Attention job seekers: there are some words you should not include on your résumé. They are overused, clichés, plain ole fluff. One of the biggest offenders in my mind is “dynamic.” Before you type such words, ask yourself, “Does ‘dynamic’ show what I’ve accomplished, or does it simply say I’m dynamic, without proving it?” See what I mean?
What’s the big deal with fluff words, you might ask? To illustrate, read this sentence: “Dynamic, results-oriented, innovative professional with vision and leadership abilities required to deliver projects on time and under budget.” Five words (one hyphenated) and a phrase that are considered fluff.
I’m not the only one who cringes at fluff words. The belief among most executive résumé writers I know is that job seekers need to eliminate overused adjectives and replace them with strong action verbs. (However, there are even action verbs out there that are considered fluff, such as “spearhead.”)
The problem with fluff words is that they’re meaningless; employers are tired of seeing them on the hundreds or thousands of résumés they read. Job seekers who write them on their résumés might believe they possess these traits or skills, but what they must do is show, rather than tell.
It all began with “utilize”
What prompted this post? Donna Svei, Executive Résumé Writer started a major discussion with a post she wrote on LinkedIn. She asked, “What’s your least favorite RESUME WORD or PHRASE? The one you’d like to see made extinct?” The driving force behind her LinkedIn post was her disdain for the word “utilize.”
At this writing there are 206 comments. Which means résumé pundits and people who happened across this post feel very strongly about this red-hot topic. From Donna’s LinkedIn post, many fluff words emerged. Here they are in alphabetical order, as well as the number of times they were listed in the post.
|Best of Breed
Detail oriented (3)
Excellent communication skills
Extensive experience (2)
Think Outside of the Box (2)
Go-To Person (3)
Hard Worker (3)
Out of the box thinker
Proven track record
Result driven (3)
Strategic Thinker (2)
Team player (4)
Track record (2)
Value Add (2)
LinkedIn and resume yield similar results
Awhile back in 2015, LinkedIn came out with 10 of its outlawed words. All the words it listed are included in the list above. Alison Doyle wrote an article that includes some of the fluff words in Donna’s list.
This is a hot topic. Glassdoor.com, BusinessInsider.com, TheMuse.com, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and a whole slew of other blogs have weighed in on words that should not be included on a résumé.
When using fluff words is unavoidable
If you’ve had the pleasure of applying for positions which were advertised with poorly written job descriptions, you noticed some of the aforementioned words in those descriptions. You’ve probably been warned by professional résumé writers to avoid using such words on your résumé.
Therein lies the rub. If you are applying to companies that use an application tracking system (ATS). One of the golden rules of writing an ATS-friendly résumé is including keywords found in job descriptions.
The question I ask my clients is, “Do you want to take the high road and write a great résumé, or do you want to play the ATS game?” Their response is somewhat ambivalent.
The people tasked with writing job listings aren’t typically experts in the field. It’s not their fault– HR professionals can’t be expected to have encyclopedic knowledge of every new role in the company and how it will interact with existing positions.
In addition to job posts neglecting to include key skills, they also are full of fluff words. Take an excerpt of a job post for a marketing manager:
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Detail-oriented and process-driven.
“Excellent written and verbal communication skills” is a phrase that is as overused as an old shoe. Similarly, “detail-oriented” and “process-driven” are huge offenders. If this phrase and fluff words are not used on a résumé, it could result in being disqualified by the ATS.
What’s the answer? Take these words that should be made extinct with a “grain of salt” and try to “straddle the fence.” In other words, don’t feel guilty if your résumé contains a select few fluff words. Just as long as they aren’t “dynamic,” “innovative,” “detail-oriented….” Need I go on?
Are there any other words you consider to be “fluff”? Please list them in the comment area.
Visit Donna Svei at AvidCareerist, where you can learn about her services and take a peek at some great résumé examples.