3 Tips for Deciding If Resume Buzzwords Are Worth It

by Ryan Morris
Get The Job - 3 years ago

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Resumes are tough to make, particularly when it comes to describing your skills and experiences.

It can be particularly tough if you’re not familiar with a particular industry. It’s hard to know which words are or aren’t used to indicate certain experiences that hiring managers might find attractive.

These words are called “buzzwords”:

That’s because they tend to get you noticed, which can be a real boon when it comes to standing out in a group of 100-plus applicants.

But some buzzwords get used so much they become a fad, which is when that attention they bring becomes a double-edged sword.

Sure, you’ll get noticed for using these fad words, but not for your originality — in fact, you’re probably going to look more like an idiot.

But how do you tell which buzzwords to use and which to avoid?

Fortunately, we’ve put together a few tips to help you figure out just that.


1. Why Some Resume Buzzwords Can Sink Your Chances

The big thing to keep in mind anytime you’re putting your resume together is that there’s probably a hundred other people putting together their own resume for the exact same purpose.

For that reason, it can be tempting to go online and Google words that hiring managers might be keeping an eye out for.

It’s well documented that certain words will increase your odds of being noticed, particularly if your resume is going through some kind of program before a human even gets their eyes on it — heck, we’ve got an article about this very thing.

So, in short, it’s a really good idea to copy buzzwords you find on the internet and use them in your resume.

That is, it’s a good idea until the very moment that it’s not.

When does that happen? Well, it’s subjective — it will depend on the particular hiring manager who gets their eyes on your resume.

However, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your own resume doesn’t fall prey to these kind of issues.

2. Resume Buzzwords to Avoid

Generally speaking, you want to choose buzzwords sparingly.

Using a few industry-specific keywords is important — it shows that you’re informed about your industry.

But overusing these same words can make you look the exact opposite.

Packing your resume with industry buzzwords might help push you through a program designed to pick up on those kind of words, but the minute a human gets their eyes on it, it’s going to look like a big gross overstuffed mess.

So as a general rule of thumb, use industry buzzwords, but only those that you understand implicitly — if you’re not very familiar with a buzzword that you’re using, odds are that you’re using that word incorrectly or strangely in some way.

Particular overused buzzwords, which you should avoid no matter what, vary from industry to industry, meaning you’ll just have to do your homework to figure out which ones you should avoid.

However, there are a few that are so overused you can feel pretty justified avoiding them no matter what.

General Buzzwords to Avoid:

  • Passionate: This is the first of many examples of a word that is more effective for “showing” rather than “telling.” That is to say that you should use the resume itself to demonstrate to employers how passionate you are — using the word just makes you look like someone who WANTS to be passionate, rather than someone who is.
  • Expert: Regardless of what word you have attached this this, “expert” just isn’t going to get you anywhere. Being an expert in anything takes years of knowledge and experience — as a result, a 25-year-old with the word “Social Media Expert” is just going to look silly. Unless you’re a true expert, you shouldn’t use this word, and if you are one, your work and experience will speak for itself.
  • Detail-Oriented: Yeah, duh. If you couldn’t remember important details they wouldn’t hire you. This tells an employer nothing about you.
  • Great Communicator: A truly great communicator would have a less cliched way of telling someone that they were.
  • Creative: If this is the only word you could come up with to demonstrate your creativity, they’ll probably assume that you aren’t.
  • Hardworking: Seriously? If you are hardworking, they’ll find out soon enough. If you aren’t, then no amount of insisting you are will convince anyone.

3. What Should You Do Instead?

What do all of these buzzwords have in common?

They’re too general — they don’t tell the employer anything about you or what you’re doing. They’re an attempt to summarize you in a really inspecific way.

And, more damningly, they’re totally uncreative.

Maybe the first time they were used they were good words for your resume, but they’ve become such standards that using these words will instantly make you blend into the crowd.

So what can you do to avoid this? Well…

  • Be specific! If you’ve got a real skill — like experience with a programming language, or experience with a particular kind of writing — then list that. Don’t say that you’re a “good communicator.” Instead, talk about your specific communication skills.
  • Focus on your direct experiences. Describe what you know how to do, and show specific examples of your work.
  • Keep away from passive voice or using third person — you might find it makes it easier to stick to action verbs, which consequently should help you avoid describing yourself as opposed to describing your actions and experiences.

Wrapping Up: Resume Power Phrases You Should Avoid

That’s all for this one!

When in doubt, just remember:

If you’re trying to describe yourself or your skills on your resume and a particular word stands out to you, think about why it’s doing that.

It might be because it’s the right fit — or it might be because you’ve heard the word a thousand times before used in the same situation.

When that happens, remember that it helps to be a little more creative.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

3 Tips for Writing Resume Objectives for Entry Level Jobs
3 Tips for Deciding When to Go For a Two-Page Resume
3 Big Tips For (Avoiding) Lying On Your Resume

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