’s redundant. Also, if you’re submitting a cover letter with your resume, that should be more than sufficient in addressing your objective for your application,” says Glassdoor writer Caroline Gray.
Just as knowing what to include on a resume is critical, the flip side of the coin is knowing what not to include. Even seemingly harmless buzzwords or small phrases may keep you from getting an interview.
Thankfully, armed with this knowledge, you can make necessary corrections. Use action-oriented verbs and phrases to show off those traits and accomplishments you’re proud of. Show initiative and show that you were the cause of success, not just ‘responsible’ for things. The aforementioned experts above have informative lists of examples of words that do help your resume and can be a great place to start.
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