No matter the state of the job market, it’s always hard to make your resume or CV standout from the pack. There’s a temptation to embellish it with fancy words such as “utilise” or “democratise” to make us appear important.
Beware though. It’s just such words that can be a red flag for recruiters. We turned to question-and-answer-site Quora to find out what the most useless, meaningless or ridiculous resume words are. Here’s what respondents had to say.
“As a recruiter rifling through tomes of resumes,” wrote Angela Liu, “it is my conclusion that if we had to make a drinking game — take a shot (or, hell, a sip of a drink) for every time we heard our least favourite words — those fluff words, those fillers, those damned, insipid weed of words blotting out the view of their substantive counterparts — I and other recruiters would be ... drunk before mid-day.”
Her list of least useful words comprises those most associated with soft skills, including “team player, multitask, learns quickly/quick learner, great communication skills, responsible for, various, as required.”
“While soft skills have never been more important whether you are a software developer or a business development executive, we don't need the [words] that tells us NOTHING about how you are different,” Liu wrote. “Now, this is not to say that all soft-skill, fluffy words are created equal on the boredom-dometer — nor bad to have on resume.”
Liu said candidates can address their emotional intelligence without jargon. When they do this, it “is more forgivable or, even, admirable — a PLUS to have because you instantly hear the jobseeker's true voice. You glean something true.”
She offered this example:
- Been coding and breaking things since I was 9. Love finding out how things work and take a lot of pride in my craft. Currently loving building web applications, especially with a bigger mission behind them. Also, I hate the word polyglot but it fits. I'm tech agnostic and have spent a lot of time skilling up in several areas.
“Various,” wrote career advisor Erin Berkery-Rovner “is single-handedly the most useless adjective on a resume. It essentially boils down to saying nothing new about the nouns that it prefaces.
“In almost any example I can think of it replaces the word ‘different’. People are using it to demarcate separate projects they worked on or duties they performed. Except if you were to write the word ‘different’ instead of ‘various’, your resume would come off like a sullen teen: ‘I worked on a few different projects, but whatever, they weren't really descriptive, just various,’” she continued.
Just delete it, she advised. “Either tell me how many projects you worked on or what they were. But if you tell me various projects, you better have a hell of a lot of other adjectives surrounding it.”
Similarly, avoid the word “very”, advised Jim Broiles. “Very should be banned from use in resume or any kind of professional communication. It adds nothing to the meaning of the communication and only serves to expose ones penchant for hyperbole.”
While it’s important to sell yourself, some words come off as too arrogant. Among them: visionary, expert, futurist, mastermind, go-getter, change agent.
Take visionary, for example. “Relative to what?,” Broiles asked. “This descriptor is the embodiment of naive arrogance.”
Synergy and its derivitives are no better, according to Brian Hennessy, who said the terms make his eyes roll. “This was actually a clever buzz word about 10 years ago as I would often hear it at pretentious cocktail parties and trade conventions. Then I saw it popping up in just about every context on every resume that I would come across.”
Hennessy cited these examples as ones to avoid:
- Often called upon to be responsible for the synergy of department resources.
- Consistently executed the synergy of company directives.
- Developed, managed, and cultivated the synergy of all employees.
“I'll even see this word used on resumes for menial work in restaurant and hospitality jobs,” Hennessy wrote. “It's blatantly overused.”
"Problem solver," wrote Ned Horvath, “is, unfortunately, one which I see often on older peoples' resumes, and seems to be code for ‘my skills are obsolete, but I've seen a lot of stuff and can still contribute in a general way’…There have never been more free or cheap self-education resources available on the web, and there are mutual-support groups everywhere. Get current, and let the problem-solver be evident from the stories your resume tells.”
Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.
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