Choosing the right tone in your resume can be a challenge. But by carefully selecting the right words, you can connect with employers and make them feel confident you understand their business and are the ideal person for the job.
Words to avoid using in your resume
Simon Bennett, a career coach and recruitment consultant from Glide Outplacement and Career Coaching recommends job seekers avoid popular buzzwords such as ‘loyal’, ‘energetic’, ‘punctual’, ‘motivated’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘team player’, ‘client-focussed’ or ‘a people person’.
“These words are frequently overused and rarely backed up with concrete examples,” Bennett says. “Yes, almost every employer will be looking for these traits but anyone can say they possess them.”
Bennett says the problem isn’t with the words themselves, but how they are used. “Candidates often include the words thinking they are enough to make them sound competent,” he says. “But employers want to see how you embody these traits.”
What to say instead
Rather than simply using buzzwords, it’s important to demonstrate you have a particular quality. “For example, what have you actually done at work that proves you are a team player?” Bennett asks.
“Without supporting evidence to show that you have those characteristics, buzzwords are merely words which many other people also use and therefore have little value,” says Julian Williamson, director and founder of The Jobseeker Agency.
If you want to show that you are a loyal employee, you could demonstrate it by stating how long you stayed at a particular organisation, or if you want to prove that you are client-focussed, you could give examples of how you went above and beyond what was expected by clients in a certain role.
Replace these words:
- Team player
With powerful action verbs such as:
- Developed (e.g. “I developed a new training manual”)
- Achieved (e.g. “I achieved all my sales targets”)
- Managed (e.g. “I managed a team of three”)
- Initiated (e.g. “I initiated a health and safety program”)
“These types of action verbs capture attention and excite the reader,” says Bennett. “These words help to highlight your skills and abilities and demonstrate the success you have achieved in previous jobs.”
Replace buzzwords with keywords
For many companies, sophisticated algorithms that search for keywords have replaced manual searching of resumes. “Most companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS),” says Williamson. “This software will search your resume for keywords associated with the job. Therefore it’s really important to mirror the keywords that are contained within the job description.”
According to Williamson, an organisation is more likely to search for a specialist skill they desire as opposed to searching for candidates who have described themselves as “enthusiastic” or “hardworking”. “It is far better to use facts and figures where possible, provide evidence of where you have used skills or had achievements so the reader can gain a comprehensive overview of your previous roles and responsibilities,” says Williamson. “This will add far more value than sprinkling overused buzzwords in your resume.”
While it can be tempting to include descriptive words that you think recruiters want to read such as “team player” or “good communicator”, it is far more important to demonstrate you have the skills and qualities employers are looking for – in both your resume and online profile.