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Your Resume’s Kiss of Death: 10 Words to Avoid

by | Mar 19, 2013 | Resume Writing | 2 comments

resume crumpled

There’s a lot of talk about how important keyword-focused resumes are in today’s job seeking world.  Whenever we consult with a resume client at Grammar Chic, we regularly ask for a targeted job description or, at the very least, some idea of what type of position the individual is going after.  This allows us to write a resume with some very specific keywords and verbiage in mind, and this will help the resume make its way past the scanners and electronic parsers used to sift through the highly likely candidates and those resumes that are destined for File 13.

However, while a keyword-focused resume has become the new norm, it must be stressed that you have to use the right keywords and not a bunch of white noise clichés.  If the latter is the case, I don’t need a crystal ball to tell you why your resume isn’t getting any traction.

10 Resume Keyword Clichés

  1. People person.  It goes without saying that if you want to succeed in the business world you need to have some interpersonal skills.  An employer is naturally going to appreciate an individual who is able to work both collaboratively and independently, but using this overly broad term is not the way to express it on your resume.  Instead, you should talk about how you were able to help your team make progress, or how you handled a particularly difficult situation and achieved outstanding results in customer service.
  2. Familiar With.  Let’s just say that this phrase is ambiguous at best and doesn’t allow a hiring manager to really grasp if you have any idea of what you are talking about.  This doesn’t scream confidence regarding your knowledge of a software program, a technology platform, heck…even Microsoft Word. If you have a certain level of understanding and strength about something, stress it, don’t simply express familiarity.
  3. Reliable.  Just showing up to work does not make a stellar employee. Nor does it make one who is memorable.  If all that you can say about yourself is that you did the bare minimum and made it to work by 9am, bragging rights are not appropriate.  Strike this word and all of its synonyms from your resume.
  4. Flexible. If there is one thing that is constant about the business world it is change.  Employers expect their employees to change with the times.  While this word isn’t as much of a deal killer as “reliable,” take it a step further and expand upon it.  For instance, speak about your experience handling a new product or how you instructed and prepared your clients on a major change that was coming down the pipeline.  This will help you show that you were able to deal with aspects of your job that were unpredictable.
  5. Team Player.  In a business environment, no man is an island.  It is likely that you need to get along with your managers, your support staff and your team.  Otherwise, you would have been ushered to the door a long time ago.  Instead of simply alluding to the idea that you play well with others and can share your toys, explain how you helped, assisted or promoted your company’s team culture.  How did you help a co-worker who was overwhelmed?  How did you step up to the plate when your manager took a well-deserved vacation?
  6. Self-starter.  Most companies have a “we needed it done yesterday” culture.  Let’s face it, work hours have extended over the past 40 years significantly; people have less downtime and are more connected to their work than ever before.  With that said, deadlines are slim and ramp up periods for “understanding your job” have been reduced.  The majority of managers need someone to start in a position and not require excessive babysitting or handholding.  Hiring managers want candidates who can hit the job running, and unfortunately, stating you are a self-starter does not exhibit your initiative, motivation or ability to understand what you need to do quickly.  Instead of using this word, you must express how you are able to work independently or how you have thrived and excelled without supervision or training.
  7. Hard worker.  Even typing these two words, my eyes started to glaze over.  First off, never use the word “work” on your resume.  Secondly, all applicants, from the highly driven to the ones who simply take up space, claim to work hard.  Instead of using this phrase, explain how you met deadlines efficiently, the number of projects you were able to take on at one time or how you exceeded management expectations.
  8. Highly qualified.  Please don’t use this phrase.  Instead of saying that you are a highly qualified candidate, I insist that you understand that this is the area where you need to quantify your ability.  Deliver your sales numbers, your percentage of quota attainment, how much money you saved your division or how you were able to institute a process that reduced overhead costs.  Moreover, this is where you really need to consult the job description of the company that you are targeting.  More than likely, they outline the specific qualifications or certifications needed.  If you have them, flaunt them.
  9. Dynamic.   This is white noise.  What does it actually mean?  Are you energetic?  Progressive?  A creative thinker?  If so, just say it; don’t mask your abilities with this corporate buzzword.
  10. Problem solver.  You can only use this term if in fact you can quantify how you solved problems, and didn’t start them.  What did you specifically do to classify yourself as a problem solver?  Did you help someone out of a jam?  Did you appease a high dollar client and ensure their continued business?  Did you identify a solution to workflow inefficiency?  If you did, expand on how you helped.  This is another term that must be quantified.

In closing, understand that cliché keywords don’t help you.  They don’t make you stand out, show your capability or make you any different from the next candidate who uses them.  You must show how you are different and you can’t do that through generic content.

The team at Grammar Chic specializes in a variety of professional writing and editing services, including resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter writing. For more information about how we can help you, visit www.grammarchic.net or call 803-831-7444. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @GrammarChicInc for the latest in writing and editing tips and to give a “like” to our Facebook page. Text GRAMMARCHIC to 22828 for a special offer.