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Business Insight: Avoid résumé buzzwords to get best results

Published February 8, 2013 9:19 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rick Westbrook, Salt Lake City branch manager for the staffing and consulting firm Robert Half International, says résumeés cannot stand out when job seekers resort to overused phrases in describing their qualifications for a position.

What are some of the most overused phrases on résumeés?

It's important when seeking a job to avoid the use of clichés and buzzwords. Hiring managers want to see concrete examples of professional achievements and how someone's skills can be applied to the specific position. By using the clichéd phrases and buzzwords listed below, you run the risk of your résumeé being overlooked, as it doesn't convey useful information with regard to the value your skill sets can bring to the organization. Steer clear of highly qualified, hard worker, flexible, team player, problem solver and people person.

How can job seekers make their résumeés stand out to employers?

According to an OfficeTeam survey, executives on average spend six minutes reviewing a résumeé. In a highly competitive job market, hiring managers spend the most time on candidates who have the requisite skills and experience needed for the positions they're looking to fill. To improve your chances of passing the initial screening process, craft résumeés that are accurate, clear and error-free. Below are some additional tips:

Tailor the content • Customize your résumeé so it speaks directly to a potential employer's needs — mirroring the language and keywords found in the job description.

Keep it simple • Refrain from using complicated language, clichéd phrases, graphics or distracting fonts. All can make your résumeé difficult to read. Where appropriate, use bullet points.

Clear the clutter • Don't muddle your message by filling your résumeé with extraneous personal information, such as hobbies and interests that have little or no relevance to your professional pursuits.

Focus on ROI (return on investment) • A common résumeé trap is including a laundry list of skills rather than demonstrating actual achievements. No matter how relevant or impressive your skill set may be, employers want to see how your expertise and efforts will affect the company's bottom line.

Give some interview tips.

Do your homework. Study the company and ask the interviewer relevant questions that demonstrate your interest in the firm. Keep it real. Offer examples and anecdotes that help illustrate your strengths, but do not embellish or lie. Pretending to be someone you're not to impress the interviewer can help you land the job, but you may end up in a position for which you're unqualified. Answer questions the right way. Try to take your time to give thoughtful, sincere responses, and keep your answers simple, focused and brief. Don't feel pressured to rattle off what you think the interviewer wants to hear. If you're unsure of an answer to a question, say so. Express enthusiasm. Show the hiring manager that you don't just want a job; you want this job. Ask the interviewer about his or her own history with the company; where the company hopes to be in a few years and how the job you are applying for fits into that plan; the type of person who is likely to be successful.

Other advice?

Whether revitalizing a job-search or starting fresh, it's important to remain positive. Although the employment environment remains competitive, the job market is strong for highly skilled professionals. Consider temp work, which can provide a valuable opportunity to get your foot in the door. Continue your education. It's never a bad idea to improve your skill set. Broaden your network. Résumeés received from referrals often receive top billing among hiring managers. Talk to former co-workers and managers, college alumni and members of professional organizations you're a part of to see what new opportunities might be available. Rick Westbrook, executive