The job market is incredibly competitive right now, yet I still see resumes that start something like this:
“Hardworking, best-of-breed go-getter that thinks outside-the-box and hits the ground running. Go to person and results-driven team player that brings thought-leadership and synergy to strategically improve the bottom line…”
Okay, I do not think I’ve seen that many buzzwords squeezed into one resume summary statement but a few have come close. What you probably notice, though, is that a summary like this says nothing. The reader does not know what you do, what function you perform and how your work benefits your employer and your customers.
Schedule a call with us to review your own resume. We’ll discuss the words that will work and identify the phrases in your resume, job search letters, and LinkedIn profile that won’t work.
Job seekers’ use of buzzwords and clichés is so prevalent that CareerBuilder surveyed recruiters several years ago for their least favorite words and found the following:
- Best of breed: 38 percent,
- Go-getter: 27 percent,
- Think outside of the box: 26 percent,
- Synergy: 22 percent,
- Go-to person: 22 percent,
- Thought leadership: 16 percent,
- Value add: 16 percent,
- Results-driven: 16 percent,
- Team player: 15 percent,
- Bottom-line: 14 percent,
- Hard worker: 13 percent,
- Strategic thinker: 12 percent,
- Dynamic: 12 percent,
- Self-motivated: 12 percent,
- Detail-oriented: 11 percent,
- Proactively: 11 percent,
- Track record: 10 percent,
Grammarly.com suggests avoiding additional words and phrases such as:
- Action (when used as a verb),
- Responsible for leading,
- Going forward,
- References available upon request,
- Salary negotiable,
- Phone number, and
- Email address.
No one searches on most of these words.
Our most important reason to avoid clichés and buzzwords is that hiring teams will not search their ATS systems for resumes containing these terms. So many resumes describe the candidate as a “dynamic, results-driven go-getter”, for example, that searching for these terms would not whittle down the virtual stack. An accounting recruiter, for example, is more likely to search for accountants or auditors that have experience with “SAS 70/SSAE 16 compliance” experience or other specific accounting skills.
Certain words are not needed.
Terms such as “responsible for” that we commonly used on resumes in the past are not needed and counterproductive. A client I worked with several weeks ago, for example, told me she was “responsible for leading a task force that implemented Zymmetry PLM” for her company. We simplified this to say she led the task force.
It is counterproductive to say you were responsible for a project because you could have responsibility for a task without doing it. Many of us have responsibilities in our job descriptions, but we do not have the opportunity to carry them out. Why leave doubt about whether we led a project we were assigned responsibility for running.
Other words are filler.
Avoid words and expressions that take up space on the page without adding anything. As an example, there is no need to include words such as “phone” or “email” in our contact information.
The header on my resume would look like this:
Philadelphia, PA 19114
917 282 1808 | Frank@ResumesThatShine.com
Hiring team members, and their computer systems, will recognize telephone numbers and email addresses without labels. In fact, it is no longer necessary to put parentheses or dashes in US domestic telephone numbers because the 10-digit format is universal now.
“References available upon request” and “salary negotiable” also take up space without providing useful information. Hiring managers know you will provide references when requested. They also know you will discuss salary with them. Additionally, as we pointed out in another recent post, salaries and wages are not always negotiable anyway. Do not take up space with these phrases on the reader’s page and screen.
Focus on accomplishments.
We’ve mentioned so many words and phrases to avoid, you may be wondering what to use instead. The answer is the subject of many posts in a previous blog post.
The most important words to include are strong action verbs at the start of each accomplishment statement in your resume. You’ll find many good lists including hundreds of verbs with a quick Google search. A list of just 10 action verbs I found on CareerBuilder’s blog, and the percent of managers that like to see them on resumes, includes:
- Achieved: 52 percent,
- Improved: 48 percent,
- Trained/mentored: 47 percent,
- Created: 43 percent,
- Resolved: 40 percent,
- Volunteered: 35 percent,
- Influenced: 29 percent,
- Increased/decreased: 28 percent,
- Launched: 24 percent, and
- Won: 13 percent.
Although I do not recommend it, you could write a reasonably good resume that includes 3 jobs, and at least 3 accomplishments per job using this list alone, without repeating a verb.