Pumping Life Into Your Resume With Words That Work
Many of the principles of good writing – conciseness and "show, don’t tell" – are just as important to resume writing as not padding or using vacuous words like “experienced at,” “interesting” and “proven ability.”
Every word in a resume should count. It should engage and persuade the hiring manager or recruiter that you are a strong candidate.
“The worst resume words are ones that claim greatness but don't back it up,” said Beth Johnson, CEO of Elizabeth’s Resume CPR. “These are generally adjectives (driven, motivated, hard-working, excellent). A more successful approach is to start with verbs and outline your specific accomplishments (produced, increased, facilitated, directed). Keep your resume active and engaging or a recruiter won't read more than the first few lines."
Recruiters Work for Clients, Not Candidates
“Recruiters do not do favors for candidates; we do favors for clients,” Bruce Hurwitz, an executive recruiter and career counselor, tells eFinancialCareers. “And the biggest favor – of course it's not a favor; they pay us for this – is not to waste their time with unqualified candidates.”
Useless Resume Words
“Resume writers should be cautious of using the word ’experience,’" says Wendy Granberg of Prositions, Inc., a company that specializes in professional career transitions. “The entire purpose of the resume is to demonstrate past experience and future potential. Therefore, phrases such as ‘experienced in,’ ‘experience with’ or another combination should be left out. In order to avoid this mistake, get right to the point! Somebody can show their experience in project management by describing a complex project as an accomplishment."
“If interesting is the best adjective you can come up with, then you are not very interesting,” says Jen Strobel, human resources manager for Flagger Force.
Proven ability is "often listed in an objective statement, but sometimes under core responsibilities as well,” says Strobel. “Whenever I read this phrase, I immediately wonder, how is this ability proven? If you cannot demonstrate your ‘proven ability’ with specific examples and responsibilities, then it is merely resume filler.”
Also avoid phrases such as "duties included" or "responsibilities included."
“It's so much more powerful to write your sentences with verbs – managed, coordinated, inspired, designed, developed, assembled, created, led ... the list is near endless,” says Wendy Enelow, a resume writer and career coach. "In fact, I have a list of 389 resume writing verbs."
Another no-no is the phrase "transferable skills." "Yes, you might be moving from one industry to another, but if you already have the particular skill, then you've got the skill,” says Enelow. “No need to focus on the fact that you have to ‘transfer’ it from one industry to another or one profession to another.”
“The term 'in charge of' sounds a little rough around the edges,” says Granberg. “In today's complex work environment, hiring managers are looking for leaders with soft skills. Being able to demonstrate the ability to ‘lead,’ ‘mentor’ and ‘coach’ is much more important than ’being in charge.’ Words such as these should be replaced with action words, such as ‘mentored’ 35 engineers or ‘developed’ other team members."
"Involved with" or "participated in" are two more to avoid. “Both of these phrases scream to a hiring manager or recruiter that you do not have direct experience with a skill set but have only worked with it on the periphery, yet a solid 30 percent of resumes I encounter use these phrases,” says Matthew Ferree, lead technical sourcer for netpolarity, a Silicon Valley staffing firm.
Enelow has this parting advice for job seekers:
“So much of the job search is focused on key words since they're the back bone of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) technology,” she says. “If the right key words aren't in the resume, then the job seeker is passed over.”