Top 10 Phrases to DUMP and What to Say Instead
Year end is a good time to update your executive resume, even if you’re not looking for a job. Deleting clichés and overused phrases is a quick way to freshen up your resume.
Start by getting rid of the bloat and showing you’re not a relic from the past. Most of us have used the following phrases in our resumes, cover letters, or LinkedIn profiles. They’re great fillers. They used to be the standard format we used when we began our careers.
But if you still have these phrases in any of your hiring materials, it’s time to take them out and replace them with more powerful language befitting of your current and future leadership roles. The 10 terms are so overused, they have lost their meaning. Dump them.
1. “A proven track record…”
This cringe-worthy phrase spells out something that should be exemplified in your resume with Work Wins. Instead of pointing out that you have an impressive record, get right into concrete examples. Remember, for the most part, no one reads your materials, they eye scan them. Get to the essentials as fast as you can.
2. “Responsible for…”
Delete this from the beginning of your sentences and increase the impact of the words that follow. Starting the sentence with a verb i.e. led, directed, changed, gives your language substance, not fluff. As good writers say: “Show, don’t tell.”
3. “A passion for…”
Everyone is passionate about their field of work — or they at least pretend to be in their cover letter and interview. But it’s something a recent college grad says, not what a sophisticated executive relies on for credibility. Come up with market-driven reasons for what you do instead of presenting a shallow statement. Start connecting your field to your past, your life’s ambitions or your skills. “Throughout my career, life-long learning has been important in keeping me ahead of the curve.” Not, “I am a passionate life-long learner.”
If you’re a successful professional, you are goal-oriented. Period. Being able to work towards a goal is like being able to work towards a deadline: It’s the bare minimum. Instead of describing yourself as goal-oriented, find a more descriptive and specific way to illustrate your work style.
5. “Team player”
Can you really be an executive and not be a team player? No one is going to write that they are a jerk on their resume, so you shouldn’t write the converse, either. Your references and past experiences should speak for themselves—demonstrating that you build trust and develop relationships. Dedicate your resume space to discussing your objective achievements.
Rather than describing yourself with this boring phrase, exemplify this characteristic in the work examples. And make sure you’re really perceived as detail-oriented by proofreading your resume and getting at least two other people to check your work.
7. “Synergy” and “Transformation”
Buzzwords like “synergy” and “transformation” are often misused. And even if they aren’t, they’re often misinterpreted. Unless you’re applying for a job with Deepak Chopra, stick to plain terms when describing your Work Wins.
8. “Excellent communication skills”
This phrase is so general that no one could possibly deduce anything about you from it. Instead of describing yourself as an excellent communicator — something many, many people would say about themselves — list specific skillsets you have around communication. Or, just nail your cover letter and that will say it for you.
9. “Hobbies” and “Interests”
Save this category for Facebook or your dating profile. It shows a lack of experience to list these on an executive resume and may be seen as unprofessional. If you happen to know that the hiring manager is a rabid rock climber and you just climbed El Capitan in Yosemite, mention it in the interview. But don’t take up valuable space with nonessential information in your resume.
10. “References Available Upon Request”
Candidates provide references in the final stages of the interview process. HR and hiring managers know to ask you for them. Don’t waste their time telling them what they already know. Better to use the space to help them get to know your unique brilliance and how that sets you apart from other applicants.