Tightening Your Resume: Removing Tired Buzzwords

September 22nd, 2011

The most important rule of resume writing has held true for generations: As far as possible, place yourself in the position of the person who will be reviewing your application. You can’t always know every detail about who this person is and what she may be looking for, but it’s a good idea to use every piece of information at your disposal to make an educated guess about the phrases and details that are likely to engage her attention.

An often overlooked application of this rule arises in the form of clichés and tired buzzwords. Your own resume is the only one you can see, and as far as you’re concerned, you’re the only candidate who matters. But this isn’t about you. It’s about your reviewer. And she’s seen so many resumes, chances are they’re beginning to blur together in her memory. Every candidate has “extensive experience,” every candidate is a “team player” and every candidate is “highly motivated” and “results-oriented.”

If you see any of these tired, generic phrases in your profile or resume, take them out and replace them with specific details she won’t find in anyone’s file but yours. Here are some examples:

Replace “extensive experience” with an exact number of years. And be clear about the nature of the experience. Try “seven years as a senior financial analyst,” or “four years of machine design experience.”

Replace “team player” with a consensus you built or an organization you led. Did you establish a task force? Launch a community service effort? Resolve a negotiation impasse? Then say so.

“Highly motivated” candidates are a dime a dozen. But candidates who have overcome specific challenges or daunting obstacles are harder to find. What were your challenges and what did you do to resolve them?

“Results” are not interesting. But “a fifty percent increase in profits during a two year period” might be a different story. How many lives did you improve? How many accounts or dollars did you save? How many new procedures did you initiate?

Make sure your statements are specific, and place numbers on your accomplishments. Take your profile from abstract and vague to concrete and memorable.

If you need help making sure your resume rises above the rest, contact the Palmer Group for assistance.