Retire Tired Words in Your Next Résumé
You may have participated in some thought-provoking online debates between résumé writers and discovered that some strategists feel that certain words used in résumés are “dead,” while others find them to be valuable and descriptive.
In my professional opinion, you should never discount or include any specific word in your client’s résumé unless you have seriously considered the potential outcome. When determining what to say in your client’s résumé, consider every word, phrase, and sentence carefully.
Don’t get into a rut of overusing adjectives just because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Clients pay résumé writers to create something more than a copycat résumé. To triumph in an industry saturated with look-alike résumés, you need to ensure that your client’s job search documents are better than the ones readily found on the internet.
The best résumé writers I know compose unique value propositions for every client. They do not copy from résumé samples. Instead, they exploit their own creativity to articulate something far more powerful — the essence of their client.
Capture the essence of your client
If you ask a client if they are “enthusiastic” or “committed,” you can be fairly certain of an affirmative response. That’s because just about every person who is in the market for a job would want to be described this way. So, the real question is “who is your client, really?”
Take the time to fully understand your client and create a document that encapsulates the core of who he or she really is. If you can succinctly express this individuality, hiring decision-makers will then have a reason to select your client’s résumé.
Find new ways to describe your client
Any word used at the right time in the right way can be powerful; however, when a word is overused, it loses its power. Can you imagine what a prospective employer might think when he or she browses through a stack of résumés and sees “out of the box” almost every time?
To stay on the leading edge, search out new words. Experiment with creative language you don’t typically use, but that can distinguish your client. Your challenge is to select your words extremely carefully and incorporate only the best descriptors of the competencies and contributions brought to the table.
Rather than using a tired, clichéd word such as “motivated,” describe how your client is motivated. Consider interesting and descriptive phrases such as “industrious and inventive in resolving tough concerns” or “meticulous in performing due diligence.”
If you must use typical words, then back them up
Any experienced professional could say that he or she is “highly experienced,” “results-oriented,” a “team player,” or a “strong communicator.” Who wouldn’t? There are many other ways to express your client’s value. Don’t use these words if you don’t have to.
If you feel you must use typical résumé words, back them up with actions. For example, support your suggestion that your client is “results-oriented” by substantiating it with concrete examples that prove the results attained. Convey talents, achievements, and value in a way that helps the individual to stand apart — not blend in.
Speak in the client’s language
Whether you are interviewing your client directly or having him or her complete worksheets, you need to speak in the language used by the client. List the top characteristics that your client mentions — in his or her words. Take note of the exact phrases or words that your client uses during the interview and incorporate those into the résumé.
Sometimes it’s okay to say it like it is. Big, fancy words such as “intellectual” or “entrepreneurial” may look nice on paper, but if your client is studious or hardworking, just say so. And, if your client doesn’t understand the meaning of the word, don’t use it.
Important-sounding words don’t always attract interest or offers either. For example, you might think that describing your client as a “visionary” is going to impress board-level decision makers, and yet he or she may not get a call. It’s likely that the board is looking for a tactical expert who can successfully implement the board’s vision through uncommon means. Had you explained what your client actually does — and has done successfully many times — he or she might have had a shot at the role.
Don’t make the mistake of avoiding keywords
Of course, if you want to spark the interest of employers, sometimes you must use certain words even if they seem overused in résumés. Keywords are typically nouns that describe the job requirements, such as “strategic planning,” “mergers and acquisitions,” “profit and loss management,” and “client relationship management.” These types of phrases are meaningful to employers and they are looking for them in résumés. Ensure that you incorporate keywords and key phrases that show how your client meets the needs of employers and addresses the requirements in their posted jobs.
Prove your client’s value
Rather than just using words, make a concerted effort to prove your client’s individual value every time you write a résumé. Your client does not have to come across as a run-of-the-mill applicant. Instead, think about that person as someone with uncommon personality, character, and worth — things that no one else offers.
The résumé you develop must resonate with your client and, even more importantly, with recruiters and hiring managers. Give a human voice to what your client brings to the table. Show the reader who your client really is and a deeper, more authentic meaning will come through. You’ll demonstrate why your client is the only candidate that is truly worth the offer of the job.
“If words are to enter men’s minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men’s defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” J. B. Phillips
Sharon Graham is founder and executive director of Career Professionals of Canada. Committed to setting the standard for excellence in the career development profession, Sharon has authored top-selling paperback publications and textbooks, and has established a range of certification, professional development, community development, and mentoring and award programs. As executive director of CPC, she provides foresight and leadership within the career development sector and ensures that the mandate of CPC is upheld with integrity.