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7 Overused Resume Phrases to Avoid
9/6/2011 4:17:13 PM
By Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Resume Writer
If you’ve constantly looked at other resumes to get ideas, you might find that employers are on to your game.
Weary of reading the same phrases over and over again, hiring managers are starting to expect more from top candidates who want to stand out in the crowded job market.
Here are 7 phrases that appear far too often on resumes, with recommendations on how to improve your wording for a sharper, more professional message:
1. Self-motivated professional or team player.
Most employers assume that they are interviewing candidates with these strengths. After all, if you weren’t self-motivated, why would you be pursuing a career move at the next level?
Assuming that you are using these phrases into your resume summary of qualifications, try instead to write a branded, headline-style sentence that pulls in your achievements, as in these examples:
“MBA candidate with numerous promotions in pharma leadership roles.”
“Technology leader awarded company honors for saving $100K in imaging expenses.”
2. Including, but not limited to.
I have news for you: “including” technically MEANS “not limited to.”
As an example, if your sales clients spanned a number of major corporations, you can spell them out with “including ABC Corporation, XY Company, and BC Enterprises.”
In this case, the reader can assume that you’ve left out several others—therefore, the word “including” will serve you just fine by itself.
3. Responsible for.
To any experienced resume writer, these words are like fingernails on a chalkboard. If you weren’t charged with doing it, why would it even appear on your resume?
Here is where a power verb will serve you better, plus provide more detail to the reader. Consider writing a replacement sentence such as “Raised customer satisfaction scores 30% with improved product launch support,” rather than resorting to “responsible for customer service delivery.”
4. Thrives in fluid environments while remaining pragmatic and focused.
Unfortunately, there are phrases still living on that were written by major resume companies as an example for their writers—but the writers continue to churn them out on actual resumes for clients.
Google this phrase to see how many times it’s been referenced—just in case you’re inclined to borrow it. If you do find your sentence on a number of LinkedIn Profiles or resumes, it’s time to come up with a fresh approach and different wording.
Be very careful with this term, as many employers assume that entrepreneurs are focused solely on their own companies and needs, and may avoid candidates that appear unable to work for someone else.
Should you be a former business owner trying to transition into the corporate world, you’ll make a stronger impression by defining your entrepreneurial nature for employers—in a way that makes sense for their needs. Here’s an example:
“Concept-to-market driver with multimillion-dollar record of startup success backed by launch planning, market development, product development, and forecasting skills.”
6. Excellent communications skills.
Like “effective communicator,” this phrase is likely to elicit a “so what” yawn from employers, mostly because it’s largely assumed that you are able to convey critical messages to those around you.
You’ll do better to describe your communications skills in more detail, with phrases such as “capable of distilling complex technical concepts to non-IT executives” that give specifics on how you are able to educate others in your company.
7. Over 15 years of experience.
Unfortunately, this phrase shows that all you did was survive in your field! Beyond an early-career stage, where employers want candidates with a minimum of 3-5 years, this wording doesn’t help you -- and only distinguishes you from others on the basis of your age. (Ouch!)
(Incidentally, “over” is technically a direction and the phrase here should be “more than” 15 years of experience. But I digress...)
Rather than listing your years of tenure, add data that shows the titles you’ve achieved or the details of your accomplishments, such as “Extensive leadership promotions to Clinical VP, R&D Director, and Project Manager based on ability to deliver improvements to cost, efficiency, and product development.”
Now that you’re armed with this overview of worn-out phrases, revisit your resume to see if you’ve watered down the message with an overused term or sentence!
You’ll find that employers will welcome a different -- and more detailed -- version of your capabilities instead.
About the Author
Laura Smith-Proulx of An Expert Resume is an executive resume writer and former recruiter who partners with CEO, CIO, COO, CFO, CTO, SVP, and Director candidates to win interviews at major corporations. A certified Professional Resume Writer, Online Professional Networking Strategist, Career Management Coach, Interview Coach, and Microblogging Career Strategist, she is a multiple award-winning resume writer and author of How to Get Hired Faster: 60+ Proven Tips & Resources to Access the Hidden Job Market.
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