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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers


10 Phrases to Avoid in Your Resume--I Say NOT!

09 Jun 2010 4:44 PM | Anonymous

By Laurie Smith

I was once alerted by a colleague to an article that tells readers to ban the ten phrases listed from their resumes. These include phrases and statements such as "I am a team player;" "I have great communication skills;" "I have a proven track record;" "I am a skilled problem solver;" "I assisted with;" "I have a strong work ethic;" "I am bottom-line focused;" "I am responsible for X;" "I am self-motivated;" and "I am accustomed to fast-paced environments."

Of course, you know that you would never phrase these things in your resume using the personal pronoun "I"--in a resume the personal voice is used; the personal pronoun is implied but omitted (commonly called the telegraphic style). I do agree with a couple of the caveats in the list:

1. There are much more powerful ways of indicating your contributions than the phrase "assisted with," so avoid this phrasing where something else can accurately indicate what you did in a more forceful manner.

2. Overuse of the phrase "responsible for" creates a boring, position description style resume. However, limited use of the phrase is certainly OK, as long as you avoid giving the reader an exhaustive listing of every detailed function that was involved in your job. "Responsible for" should NEVER appear in accomplishment statements, but only judiciously in the part of each employment entry that tells the reader what the scope of your position entailed. Wherever possible, use more powerful phrasing. For example, instead of saying "Responsible for $55 million operating budget," you could say, "Managed, optimized, and controlled $55 million operating budget."

Other than the preceding two items, however, I would have to part company with the author. "Soft skills" are featured prominently in the wish lists of many employers as they develop a job requisition. They appear routinely in job postings, and are going to be keyword searched in resume databases. So if you exclude them arbitrarily from your resume, you will not be doing yourself a service.

That being said, these words and phrases are empty and meaningless unless accompanied by proof that you do indeed bring these qualities to the table! You must vividly show your reader how you have exhibited them in your work experiences, with specific, concrete examples liberally distributed throughout the resume. What I have heard from recruiters throughout my resume writing career is that, yes, they will pass right over a resume that is full of fluff and no substance, making bold, unsupported claims of particular skills and personal qualities. However, they DO want to be shown that a candidate possesses them and has applied them effectively throughout an accomplished career.

So, the bottom line is: Yes, you can and should use these phrases in your resume. Indeed, some of them will likely be part of your personal brand. However, if you use them without any supporting documentation, the resume will be viewed as just another puffed up, aggrandized series of statements with nothing to back them up.

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