Lose the cliches – words matter in resumes, interviews

Certain terms included on resumes and used during interviews will surely induce eye rolls in even the most hardened recruiters. Here are several of them and what you should use instead:

Team player: Good to know that the orientation video you watched in 2009 stuck with you. Of course, you’re a team player. Or at least it’s inferred. There certainly are other ways to describe previous experiences and accomplishments that would call attention to the fact that you play well with others.

INSTEAD: List the successful group projects you’ve worked on, outlining your contributions to the team and company. Also, mention your work with other departments.

Hard worker: As opposed to what? Lackadaisical deadbeat? Minimal-effort specialist? Lazy bum? You get the picture. Telling someone you’re a hard worker is like telling them you’re an honest person – we’ll just have to take your word for it.

INSTEAD: Replace your hard-worker claim with proof of any extra effort you put forth to see a project come to fruition, especially those that took you out of your normal routine.

Ambitious: By the very act of applying for a job, you’re showing that you’re ambitious. Besides, ambition isn’t always a selling point for an entry-level candidate. You can hassle your boss all you want for that promotion that you’re completely unqualified for, but at least wait until your first day on the job.

INSTEAD: If possible, show upward movement in your career through a progression of titles, responsibilities and accomplishments.

Seasoned: As in seasoned workplace veteran. As in “Let me tell you about the auto industry back in the day, kid.” If your resume is formatted correctly, your experience will speak for itself – no need to brag about your war wounds. Besides, one person’s “seasoned” is another’s “too stubborn to try new things.”

INSTEAD: While a timeline looks good on a resume, accomplishments matter to prospective employers. Don’t bury what you’ve done with dates. De-emphasize the time and emphasize the wins.

Go-getter: Rule No. 1 of resumes: Don’t let your grandpa write your resume. Despite what he says, go-getter doesn’t sound all that professional.

INSTEAD: Use a thesaurus.

Microsoft Word: Might as well write “Takes in air.” Knowing a word-processing program that’s as ubiquitous as breathing isn’t a badge of honor so keep it off your resume.

INSTEAD: Only list specialized programs and apps that have a direct connection to the job.

Think outside the box: In today’s work world, there is nothing that screams “inside the box” more than the phrase “outside the box.” And this point could have been made 20 years ago. But still, people persist.

INSTEAD: Use your storytelling skills to point out the different ways you’ve approached and solved problems.

Synergy: Not only is the word “synergy” a complete cliche, but so are any attempts to make fun of the use of the word “synergy.”  Don’t even bother.

INSTEAD: Discuss any cooperative strategies you’ve used in the past. They can involve relationships with peers in other departments, peers in competing companies, academic leaders, unexpected mentors and others./Tribune News Service

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