Words can be powerful. They can work to your benefit… and they can cause problems. This is especially true regarding your resume.
Recruiters read a lot of these documents, so when they encounter a poorly-written resume, it sticks out like a sore thumb. They become sensitive to useless, meaningless, and clichéd words and phrases. They learn to hate them.
So don’t use these four words that do nothing but give an advantage to your job search competition:
Like all the words on this list, this may seem innocent and innocuous enough. But the word “helped” in a resume does nothing but “help” you say nothing at all. If you write something like “helped the project coordinator implement…” you’ve said nothing. Specifically, you haven’t said how you helped! Think about it this way: the guy who sells hot dogs at Miami Heat games could say he “helped” the Heat win a championship, and it wouldn’t be a lie. Yes… “Assisted” is equally useless.
Instead: Say what you did. Then say you did it “in support” of whatever team you were helping or project you were working on.
2) “Responsible For”
This is another phrase that does nothing but take up a space on a page. There is virtually no phrase that could follow “responsible for” that wouldn’t have the same meaning without “responsible for.” If you were “responsible for maintaining the help desk documentation” then you could just say you “maintained the help desk documentation.” Now the sentence is more active, more concise, and doesn’t bother with abstract concepts like “responsibility.”
Instead: Just get rid of it. “Responsible for” is so useless that you don’t even need to replace it with anything.
First of all, you are not Data from Star Trek. You don’t “interface” with people. But whether or not you are a robot, cyborg, or human is irrelevant to why this is bad word choice. Too many people use this word to show that they meet with people. But saying “I talked to my coworkers” is not appropriate for a resume. What did you talk about? In what context? What came from these conversations? If you say you “interfaced with Designers and Project Managers” this could just as easily be “Discussed last night’s episode of Game of Thrones with Designers and Project Managers.” The emphasis should be on what was communicated, not the fact that communication was taking place.
Instead: Say what was communicated. “Communicated project requirements, budgets, and deadlines to Designers and Project Managers.” Isn’t that better?
4) “Gained Expertise”
This is never useful because there is no situation where you want to say you learned something. You want to show how you used the knowledge or expertise that you learned. I’ve watched a lot of football in my life, and I could certainly say I’ve learned, or gained expertise on, the west coast offense. But could I play Quarterback and run a west coast offense? No, of course not. Learning something and implementing it are very different things.
Instead: what you used this knowledge to do. What did you put into action after gaining this knowledge?
This is just a short list of some word choice mistakes that are committed over and over again by resume writers. There are many, many, others. Some of these mistakes have even become resume conventions, and get repeated over and over again.
This is unfortunate for the language, for the people who have to read resumes all day, and for civilization in general. But it’s actually good for you. Because if you are the one who doesn’t make the same mistake everyone else is making, then your resume stands out!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Resume to Interviews.
About the Author: Jason B. has written, edited, and proofread thousands of resumes, cover letters, academic CVs, LinkedIn profiles, and personal statements for clients with work histories dating back over thirty years. You can find him on Google+: Jason B., Facebook, and Twitter.
Image courtesy of izquotes.com. Thank you!