When you’re on the hunt for a new job, it’s hard enough to craft a compelling cover letter and customize your resume or CV to fit each position you’re applying for. Getting too wordy isn’t always the best idea, especially given that some employers will go as far as to implement systems that automatically filter out any applications that contain certain meaningless words that they know are used far too often. Still, you want to sound professional and interesting in a way that sets you apart from the competition. Before you go ahead and attach your resume to an email message or application form, have a look through the following list of words that are vague and overly used to see if you use any of them.
Claiming to be “results-driven” means nothing unless you have proof to back up the results that you’ve been able to get from past experience. Instead of using this word, give real examples of past situations in which you’ve been able to drive results. Back that up with measurable details like percentages or other statistics that help emphasize exactly what you’re capable of doing.
Other people can describe you as likeable, but it’s a bit weird to use it to describe yourself. Even the most difficult people to work with can call themselves likeable, so it really doesn’t say anything about you when you’re trying to sell yourself to an employer. If it’s important for you to communicate that you’re a great team player and your coworkers love you, then explain how you led a team project, took the initiative to plan a corporate holiday party, earned your coworkers’ trust, or some other example that proves your likability.
Of course employers want detail-oriented people to work for them. Many of them state it in their job descriptions, which leaves all the more reason for applicants to include in on their resumes. You need to get specific to show exactly how and why you focus on details, along with how it helps move you forward. Tell a unique story about yourself where you really found success by zeroing in on the details of a particular project or problem.
“Dynamic” is one of those fancy words you think will make you sound smart. But in reality, all it does is add fluff. If you’re trying to communicate that you can adapt well to change and still make progress, then the best way to make that point would be to explain how you did that from previous experience.
Even if you truly are a hard worker, simply stating it isn’t going to convince an employer. Ask yourself: How does your work ethic differ from the average employee’s? How do you push through when faced with unexpected problems? How did you go out of your way to deliver above and beyond what was expected of you in a previous work situation? Focus on answering these questions in your resume.
Anyone can be an expert these days. You can call yourself an expert on your resume, but anyone who reads it won’t believe you until you back it up with concrete facts. To prove your expertise, make sure to include the number of years of experience you have, the most successful strategies you have implemented, and any impressive results or awards you were really proud of achieving.
Employers don’t want to hire people who need to be taken by the hand and shown how to do everything, so calling yourself “self-motivated” may seem like a good way to demonstrate that in your resume. In truth, though, this is just another empty word that too many people put on their resumes in place of real examples. If you have leadership experience or if you were previously responsible for completely a certain project or task, explain how you were able to handle it without needing anyone to push you along.
The word “successful” is one of the few commonly used words you can still put on your resume, but only if you follow it by describing exactly why you think you’re so successful. You can do that by elaborating on your skills and experience.
Responsibility is an important part of any job, so it should be a given that you have that quality already. Rather than calling yourself “responsible” and leaving it at that, you should instead focus on adding a few points about how you exercised control and made important decisions that influenced a particular problem or situation.
There’s nothing quite like working the word “innovative” into your resume in hopes of it helping you stand out from every other applicant. This is one of the most overly used buzzwords of the past couple of decades or so, largely thanks to how much we rely on technology now. If you truly want to emphasize how innovative you can be, try talking about other people’s positive feedback about a new idea or approach you introduced to them in your previous work experience.