Five Overused Resume Phrases

by Angie Mohr

Posted from

When it comes to resumes, recruiters have seen it all. Some are clever and creative, and some contain outright blatant untruths. What hiring managers see most, however, is a parade of the same old tired words and phrases that don’t tell them anything useful about the candidates. These words have become standard fare and have been recommended by just about every resume expert in the 1990s. Hiring needs have changed over the past two decades and companies are seeking more specialized experience and skills. Here are five resume phrases to avoid if you want yours to stand out in the crowd.

Team Leader
This phrase is meant to convey that the applicant has experience in managing employees. The phrase “team leader,” however, does nothing to describe the nature of the relationship. For example, having the responsibility to hire, fire and otherwise manage human resources is a different skill than being responsible for receiving updates from a project team. Choose specific examples of human resource experience and outline exactly what you were in charge of. Tailor the examples chosen and the description to the requirements of the job posting.

Effective Communicator
What does this term really say about you? That you talk a lot? That you conserve your words? That you speak only when necessary? It is simply another vacant phrase that tells a potential employer nothing about your skills. What do you communicate and to whom? If you want to highlight the fact that you consult your staff and include them in the decision-making process, be specific in referencing this and provide clear examples of your communication style and why it was effective.

“Co-ordinated” is a word often used in resumes when you can’t say “in charge of” or “responsible for.” Its meaning is vague and unclear. What did you co-ordinate? What did it involve – developing a project plan, following a schedule or checking in with different teams? Use more specific verbs to show a recruiter the extent of your management experience.

Innovative Thinker
Companies and organizations don’t hire thinkers. They hire experienced doers. If you believe that your thought processes have helped you to be successful in your career, outline the results of your thinking. Show how the plan and the actions were innovative and why. If it resulted in the company saving money, increasing productivity or other objective measures, show numerically how you have helped the company.

“Proactively” one of the most often used and most meaningless resume adverbs, and it’s used in front of many equally meaningless verbs such as communicated, co-ordinated and organized. It simply means that you did something using initiative – a skill expected by all employers. It means you did your job. There is no need to highlight it on your resume. Employers are more interested in your previous accomplishments.

The Bottom Line
Human resource departments have to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes in a year. The vast majority will use some or all of the above catchphrases. Recruiters are accustomed to skipping over such words to hunt for the nuggets of what the applicant has accomplished in prior jobs. Focus your resume on what you have done, not how you have done it. Give relevant examples of past projects or tasks that highlight skills the new job will require. Align your resume wording to that of the job description to show that you understand what is required and that you have the experience necessary to excel. The easier you make it for a recruiter to hire you, the more likely you will be hired. (For related readings, check out Seven Cover Letter BlundersFinancial Careers: Trying On Potential Employers and Tips To Beat Tough Interviews.)

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Tags: advice, career, careers, employment, jobs, resumes


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