3 Pointless Phrases You Have on Your Resume (And What to Use Instead)

By Jennifer Merz

I have a love-hate relationship with resumes. They give tremendous insight into a person’s skill-set, expertise and life experience. They can also make me laugh, cry, or even want to scream.

The most frustrating of all are the resumes that waste time. I’m not a believer in the saying “time is money,” but I do believe time is time! And I don’t want to spend it reading resumes that are full of fluff and pointless information. I’ll let you in on a secret… neither does your future employer.

Here are three pointless, common resume-phrases that waste time and make hiring managers want to scream… and suggestions on what to write instead:

1. The obvious statement.

“Answered telephones and faxed requests.”

“Developed a web-based platform.”

Yes, these statements show up on resumes every day. It’s better to assume that the recruiter, human resources manager, and/or the hiring manager for the position understands the basic requirements of any job you’ve held. If you were a receptionist, we can assume you answered phones. If you were a developer, we assume you developed something. So, the key is to be specific. The point is not to avoid the obvious, but to write about it in a way that adds value.

Here are examples of what to say instead:

“Filtered 100+ phone calls per day via Shortel system for executives, management and customer support.”

“Developed highly-available, large scale cloud applications for Fortune 500 Healthcare Companies, primarily using Java.”

There’s a reason that you are sharing certain information about your role, so make sure you provide it!
I’m a recruiter, so you can assume that I recruit people for jobs. What you may not know is that I focus 75% of my time on recruiting technology professionals for small start-up companies across the nation. The other 25% is focused on marketing, sales and executive roles that stem across small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. I just told you that I recruit, and I also added information that will be relevant to the prospective employer, and worth their time knowing.

2. The business jargon.

“Positioned to distinctively reinvent integrated testing procedures.”

“Gave 110% and dramatically actualized team building action items”

Ok, I didn’t really find these on a resume. I actually used this awesome tool to make up some super-cool jargon. I bet there are at least a handful of people out there who read that and thought, “that sounds like my mission statement!”

It’s crap. (Sorry, I’m feeling blunt today!) Useless words taking up space that don’t mean anything. I recently read a great quote from Jennifer Chatman, management professor at University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in a Forbes article who states, “People use it (jargon) as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

Eek. Here are examples of to say instead:

“Developed innovative testing procedures that uncovered 99.9% of bugs and potential threats.”

“Dramatically increased team production by 75% within 3 months’ time.”

Again, be specific and use words to tell your story, not to take up space. Next time you want to shift a paradigm or give 110%, consider a clearer choice of words to make your point.

3. Self-proclamations.

These typically appear in the summary section, but they can pop up anywhere.

“Motivated, creative and passionate marketing professional seeking opportunity to grow!”

“Rockstar sales executive with amazing communication skills!”

“JavaScript expert!”

These statements are showy and don’t reflect anything of substance. The sad thing is, you’ve probably been told by many well-meaning people to write this way.
More examples of self-proclamations include: persuasive, thought-leader, competent, enthusiastic, creative, motivated, and my favorite, guru. It’s not that you should never use these words on your resume, but it’s better to reflect these (or at least back them up) than self-proclaim. In today’s world of “selling ourselves,” some people take it too far and throw out adjectives like confetti at a parade.

If you’re really a creative, energetic and competent person, then get creative about showing this in your resume. In other words: show, don’t tell. Create a new format, develop a portfolio that showcases your work, include detailed information of a time when you were a thought-leader (without using the term thought-leader).

If you’re stuck, here’s an example what to say:

“Lead content development and creative design for advanced email marketing campaigns to reflect the company’s new brand strategy and color pallet, increasing our web traffic by 200% and gaining over 10,000 new followers in the first month.”

From reading that statement, I see someone who is a thought-leader, creative, innovative, productive and a winner, and they never had to tell me that.

To reflect back on what we just read, the moral of this post is:

  1. Don’t state the obvious, clarify in the details
  2. Stay away from sentences full of business jargon
  3. Show your experience, don’t just tell

Happy New Year and Happy Job Hunting! I hope these tips help you create a resume that reflects the real YOU! Best of luck in 2015 :)

XO,
Jenn Merz

Quote found in this article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2012/01/26/the-most-annoying-pretentious-and-useless-business-jargon/

Photo by Bill Barber

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