Say you meet a fellow professional at a conference, and when you shake hands, they say, “Hi. I’m innovative, dynamic and motivated. I’m a results-oriented problem solver who’s familiar with a variety of software programs and has a proven track record of thriving in a fast-paced work environment.” Would you be impressed? Or would you wonder, “What, exactly, did this guy just say?”
Hiring managers often face the same dilemma. The buzzwords and clichéd phrases that some job candidates sprinkle throughout their resumes and cover letters are meant to grab attention. But they can leave hiring managers confused — or wondering what the individual is trying to hide.
Following are examples of terms you should avoid:
‘Familiar with …’ Saying that you are “familiar with…” something does not provide any insight into your actual knowledge or ability, or the depth of your experience. Always be specific when discussing the expertise you possess, particularly when it comes to your technical skills. For example: “As a technical support specialist, I provided daily support for Microsoft Windows 7 workstations over a two-year period.”
‘Responsibilities include …’ One common mistake candidates make in a resume is to present a long list of duties from their last job. What hiring managers would prefer to read about — since they likely already understand the types of tasks you handled before — are your accomplishments. If you helped your previous employer increase efficiencies or cut costs, for instance, don’t keep it a secret.
‘Optimize,’ ‘leverage’ and ‘utilize.’ You may think these words sound powerful, but really, they’re nebulous. If you include terms like these in your resume or cover letter, a hiring manager may think you can’t communicate in a straightforward manner. Keep things simple: Instead of saying “leveraged resources to increase network efficiency,” briefly describe your approach and the results you achieved. Don’t go overboard, though. Save some details for the interview.
The good news is that there are some terms that can help move you closer to a job interview. Keywords — or terms that describe skills, certifications, software programs and the like — may be used by human resources professionals or resume-scanning software to determine which applicants best meet the qualifications of the available position.
Look to the job description for relevant keywords to include in your resume and cover letter. Avoid the temptation to include terms that don’t accurately describe your background. Any attempts to exaggerate skills and experience or conceal knowledge gaps are not likely to go unnoticed and could damage your creditability in the long run.
The people who read your resume are interested in one thing: whether, based on what they read, you deserve additional consideration. The best way to earn an interview — and, ultimately, a job — is to present an accurate portrayal of your abilities and experience using language that clearly describes exactly what you have accomplished in your career.