We’ve all heard clichés about the job search, like, “Opportunity doesn’t knock twice,” and “Good things come to those who wait.” These ideas can help us understand the process and relate to each other better. Their familiarity makes it clear we’re not alone—job searching (and rejection) is an experience everyone shares, even if you’re exceptionally qualified.
But these platitudes have also become so overused, they ring hollow today. They might even make you cringe.
It’s easy to point out empty expressions when they come from other people, but it’s more challenging to identify those problems in our own writing. Most people continue to use stale language on their LinkedIn profile and resume, for example.
These documents contribute to a hiring manager’s first impression of you as a job candidate. And if they see the same wording repeated, it can be hard to stand out from hundreds of other applicants. At the end of the day, clichés are just fluff—we include them because we think recruiters want to see buzzwords. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Keywords aren’t enough to get you hired.
Most recruiters and hiring managers are looking for proven examples of the results you’ve produced. Inflated descriptions won’t mean anything if you can’t support the language with evidence.
Here are some of the most over-used—and, therefore, unremarkable—expressions we see on LinkedIn and resumes.
A well-organized resume with no spelling errors and clear descriptions will demonstrate that you’re detail-oriented. You don’t need to point this out explicitly in the writing—it’s best to use that space to cover information that’s more relevant to the position.
Show that you can work on a team by giving examples of how you’ve collaborated in the past. You can also use active verbs, like “mentor” or “cooperate,” which are more engaging and convey personal agency.
If you’re working, the hiring manager will assume you achieve results for your current employer. This message will produce a bigger impact if you can demonstrate through key performance indicators (KPIs) what results you’ve achieved.
Instead of relying on a self-assigned label, use your work summary to speak to the independent work that you’ve initiated on behalf of the company. Describing your affiliations with professional organizations also shows that you’re motivated to improve your skills beyond your immediate work environment.
This term is too broad. Instead of using one word to encompass an idea that’s central to your career growth, describe when you took charge or led a project. A concrete example shows initiative.
This is another sentiment that’s more meaningful if you include an example. Prove that you work hard with the results and achievements that you list on your resume.
Each bullet point on a resume needs to be robust and start with a verb. “Responsible for” is a passive description and makes the sentiment fall flat. Instead, choose a more specific and compelling action, like transform, secure, develop, launch, reconcile, or capitalize.
This word sounds like a euphemism for overqualified. Age discrimination is rampant, and job seekers should avoid any terminology that could imply their age.
You can usually cut a vague adverb by choosing a more specific verb or adding more details that point to specific KPIs. Hiring managers like to see measurable outcomes listed in your job history.
This phrase might accurately describe your mindset—but it’s so familiar, it loses all of its impact. Less commonly used words like “conceptualize” speak to your creativity. Using more succinct wording will also make the sentence easier to follow.
What did you innovate? You’re better served by giving an example than hoping a hiring manager will take your word for it.
It’s best to avoid the word “proven”—it doesn’t actually provide, well… proof! Instead, try substituting it with information about your concrete deliverables.
This final point isn’t a cliché—but it’s still overused and doesn’t belong in a resume or LinkedIn profile. Microsoft Office is the industry standard, which means it’s not considered a skill. Hiring managers assume every qualified candidate will know how to use this software. Delete this item and instead use the space to discuss skills that are unique to the position you want to fill.
For most people, resume writing doesn’t come easily. If you want to hone your employee branding and stand apart from other candidates, work with a talented Career Coach from Ivy Exec. They’ll help you capitalize on your skills and make a powerful first impression.
— Amber Crow
This story originally appeared on Ivy Exec. Amber Crow is a Career Advisor for Ivy Exec with three years of experience. She is focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace through her website TheQueerCareerBlog.com.
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