How to Avoid Overused Resume Terms

Your resume can be an effective tool for securing job interviews and, hopefully, a great job. In a tight economy, however, you are competing with lots of other job seekers. Remember that all of those job sites that invite you to post your resume are making the same pitch to millions of others.

This means that it's more important than ever to make your resume stand apart. One way to do this is to stay away from the overused buzzwords that are found on so many resumes. While using certain words and phrases might be grounded in good intentions, after continued use the words become cliché and often don't offer specific enough information to managers or recruiters to be useful. Once managers or recruiters have seen these words or phrases a few dozen times, they start to conclude that people who use these terms aren't very original. So let's take a look at how you can avoid falling into this trap.

Some Common Resume Terms to Avoid

What are some of the top buzzwords that so many people are putting on their resumes?

  • "Team Player"
    It's true that most jobs require you to interact with other people. This phrase, however, has been used so often that it has practically no meaning. Find a more creative way to tell people that you work well with others. Offering specific examples is most helpful.
  • "Think Outside the Box"
    Ironically, using this phrase suggests that you are stuck firmly in the box, at least when it comes to describing yourself. List a history of your innovations instead.
  • "Track Record"
    There's nothing inherently wrong with this phrase except that it's an overused sports metaphor. It's better to simply state your accomplishments rather than brag about your track record.
  • "Communication Skills"
    This phrase is something similar to the use of ''being a team player.'' Once again, though this is a valuable quality, the phrase sounds too stiff and clichéd. It might be more useful for managers and recruiters to describe how you promote effective communication in your work.
  • "Motivated" or "Driven"
    Presumably, if you are seeking a job, you are motivated to some degree. This is a quality that everyone claims to have, so there's no point in reciting it. Your accomplishments will do a more effective job of highlighting your motivation.
  • "Creative Problem Solver"
    Both "creative" and "problem solver" are overused buzzwords, and they are even more glaring when used together.

How to Get Beyond Buzzwords

You may be worried that there's no safe way to fill out your resume without using buzzwords, but you don't have to worry if one slips in. The point is not to rely heavily on them when crafting your resume. It's always possible to get around a certain word or phrase without using a cliché or buzzword. Sometimes it's just a matter of using a few extra words. Rather than saying "I know how to think outside the box," for example, you could say something like "I always go out of my way to look for solutions that aren't immediately obvious." Using specific examples instead of generic catch-all phrases is more useful for managers in their decisions.

As resumes pile up for job openings, you can be sure that buzzwords will become tiresome for readers. This will make the resumes increasingly tedious for the managers and recruiters who are forced to read them day after day. You have a better chance of landing an interview if you can stand out and be the exception.

Last Updated: June 12, 2017