Words that Sabotage Your Resume

I found this great article in my from @Doostang in my email and wanted to share:

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Words that Sabotage Your Resume
By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

Creating a winning executive resume is a feat of strategy involving focus, wording, design, and content selection. To achieve a career marketing document that wins interviews, all areas of the strategy must be on-target and consciously used in the most effective manner. One of the most common mistakes job candidates make when writing their resumes is the mistake of not paying attention to strategy and word selection.

There are actually words that are commonly used on resumes that can have a detrimental impact on the effectiveness of the resume. When most job candidates write their own resumes, they don’t consider word choice because they are primarily worried about getting down the basic information. Verbiage is critical and the wrong word choice can sabotage your resume.

When writing your resume, it is important to consider your audience. The average recruiter and/or hiring manager sees hundreds of resumes from qualified candidates. Resumes begin to look and sound the same to them. Using run-of-the-mill wording only hurts your candidacy because it causes your resume to fade into the pile of hundreds of others rather than standing out. Here are some words and phrases to avoid:

Soft-skill Descriptions

Job seekers feel they need to communicate their soft-skills to the employer because they believe they are the traits that make them unique. There is nothing further from the truth. Soft-skills are claimed by nearly all job candidates and are so common that hiring managers pay no attention to them.

Soft-skill phrases to avoid or severely limit:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Goal-driven
  • Strong work ethic
  • Multi-tasker
  • Personable presenter
  • Goal-oriented
  • Detail-oriented

Do not bore the reader to tears with these trite, overused and tired phrases. After all no one will write that he/she takes long lunches, is lazy, and argues a lot with peers. Hence, it is much more effective to write description that is action-based and demonstrates these abilities rather than just laying claim to them. For example, rather than just stating you are an “excellent presenter,” you could say something like “Developed and presented 50+ multi-media presentations to C-level prospects resulting in 35 new accounts totaling $300,000 in new revenues.”

Age, Health, Appearance

Many executives have not had to write a resume in years since they’ve either been promoted progressively from within or have been headhunted aggressively by other companies. Now they are facing that scary time warp known as pre-retirement and fear age discrimination. They feel they can counter this perceived hurdle by giving description of their age or health to “prove” they are not ready for the nursing home! Such description can be death to a resume because rather than helping, it significantly hurts. Not only are you playing fast and loose with hiring laws but you just make the issue you are trying to hide stand out in neon letters.

Age, health, appearance phrases to avoid:

  • Young
  • Energetic
  • Youthful
  • Athletic
  • Fit
  • Healthy
  • Professional appearance
  • Mature

I recently saw the following on a resume “Healthy, young-at-heart executive ready to make a difference rather than play golf all day. Trim, fit marathon runner seeks position as National Sales Director.” This person might as well have written “57 year old male terrified of age discrimination and worried that he’ll be passed over for a younger candidate”.

Passive Voice

Many people write in passive voice because that is how we’ve been taught to write “formally” in high school composition and then in freshman college English. It is habit and as a result of the habit, the passive voice is prevalent in self-written resumes. The problem with passive voice, however, is that it is just that – passive! A resume needs to have punch and sparkle and communicate an active, aggressive candidate. Passive voice does not accomplish that.

Indicators of the passive voice:

  • Responsible for
  • Duties included
  • Served as
  • Actions encompassed

Rather than saying “Responsible for management of three direct reports” change it up to “Managed 3 direct reports.” It is a shorter, more direct mode of writing and adds impact to the way the resume reads.

On the flip side, while action verbs are great, don’t overdo it. Ack! I have actually seen:

  • Smashed numbers through the roof
  • Electrified sales team to produce
  • Pushed close rate by 10%

Myers-Briggs, DISC and other profiles

Many job seekers have gone through personality and style profiles such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the DISC Profile. While the results from these evaluations can be invaluable to the job seeker for evaluating an opportunity in terms of “fit”, employers and recruiters are more interested in performance results. Do not inadvertently “pigeon-hole” yourself by including your profile results in the resume.

Consider your word choice in a resume. A resume is a marketing document for your career just as a brochure is a marketing document for a product or service. Companies put careful thought and consideration into each and every word that goes into marketing copy and you should do the same in your resume. These words stand in your place with the recruiter and need to showcase you in a powerful way. In a perfect world, these things would not matter, but in the reality of job search today, they matter a great deal. Be wise — stop and give some thought to the words you choose.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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