Clichés on your résumé: damned if you do, damned if you don’t

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The summary statement began with: “Results-oriented Marketing Professional…” As if my hand had a mind of its own, I circled Results-oriented and wrote “Ugh” next to it.

I thought twice of erasing my first comment but in the end left it there. My customer did a double-take and pouted, hurt by my crudeness.

With all the negative press about using clichés or outdated words and phrases on your résumé and LinkedIn profile, there’s now a push to show how you possess important adaptive skills rather than to simply tell employers you have them.

Résumé experts say words like creative, team-player (ouch), innovative, hardworking, diligent, conscientious, and more are being thrown out the window. They’re seen as fluffy words with no substance.

Words like designed, initiated, directed, authored are more of what employers want to see on a résumé and LinkedIn profile. The big difference is obviously the “bad” words are adjectives and the “good” words are action verbs.

To complicate matters more; even some of the verbs have fallen in the cliché category, like led, managed, facilitated, etc.

From a reader’s point of view, this makes sense. Someone who claims he’s outgoinghighly experiencedseasonedresult-driven, etc., seems to…lack creativity.

Someone who can assert that he is results-oriented by showing he began and finished multiple projects in a timely manner, while also consistently saving the company costs by an average of 40% will win over the minds of employers. Showing is always better than telling.

Keywords and phrases: Here’s the rub—many job ads contains clichés; and if you’re going to load your résumé with as many keywords/phrases as possible, you’re almost inclined to use these outdated and useless words.

If you know your résumé is going to be scanned by an applicant tracking system (ATS), it may be imperative that you use clichés, especially if you want to pass the ATS and be one of the 25% of résumés read.

I performed a quick experiment where I looked at three job ads and attempted to find some of the overused words.

Sure enough words and phrases like team player, hard worker, ability to work independently and as part of a teamdetail-oriented, to name a few,  showed up in many of the ads.

Why do companies write job ads that contain words that are almost comical? Part of the reason is because the fine folks who write these ads don’t know any other way to phrase effective ads; and partly because these are qualities they’re looking for.

Almost every company is looking for a team player who can work independently as well. Every company desires people who are results-oriented, innovative, hardworking, etc.

This leads us back to our conundrum. What to do if you’re trying to write a résumé or Linked profile that includes the keywords and phrases? Not only to game the ATS but also to appease the eyes who’ll be reading your written communications?

The answer is: you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. You can write your résumé and LinkedIn profile employing clichés, or you can avoid the them on your marketing documents, documents that are, after all, examples of your written communications. I say take the high road and don’t sell yourself out.

Photo: Flickr, Tom Newby

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3 thoughts on “Clichés on your résumé: damned if you do, damned if you don’t

  1. Michelle Robin

    I just saw the same words on a potential clients resume…”Results-driven sales professional.” What sales person isn’t results-driven? I agree with you to not sell yourself out. Chances are you’ll find your next job through networking and not an ATS anyway. Don’t be afraid to show what you’ve got and be different from the crowd. That is what will attract your next employer.

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      There’s an ATS frenzy now. We teach about it to help those who hope to find a job at a large or mid – size company, which comes at the expense of writing a sub – par résumé. You’re right, networking is how most people get a job. We just have to convince them of this. Thanks Michelle.

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