One of the most difficult tasks in your search for employment can be writing a resume that stands out. Not only must you communicate everything that’s crucial about your employment history, but you also need to do so in a limited amount of space. In order to accomplish these goals, many job candidates resort to buzzwords — terms they’ve seen on other resumes, industry jargon or even words picked from the thesaurus simply because they sound impressive.
While buzzwords may seem to add an air of credibility to your resume, they are often unwelcomed by hiring managers. The reason: Buzzwords are usually vague. A hiring manager may think you’re trying to hide something unfavorable about your work history or exaggerate your responsibilities or accomplishments.
Following are some buzzwords you should keep off your resume.
“Experienced in” or “familiar with”: Terms like these — which include similar phrases such as “extensive background in” or “working knowledge of” — do little to explain the depth of your experience. For example, if a job candidate claims to be “familiar with HTML,” does that mean the person knows how to use the language to program Web pages, is aware that it’s a language for coding Web pages or has simply heard of the term? And if the applicant does know how to program using HTML, how many years of experience does he or she have? Hiring managers will want to know the answers to questions such as these, so be specific when describing your experience, including duration of time and how you’ve used that experience to benefit previous employers.
“Responsibilities included”: Many job seekers use their resumes to feature a laundry list of past duties and responsibilities. While it’s important to give hiring managers an overview of what you’ve done, keep in mind that they don’t need a refresher course in what a database administrator does.
“Implemented,” “authored” and “utilized”: These are just some of the “buzzverbs” that find their way into resumes. Many people use them because they want to sound knowledgeable or sophisticated, but they can actually have the opposite effect. There’s nothing wrong with using the term “wrote” instead of “authored” or “used” instead of “utilized.” After all, they’re straightforward, easy to understand and get the same point across as their buzzverb counterparts.
“Excellent written skills”: Written skills are becoming more and more important for IT professionals to possess, especially as tech workers communicate with others throughout the organization on projects and proposals. But as the old saying goes, show, don’t tell, the hiring manager about your abilities. Demonstrate with your resume and cover letter that you know how to get your ideas across on paper — or on the computer screen — through clear and concise writing and by carefully checking for any typos or grammatical errors before submitting your application materials.
“CISSP,” “MCTS,” “MCITP”: Even if you know what these acronyms stand for, there’s no guarantee that the human resources professional who first sees your resume will. Avoid “alphabet soup” by always spelling out terms that nontechnical people may be unfamiliar with.
The Key to the Buzz
Some people confuse buzzwords with keywords, so it’s important to make that distinction. Unlike buzzwords, keywords are terms that hiring managers actually look for — as do the resume-scanning software programs many companies use — to identify promising applicants. Keywords describe the position or the requirements for the job. As a result, it’s beneficial to include them in your resume. To determine which keywords you should use, read through the job description and pull terms from there. If you’re applying for a position as a software engineer, for instance, you would want to include the programming languages applicants should have experience with — Java or C++, for example — and specific phrases used in the job posting, such as “data-intensive applications” or “run-time complexity.” Keep in mind, though, that you should include only those keywords that accurately describe your professional background.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.