Thursday, September 6, 2007

What's Wrecking Your Résumé?

'Exceptional communication, leadership and management skills.' To a seasoned résumé reviewer, that line reads: yada, yada, yada, Why? People who read résumés for a living dismiss such comments because they are subjective assertions made by the only person who has anything to gain from them -- you. How do they know if you have the expertise to make accurate assessments about the quality of such skills?

Along with using subjective assertions, experts say job applicants are famous for filling their résumés with jargon words and empty language that say nothing of their actual capabilities -- and it's the most detrimental move a job seeker can make.

"Verbs such as 'assist,' 'contribute' or 'support' without any additional information mean essentially nothing to a recruiter or hiring manager. Instead, a job seeker needs to be specific in how he or she assisted with a particular project.

One thing you won't see on a successful résumé is empty phrases describing your work; instead, you'll find specific examples illustrating your accomplishments. The secret of a great résumé is that it leads the reader, on his or her own, to come up with the very assertions you would like to make. The best way to achieve this is to show, not tell. Use facts, not feelings.

Check out these expert examples of empty phrases:

Phrase: "Proficiency in problem identification.” Problem: "People want solutions, not problems. Instead, describe the solutions for specific problems you solved.

Phrase: "Cultivated a team-based atmosphere.” Problem: On the surface, this may seem like nice wording, but it leaves people wondering what the person actually did that accomplished the claim. It's almost too good a word to carry credibility in that it's slick but not substantive.

Phrase: "Demonstrates proven ability....”Problem: "The activity will demonstrate your availability. Take out demonstrate and just include 'proven ability to (insert important activity here).'

Phrase: "Championed family-friendly policies that increased retention.” Problem: This phrase is hollow. It gives the impression that they somehow pushed through major policy initiatives when more often, one discovers that they simply added their voice to someone else's work.

Jargon buzzwords to avoid

There's no shame in being ambitious, aggressive, a people-person or a team-player, but anyone can describe themselves in those terms. The best way to demonstrate those qualities is through achievements that explain what makes a person that way.

Here's a list of 25 buzzwords to avoid (or use sparingly).

01. Top-flight
02. Collaborative
03. Interface
04. Innovative
05. Energetic
06. Problem-solver
07. Proclivity
08. Strategic
09. Dynamic
10. Ethical
11. Penchant
12. Aggressive
13. Motivated
14. 'Outstanding communication skills'
15. Creative
16. Goal-oriented
17. Proactive
18. Team player
19. Take-charge
20. Entrepreneurial
21. Detail-oriented
22. Organized
24. Ambitious
25. People-person

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