10 Resume Buzzwords That Have Lost Their Sizzle

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Your resume should always address the IT manager’s needs, and showcase your mastery of the latest technical tools and techniques. But peppering your career history and cover letter with random buzzwords could make you seem phony and dated.

Buzzwords are empty adjectives or terms that are trite, overused, or no longer relevant. Instead of making your resume stand out, they make your documents look boilerplate and unimaginative. “If you really want to use a cliché like ‘innovative’ or ‘outside-the-box thinker,’ build a theme around it and cite facts and examples,” said Don Goodman, president of IT-Resume.com, a resume writing firm based in North Carolina. “Everybody says they’re a team player… Unless you provide proof statements, it’s just a meaningless fluff word.”

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Here are 10 out-of-date buzzwords that need to be purged from your resume.

IT-Business Alignment

IT is expected to support the company’s business objectives, so using this phrase won’t make you stand out. “You get paid to help business units achieve their goals,” said Jennifer Hay, resume creator and owner of IT Resume Service, a resume-writing firm based in Kirkland, Wash. “It’s no longer a differentiator. You’re expected to practice IT-business alignment when you work in IT.”

Paradigm

So overused, it no longer resonates. (Add “synergy” and “collaboration” to this list.)

Self-Starter

So you don’t need someone standing over you with a whip? That doesn’t raise the bar or inspire confidence. Doing what you’re supposed to do is hardly a quality you want to brag about, especially if you’re asking for a big salary.

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Problem-Solver

“You get into IT to solve problems, it’s a required competency,” Hays said. “If you want to highlight your problem-solving abilities, offer examples or use a different phrase.”

Cost Reduction

Saving money is no longer a priority— it’s a basic expectation when you work in IT. “No organization became great by saving money,” Hays said. “You’re better off using the space to talk about achievements that boosted sales, created new products or services or patents or attracted new customers. Being cost conscious and miserly won’t set you apart.” 

Innovative

It’s hard to make this claim unless you’re Steve Jobs, Goodman said. By the way, implementing off-the-shelf software isn’t innovative. You may be an effective or meticulous implementer, or you may be good at improving things, but that doesn’t make you an inventor.

Companies are definitely looking for pioneering IT professionals, but you’re better off highlighting other qualities unless you’ve built an app from scratch or designed a revolutionary piece of hardware.

Motivated, Passionate, Enthusiastic

Words like this are hard to quantify, so they don’t help your appeal. Employers absolutely value these traits, but let your actions do the talking.

‘Responsible For’ and ‘Assisted With’

While you’re at it, remove “functioned as” or “duties included” from your resume. No one really cares about the items on your daily to-do list. IT managers want to know what you achieved.

Results-Oriented

Compared to what? Working aimlessly without a definitive goal? Substitute specific results for vague terms such asmulti-tasker” or “detail-oriented.”

Big Data

“Everyone’s putting ‘Big Data’ on their resume because it’s hot,” Hays said. “Unfortunately, they look silly because they don’t know what ‘Big Data’ is. Managing a small database doesn’t qualify.”

If you really are a “Big Data” guru, be sure to mention the size of the data sets you’ve worked with, as well as the velocity and variety of the data. Also note your experience with Hadoop, Pentaho, or other tools and platforms. Highlighting your impact is the best way to stake your claim as an expert in data analytics or any other field.

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4 Responses to “10 Resume Buzzwords That Have Lost Their Sizzle”

  1. Lawrence Weinzimer

    Just make sure those adjectives don’t sound like something out of a bad 1990’s piece.
    The cyber word-sorting and word-stripping eliminates an orgs quest for the supposed best. It’s understandably different since the days when every average sort sent a fax of his / her resume..with high hopes.

  2. Adiv Abramson

    This article shows how fickle hiring managers are and how their tastes have changed. Not long ago infusing one’s resume with choice buzz words was a highly recommended means of getting the attention of some automated document processor used by HR to screen candidates. Now that those buzz words have apparently fallen out of favor they’re deemed a liability instead of an asset. Ironically, not a few job postings on this and other sites are rife with the very same vacuous verbiage we’ve been advised to excise from our CVs. So we shouldn’t include these hackneyed buzz words when presenting ourselves to employers even though every job they post is riddled with them.

  3. Anonymous

    In the last week, I have seen several articles like this one condemning this word or that word. On article said you should use the words “managed,” “oversaw,” “created,” or “inspired” because they are “red flags.” Another article said you shouldn’t use any words that an HR manager might not understand, even if they are relevant to your experience and the position you are applying to. How about we stop using words all together and just send pictures for our resume, yeah?

  4. AnonymousFL

    Aside from tailoring a resume with specific verbiage for each position applied, now the resume must omit hackneyed terms. The basic problem is the HR personnel, who would not know SQL from SQL Server, are composing the filters. The result is that unless you can deliver the resume into a person who understands the technical terms, you have no chance.