Are you motivated, passionate, creative, driven and experienced? For goodness' sake, leave those five overused terms off your resume and start describing how you live up to these aspirational adjectives.
The other day, Forbes announced the results of its month-long “Jargon Madness” tournament, which pitted 64 of the most egregiously overused buzzwords in the startup world against each other, based on reader input. The ultimate victor was “ideate,” which edged out “Uber for X,” as in, “this company will be the Uber for gourmet sauerkraut home delivery.”
It was an enjoyable twist on March Madness, watching so many now-meaningless terms like “pivot” and “synergy” do battle with equally empty descriptors, such as “change agent” and “paradigm shift.” But it also got me thinking about how so many of today’s resumes and cover letters are still riddled with terms that do little more than take up space.
LinkedIn also released its annual list of Top 10 most overused words its members use in their career descriptions. All the usual suspects are there – responsible, strategic, organizational, expert, etc. All of them dry, imprecise and likely to bore any hiring manager to tears. Let’s look at the top five words on the LinkedIn list and find out how to replace these dishwater adjectives with some verbs.
1. Motivated. Well, I should hope you are. Use this trick: Imagine using an antonym of the word in the same sentence, e.g., “I am a disheartened worker.” You’d never include that in a resume, right? So why even bother saying you’d be motivated? Make it clear in your cover later that motivation is a given.
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2. Passionate. Passion is not something you state, it’s something you express. Use simple, declarative statements in your cover letter about how this career makes you feel and how excited you are to make the next step. The passion will come through more effectively.
3. Creative. This looks good, but it can set you up for failure. The hiring manager might think, “If you’re so creative, why can’t you tell me some things you’ve actually created?” Take the manager’s advice and describe your ideas and how you shepherded them into being.
4. Driven. This also may backfire by suggesting you have a somehow ruthless edge. Unless you’re applying for a truly scary position, like NASCAR driver or defense attorney, leave this one in the driveway.
5. Extensive experience. Do you really have to mention you have “extensive experience” in a document showing the last 20 years of your career? Just let the description of your increasing responsibilities do the talking for you. Leave the definition of “extensive” to the hiring manager.