Avoiding Buzzwords: Writing a Resume Without Tired Clichés

When it comes to writing a resume, some things are better left unsaid. Why? Because a new study conducted by LinkedIn has found certain words and phrases are prone to massive overuse. According to the professional networking site, the most overused buzzword of 2013 was ‘responsible,’ which was featured in user profiles twice as much as any other word. And while no one can predict what the coming year holds for job hopefuls, one thing is for sure: its important to stand out from the crowd.

LinkedIn goes on to reveal the top 10 most overplayed resume-fillers last year, with ‘strategic,’ ‘effective,’ ‘creative,’ and ‘patient’ taking spots two through four, respectively. And rounding out the list, they have ‘expert,’ ‘organizational,’ ‘driven,’ ‘innovative,’ and ‘analytical.’ The study also found that, although buzzwords varied from country to country, almost all nations overused the same top three words in 2013 – ‘responsible,’ ‘strategic,’ and ‘effective.’

But that’s not all. According to a recent article from AOL Jobs, hiring managers see some catch phrases so often that it’s become hard to take the corresponding resumes seriously. These include clichés such as ‘hard worker,’ ‘self-starter,’ ‘team player,’ ‘highly qualified,’ ‘dynamic,’ ‘problem solver,’ ‘reliable,’ ‘familiar with,’ ‘flexible,’ and ‘people person.’

The problem with buzzwords

Unfortunately, this study shows that we aren’t doing enough to make our LinkedIn profiles unique and – dare I say – creative. And if most of us mirror our resumes off of our LinkedIn profiles, we might be in a heap of trouble.

“Originality goes a long way when marketing yourself to the professional world – both online and off,” notes an infographic posted on the LinkedIn blog. Regardless of how special one’s mother thinks they are, it’s vital to create a resume that accurately describes all talents and abilities. Why? Because seeing the same words and catch phrases used might incite yawns and eye rolls from the very people that job searchers are hoping to impress. According to the experts, the key to an eye-catching resume is strong and memorable language. These tips can also help:

  • Use power words: According to CareerBliss, an effective resume should avoid meaningless, redundant words. How? By using power words. Some possibilities include ‘conceptualized,’ ‘trained,’ ‘built,’ ‘introduced,’ ‘persuaded,’ ‘assessed,’ ‘improved,’ ‘adapted,’ and ‘solved.’ Of course, only use power words that accurately describe you and your abilities.
  • Use action verbs: Boston College suggests that job seekers use actionable wording on resumes and LinkedIn profiles, as opposed to passive words. Choose action verbs carefully and start each line of your resume with one. Some examples include ‘initiated,’ ‘planned,’ or ‘managed.’ Furthermore, they suggest researching industry-specific nouns and phrases in order to create a comprehensive strategy for your job search. Hint: many “power words” are also action verbs.
  • Accurately describe applicable skills and experience: Buzzwords aside, it’s important to use terms and phrases that paint a realistic picture of one’s work history and attributes. This is because, according to Business Insider, human resources managers are often looking for specific skills. For instance, if someone is particular skilled at team-building, they should say so. Likewise, a skilled communicator should describe that trait as definitively as possible.
  • Show results: Words are important, but most employers are looking for real results that back them up. Therefore, it’s important to articulate any positive accomplishments an individual has produced at past jobs or other professional situations. LinkedIn suggests linking skills to “specific results that demonstrate your competence.”
  • Utilize references: Job seekers who stand out from the crowd often have a long list of references to vouch for them. But, the length of the list isn’t as important as the quality of its contents. For instance, avoid using family members as a reference and only use professionals that you’ve had a positive experience working with in the past. Take things a step further by discussing your job search with your references and verifying that they’re qualified to describe your talents.

Searching for a job can be a tiring and frustrating endeavor, and a resume chock full of predictable buzzwords certainly won’t do you any favors. Hopefully, these tips can help you stand out amidst the competition.

“10 Words Never To Use On A Resume,” AOL Jobs, March 18, 2013, Robert Half, http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2013/03/18/most-overused-words-resume/
“20 Resume Power Words — INFOGRAPHIC,” Career Bliss, August 19, 2013, Ritika Trikha, http://www.careerbliss.com/infographics/20-resume-power-words-infographic/
“Action Verbs & Keywords,” Boston College, http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/offices/careers/jobs/resumes/verbs
“Top 5 Words Recruiters Look for in Resumes,” Business Insider, April 24, 2013, Heather R. Huhman, http://www.businessinsider.com/top-5-words-recruiters-look-for-in-resumes-2013-4
“Top 10 Overused LinkedIn Profile Buzzwords of 2013 [INFOGRAPHIC],” LinkedIn, December 11, 2013, Christine Choi, http://blog.linkedin.com/2013/12/11/buzzwords-2013/

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