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Jobseeker Suicide? Using Clichés on a Resume

6/20/2013 4:55:06 PM

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Jobseeker Suicide? Using Clichés on a Resume The Word "Innovative"; Is it a Crime to Have it on Your Résumé?
By Bob McIntosh, Career Trainer

Did you know the word “innovative” is a cliché? According to some job search pundits it is. It made some notorious list that circulated on the blogosphere. defines a cliché as “a trite or overused expression or idea.” If “innovative” has become overused, than it is by definition a cliché, but could it be called trite?

I have to admit that I’ve been telling my jobseekers to keep “innovative” and other adjectives off their resume and out of their vocabulary, as they are subjective–it’s better to show than tell how you’re innovative. In fact, I wrote an article bemoaning the use of words that are considered clichés, some good words at that. So it appears I’m contradicting myself, but this wouldn’t be a first.

But I had an epiphany when I was talking on the phone with a customer whose résumé I’m writing. As I was going over her résumé pointing out some of her accomplishments, I told her she is innovative, at which she agreed with great delight that, yes, she is. To get her to realize this made the word “innovative” special, not a cliché.

I once described myself as innovative but when I read that it was one of the 10 clichés to avoid on your LinkedIn profile, I stopped writing and saying that I’m innovative. After all, it’s a cliché, right? This was like the time my brother said Miso soup tastes like low tide. His expert opinion ruined the soup forever for me.

I just sent my customer her résumé with the adjective “innovative” included in the professional profile, and I didn’t feel the least bit guilty–considering she had initiated social media at her current company, implemented a preventative care program at yet another company, and more accomplishments that clearly show her as innovative.

In fact, my customer also demonstrated that she’s “creative” and “dynamic,” which are also considered taboo by the cliché police. With all of what I’ve expressed, I’m beginning to question the validity of experts who trash some great words just because they’re considered overused.

What if there are a lot of jobseekers and workers who are “innovative,” “creative,” and “dynamic,” and these are the best words to use to describe them? Should we use words that don’t mean quite the same, or should we use words from a different language? No, we need to show rather than tell, right?

“Designed a (an innovative) social media curriculum for students at risk that taught them how to market the school’s English Language Art’s program, earning Department of the Year.

I suppose this secondary teacher’s accomplishment statement shows innovation, but what’s wrong with using “innovation” in the sentence to give it more flavor. Further, when a job description calls for someone who’s “innovative,” and you’re trying to meet as many of the keywords to pass the Applicant Tracking System’s test, do you exclude this word? Just a thought.

I’m now beginning to think a little too much emphasis is being placed on finding ways to reinvent ways to describe jobseekers and workers. To hell with worrying about what the pundits consider to be clichés. They’re ruining the pleasure I get when writing a résumé or advising jobseekers on how to describe themselves, just as my brother had ruined my appetite for Miso soup.

About the Author

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer at the Career Center of Lowell, where he leads more than 20 workshops on the career search. Bob is often the person jobseekers and staff go to for advice on the job search. As well, he critiques resumes and conducts mock interviews. One of his greatest accomplishments is starting a LinkedIn group, which is one of the largest of its kind in the state, and developing three in-high-demand workshops on LinkedIn. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. Please visit Bob's blog at

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