Five buzz words you should never put on your resume

Resumes and CVs are tricky documents. It can be hard to strike the right balance of keywords relevant to the specific job you are applying for and buzz words which are at best meaningless and at worst off-putting to potential employers. 

  • What exactly are buzz words?
  • What’s so bad about using buzz words?
  • What can you use instead?

These are all excellent questions. Let’s take it one by one.

What are resume buzz words and why should you avoid them?

A buzz word is a phrase or term, sometimes in the form of a colloquialism or jargon, that is popular for use in a specific context or during a particular period.

For example, “team-spirited” or “self-motivated” are both resume buzz words that at one point in time was thought to favourably leave an impression on recruiters.

The problem with using buzz words in your resume is that they do the opposite of their intended purpose.

Instead of highlighting a specific skill or attribute of yours, they only serve to indicate an attempt at appearing clever, confident, and competent. In fact, buzz words that are not specific or relevant to the industry, company or role being applied to are just empty and unhelpful.

Much like cliches, they may have at some point been positive buzz words but over time and as the recruitment landscape shifts, they no longer add to the character of the applicant. In fact, they are more likely to detract.

The top five buzz words to avoid in your resume

We’ve scoured countless resumes in our time and here are the top five buzz words to avoid using in your resume.

1. Team player

Being a team player sounds good, doesn’t it? And it is good! But not as a term to be used in your resume.

It’s overused and just about every job seeker uses it in their application. Being a vague and rather undefined term, it doesn’t allow the recruiter to understand your professional aptitude or character any better. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t value relevant skills that indicate the same attribute.

So, instead of describing yourself as a team player, why not mention the time you worked with the sales team to develop a new funnel that resulted in 37% more sales for the quarter?

2. Fast learner

Like being a team player, being a fast learner is a good thing. Probably.

In truth, it’s more than meaningless. It’s downright nonsensical. After all, who are you faster than? Being a fast learner implies you’re naturally–or through dint of your own diligence–able to pick up certain skills quicker than others. But how do you know this and what exactly constitutes as fast?

Instead of describing yourself as a fast learner which indicates that you might be trying to cover up for a gap in your skillset or a lack of relevant experience, you could again actually provide an example that demonstrates what you’d like them to think of you. Tell them instead about the time that you had to up-skill on Google Ads with no prior experience and created a successful campaign in 3 months.

3. Experienced professional

Many applicants like to include the buzz word experienced professional in their resume. It sounds sufficiently non-specific yet adequately relevant to seem like a good idea. But it’s not.

The lack of precision and relevance in the generic term “experienced professional” means a potential employer is in no better position to understand what exactly you’re experienced at and why that’s important.

As with the other buzz words mentioned, the more you can quantify and qualify such general claims the better. You could mention how you arranged all the travel itineraries for the CEO or organised the annual gala event for the last 3 years. The more specific you can be, the better your resume will stick the landing.

4. Hard working

All employers want hard workers. No one wants a slacker or an ‘easy worker’.

But when push comes to shove, results and outcomes matter more. Being a hard worker doesn’t tell a resume reader anything about your abilities to get the job done. Working hard is better than hardly working but working productively tops it all.

Potential employers care about productivity and outcomes, so any mention of working hard needs to be qualified with references to how your time management and competence resulted in tangible outcomes.

Rather than describe yourself as hard working–along with the rest of the applicant pool–add a reference in your resume to the time that you met 100% of delivery deadlines or completed every customer service ticket item prior to the 24-hours response window had elapsed.

5. Proven track record

The best thing about a proven track record is that they are purportedly track records that can be proven. So, just including the buzz word on its own is ironic and kind of useless.

Your resume should act as an argument as to why the employer should interview you. In the same way that Screenwriting 101 tells you to “show and not tell” the audience what is happening, you should show a recruiter your track record (proven or otherwise) rather than just tell them.

If you have in mind your successful migration of your previous company’s data onto a new software database with zero operational downtime when you write the words “proven track record”, then just say that! If your track record is managing a team to receive the highest customer review scores in the company, then tell it as it is. Don’t beat around the bush with an unsupported, general reference to a supposed track record.

Leave the buzz wording to the experts

As one of the best recruitment agencies in Perth, we take the time to understand not only your skill set, but who you are as a person — because when we find the role, you’re perfect for, it’s more than a job offer. It’s a match in every sense of the word.

We’ll help you not only tailor your own resume and remove the buzz words that make recruiters groan, but help you find the next dream role in your expanding career. Whether you’re refining your resume for an upcoming application or just want to start the conversation to see what opportunities may be lying in wait for you, get in touch with us today.

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You know how important it is to get recruitment right, but it’s not an easy process without someone to guide you through it. That’s what we’re here for. We’ll find the person you need for tomorrow so you can focus on what your business needs today.