Want a job? Avoid putting these words on your resume
Claudia St. John sees a lot of bad resumes in her job as president of Affinity HR Group in New York. One, in particular, made her smile and get slightly creeped out at the same time.
The person's resume had this glowing claim: "I've been known to reach out and touch people."
"In the first place, that is not a good idea," St. John says with a laugh. "You do not want to reach out and touch other people."
But coming up with a resume that will catch people's attention, if not touch them, is becoming more important as more jobs become available. The latest "Manpower Employment Outlook Survey," recently released by ManpowerGroup, a human resource consulting company based in Milwaukee, Wisc., finds that hiring confidence remains strong among employers. Out of more than 18,000 surveyed employers, 19 percent say they are anticipating increasing their hiring plans this spring and 73 percent say their plans to hire are probably going to continue as planned. Only 4 percent say they are anticipating staff reductions and 4 percent are not sure about their hiring intentions.
As the economy improves, the people looking to fill these openings may want to look at another survey of hiring managers and human resources professionals just released by CareerBuilder that found the best and worst resume terms.
As St. John looks over the list, she says the bad terms on resumes all use jargon.
The least effective terms on a resume, according to CareerBuilder's survey, include words and phrases like "bottom-line," "team player," "results-driven," "value added," "thought leadership," "go-to person" and "synergy."
The top three worst words to use are "think outside of the box," "go-getter" and, worst of all according to those surveyed, "best of breed."
St. John adds "multifaceted collaboration" to the list. "Which basically means 'worked together,'" she says.
Bruce A. Hurwitz, a recruiter and career counselor in New York, says in an email that all these types of words and phrases are nonsense.
"All an employer cares about is the candidate's actual accomplishments, not self-praise," Hurwitz says. "Who cares what a candidate thinks of himself? 'Team player.' What? He's going to write, 'I don't work well with others’?”
Hurwitz says all job-seekers need to do is accurately state their responsibilities and results they accomplished at previous places of employment. "And, presto, all of the 'words to use' will be there and those to avoid will not."
The CareerBuilder survey's best resume terms seem to support this. They include words like "ideas," "increased/decreased," "influenced," "volunteered," "resolved," "created" and "managed." The top three resume words were "trained/mentored," "improved" and the best word was "achieved."
Unlike the worst words, which didn't demand clarification, the best words need more to make sense. Michael Mercer, the author of "Job Hunting Made Easy," sent a few examples by email to the Deseret News on how this works well:
- Trained company's 8 top-producing new Sales Reps
- Increased sales 48 percent by launching a new product line
- Improved profit margins 19 percent through better loyalty programs
Focus and quantify
"I don't want to know that you managed something," she says. "You could have managed it, and it could have gone horribly. I want to know what results you had. I want to know how many people you were responsible for. I want to know how much revenue you grew. I want to know what kind of results you accomplished in your profession."
Like Mercer's examples, St. John wants claims that are quantifiable. She also says it is important to focus a resume to a particular job and not just make a general one for all uses. "Otherwise it is just a scattershot approach," she says.
Bob Myhal, the CEO of NextHire, a company that helps small and medium-sized businesses find employees, says recruiters and hiring managers usually only have about 15 seconds to look over your resume, so your should keep the resume simple and easy to read. He also says to use the right keywords for the job. "Many job seekers don't realize that busy recruiters and employers often utilize automated screening tools to analyze how closely a resume matches the job description," he said. "If there is not a strong correlation, then your resume may never actually be seen by a human."
St. John notices that older people looking for jobs have a tendency to cram everything they've ever done into the resume. Younger people have a tendency to inflate what they've done, she says. "At least with the young you can read through the fluff to see what they've really done," she says.
Both Hurwitz and St. John call the "goals" or "objectives" section at the top of a resume a waste of space. Instead, Hurwitz says use a "selected accomplishments" section first with five bullet points of actual achievements. It is the perfect section to use words like "achieved," "improved" and "trained/mentored."
Just don't, whatever you do, reach out and touch other people.