How Cliched Buzzwords in Your Resume Can Hinder Job Prospects

The advice most experts will give regarding your resumé is to include all pertinent information and get rid of the fluff. It is worth noting, however, that the words you use to describe yourself can be just as important.

How we describe ourselves is essential when trying to make a positive impression through the written word, especially when we are looking to convince a prospective employer to hire us.

It doesn’t matter if it is for a part-time job, temporary employment or for an internship at a business, the impact of the words we choose can get youthe job or get your resumé pushed to the side.

In December, LinkedIn, the largest global professional network, published a list of the most common adjectives, phrases and buzzwords used in their 135 million member profiles in 2011. Most of the English-speaking world have ‘creative’ as the most common adjective used, with Ireland favouring ‘motivated’. Brazilian LinkedIn profiles featured ‘multinational’ most often, while Italians used ‘problem solving’ and Singaporeans ‘track record’.

Amongst US members, the top 10 also includes ‘organizational’ (2), ‘effective’ (3) and ‘extensive experience’ (4), with ‘innovative (7), ‘communication skills’ (9) and dynamic (10). The problem is that the frequency of these words used in descriptive content basically numbs the desired effect, with HR personnel reading the same words every time. The result? Your resumé can be easily overlooked.

Standing Out From the Crowd

All this might seem a little over the top, especially when everyone else is using these words. However, that’s the problem: if every applicant for a job describes themselves as ‘creative’, ‘motivated’ and ‘innovative’, then just how creative are they showing themselves to be?

Doing the same thing everyone else is doing is showing neither creativity nor innovation. It also suggests the applicant is not motivated enough to separate themselves and stand out from the rest of the crowd.

We already know that video is becoming a welcome aid when it comes to HR personnel selecting new employees, which is why our own RMV (Recruit Me Video) is so important. However, an applicant’s resumé is always going to be read, as well.

Getting Around the Problem

Of course, it can be very difficult to swap words around and still retain accuracy in what is being described. In fact, in many industries look for ‘creative’, innovative’ or ‘results orientated’ personnel. Well, I would like to suggest these three replacements.

  • be specific – instead of being ‘creative’, say that you ‘get results despite limited resources’, or perhaps you’re ‘a troubleshooter skilled at fine-tuning strategies’
  • consider the employer – what is the most effective word for them? Perhaps they’re looking for a ‘proven troubleshooter and team player’ and not ‘innovative, results orientated’ personnel
  • try other words –  instead of ‘motivated’, perhaps ‘inspired by the challenge’ is more engaging; instead of ‘innovative designer’, perhaps try ‘inventive designer’

Standing out from the rest of the candidates is not easy, but trying something different is certain to catch the attention of any prospective employer. If nothing else, it shows that you are more ‘creative’ than those who simply claim they are.

Trilingual Career Coach & Recruiter with experience across Europe and Asia Pacific. She is also a speaker for workshops on resume writing, job searching tips, and interview techniques. She travels frequently but you can stay in touch with Eleanor via

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