5 Types Of Buzzwords That Are Killing Your Resume

Seriously, stop with the "cutting-edge optimizing." We don't care how much of a "team player" you are. Before you hit send on another copy of your resume, purge all of these buzzwords that hiring managers are sick of seeing.

You pored over your resume, ensuring it’s typo-free, grammatically correct, and highlights your best skills.

You even edited it down to one page. But, still, it may be riddled with the very things that can make hiring managers’ eyes roll or glaze over in boredom: buzzwords.

"You need to get rid of them," says Manhattan-based job interview consultant Vicky Oliver, author of Power Sales Words. Specifically, there are five types of words that need to be purged from your resume.

The Meaningless.

Some words are so ambiguous or overused that they’ve lost their meaning. Unless there’s a compelling reason to pepper your resume with words like disrupt, utilize, optimize, or monetize, ditch them. Use clear, simple language and tell people what you actually did, using task descriptions, examples and, most important, results, says Brandon Metcalf, COO of San Francisco-based Talent Rover, a cloud-based staffing and recruiter software platform. Stringing together sentences of meaningless words isn’t fooling anyone, even if they sound good.

The Superlatives.

You’ve heard them: world-class, foremost, cutting-edge (or, worse, bleeding edge—ew). They’re rarely quantifiable and don’t help your appeal. Oliver says adjectives should be used sparingly, if at all.

Stick to the facts. If you led the creative on a national marketing campaign that generated three times the projected return on investment, you don’t need puffery. Metcalf says it’s critical to support any assertion you make. Don’t say you were part of the most successful product development team in the company’s history—provide some substance telling the reader about what you did and why it was so successful, including any quantification of sales, awards, or increase in business that will prove your point.

The Clichés.

You may be a team player who gives 110%, 24/7, but those kinds of clichés are lazy writing and show an alarming lack of original thought. Be a little creative, Oliver says. You want your resume to sound like an authoritative version of you, not like some corporate culture video from 1987. Read your resume out loud. If some of the words or phrases sound tired, get rid of them.

The Acronyms.

You might be a Ph.D. in HR selected to lead an IMPA-HR session, but most people aren’t going to have a clue what that means, Oliver says. Spell it out. Metcalf says that some specific industry acronyms can be useful to let recruiters know that you understand the industry, such as a reference to FASB standards, which refer to Financial Accounting Standards Board norms in financial reporting. But it’s usually best to spell out the full name on first reference. First, because it’s grammatically correct. In addition, if your resume lands in the hands of a more generalist recruiter, he or she will better understand what you’re trying to say.

The Nonsensical.

You might think saying you "liaisoned" with top execs sounds great—but the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t because liaisoned is not actually a word. And your prospective employer probably won’t either, says Oliver. Stick to words that are actually in the dictionary. There are plenty of good ones in there.

[Image: Flickr user Bethany King]

Add New Comment

7 Comments

  • Don't tell the job-seekers to stop using those words before you tell the job-posters to stop using them. Have you LOOKED at mid-level and above professional job listings lately? Incomprehensible.

  • Keith Glass

    Frankly, since most recruiters use keyword search anyway, you generally have to use buzzwords and initials to get past the filters in the first place.

    Now, cutting back on the weasel-words is another story entirely. Resumes SHOULD be "Detective Joe Friday"-style: Just the facts, ma'am. . . . .

  • Troy Evan Sabean

    I find it interesting that what seems like a high percentage of linked-in profiles are ripe with this sort of gibberish. From my perspective, it makes a person look fake.

  • You get what you reward.

    Just listen to any "C" level speaker, especially the CEO.

    Or Entrepreneur -- same problem; different lexicon.

    And keep the OED's out of the room, lest they combust at the vocabulary these multi-million dollar visionaries use in every single speech. Yep.