Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog

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Resume Writers: Keep Your Plate Out of the Boiler

I’ve always said your resume needs to tell a story.  It should be compelling enough to spark some interest and get the reader to continue learning about you.  To appear truly interesting, you need to include unique accomplishments, but at the same time, avoid boring, boilerplate phrases.

What are “boring boilerplate phrases?”  In many cases, these are phrases that used to be unique and business-savvy, but then got used so much, they became trite.  Liz Ryan graciously agreed to allow me to repost her article written for Yahoo! Hotjobs that hits the nail on the head with this topic. 

See how many of the boilerplate phrases you’ve used in the past.  Time the think outside the box…oops, that’s a tired expression, too.  Time to raise the bar…dang, again.  Nevermind.  Maybe you’ll have better luck!

photo-lizryan10 Boilerplate Phrases That Kill Resumes

by Liz Ryan

The 2009 job market is very different from job markets of the past. If you haven’t job-hunted in a while, the changes in the landscape can throw you for a loop.

One of the biggest changes is the shift in what constitutes a strong resume. Years ago, we could dig into the Resume Boilerplate grab-bag and pull out a phrase to fill out a sentence or bullet point on our resume. Everybody used the same boilerplate phrases, so we knew we couldn’t go wrong choosing one of them — or many — to throw into your resume.

Things have changed. Stodgy boilerplate phrases in your resume today mark you as uncreative and “vocabulary challenged.” You can make your resume more compelling and human-sounding by rooting out and replacing the boring corporate-speak phrases that litter it, and replacing them with human language — things that people like you or I would actually say.

Here are the worst 10 boilerplate phrases — the ones to seek out and destroy in your resume as soon as possible:

  • Results-oriented professional
  • Cross-functional teams
  • More than [x] years of progressively responsible experience
  • Superior (or excellent) communication skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Met or exceeded expectations
  • Proven track record of success
  • Works well with all levels of staff
  • Team player
  • Bottom-line orientation

You can do better. What about adding a human voice to your resume? Here’s an example:

“I’m a Marketing Researcher who’s driven by curiosity about why people buy what they do. At XYZ Industries, I used consumer surveys and online-forum analysis to uncover the reasons why consumers chose our competitors over us; our sales grew twenty percent over the next six months as a result. I’m equally at home on sales calls or analyzing data in seclusion, and up to speed on traditional and new-millennium research tools and approaches. I’m fanatical about understanding our marketplace better every day, week and month — and have helped my employers’ brands grow dramatically as a result.”

You don’t have to write resumes that sound like robots wrote them. A human-voiced resume is the new black — try it!

Additional Information:

I have a few other blog posts on resume writing for reference:

Resume Writing for College Students

Is your resume too good?

The Basics of a Good Resume

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July 10, 2009 - Posted by | Guest Post, Resume Writing

17 Comments »

  1. Terrific points in this post.

    As Hiring Managers and Recruiters get more resumes per job opening than ever, it’s very easy for them to skim by the ones that all sound the same. It’s the unique one that gets their attention. Not gimmicky, but the one that substantively connects the dots between the job requirements and their related skills and successes.

    I think ‘self-descriptive’ words are worthless fluff in a resume. To say you’re ‘hard working’ or ‘self-motivated’ is unsubstantiated opinion that anyone can, and often do say.
    Using examples of successes with hard facts is much more powerful. To say ‘self-motivated’ is opinion. To say ‘Self-initiated a project that saved the company $40,000 in monthly sales expenses’ is a fact that carries far more weight.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post, and one that is probably convicting to a lot of readers!

    Comment by Harry Urschel | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for a great post! It is essential that today’s job candidates differentiate themselves from other applicants while also demonstrating superior writing and marketing skills. Unfortunately, people often don’t “get” why the recruiter or career coach is not thrilled with their boilerplate resume. I have worked with people who have used templates found online (which sometimes include the above phrases); they are not always happy when I recommend a complete rethinking and rewrite. Posts like this can only help the cause and stress levels of recruiters and resume writers everywhere.

    Comment by Mary Wilson | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. Liz’s post got a lot of attention. I’m glad she brought up this point. I wrote a post in response to her article. Please see Deadly Phrases on Your Resume? (http://joblounge.blogspot.com/2009/07/deadly-phrases-on-your-resume.html)

    Thanks, Liz!

    Comment by susanireland | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. I agree with the use of trite, generic phrases. On my blog I have a seven-part series on resume construction as well as postings regarding job seeking issues such as references, lying on job applications, how recruiters evaluate resumes, phone screens, and more.

    Comment by Kristen | July 14, 2009 | Reply

    • Kristen, you blog has loads of great topics for job seekers. Thanks for sharing with us! -JL

      Comment by jefflipschultz | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  5. Having read 15 billion resumes (so far) throughout my career, I want to jump up and down and say AMEN! 🙂

    Stephanie

    Comment by Stephanie A. Lloyd | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  6. Jeff,
    Great blog post – and nice touch including samples of how easy it is to weave such phrases into everyday writing (i.e., time to ‘raise the bar!’).

    Bottom line: Writing is not easy,and not every one can write. A resume is a written product with an important job – to land an interview or at least attract attention beyond 15 seconds.

    Whether you write it as Liz says, ‘with a human voice’ or whether you write it as a staccato marketing message to provide a certain ‘punch’ is a personal decision. Many styles of meaningful writing work. One method will not fit all. Quality, diverse, strong language and targeted messages rule. Job candidates need to be brave, confident and … once again, focused in writing their resume (or,in having their resume written). Is not the time to be limp in writing or boilerplate or boring or … you get the drift.

    A personal marketing document, a conversation with the reader, a sales message, an influence communication — all are descriptors for what a resume is/does.

    Again – another solid, meaningful blog post!

    PS – I wrote a post on Branded Resumes here, too: http://careertrend.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/13/

    Jacqui

    Comment by careertrend | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  7. How true it is. Very nice post. I think people over think when writing the resume. Take it from a recruiter people: simplicity is the best way to attract attention. No fluff will over run true success.

    Thanks!

    Comment by Ryan Leary | July 15, 2009 | Reply

  8. Great article! Although us resume writers have always been taught to never write a resume in 1st or 3rd person so that makes it more of a challenge. What I’ve found is that it’s solely dependent on what industry the person is in and what types of jobs they are going for. Some are more conservative and require more standard use of vocabulary. I do 100% agree that resume writing has changed significantly over the past several years and if you don’t keep up – you will get overlooked/left behind!

    Comment by imjustagoyle | July 15, 2009 | Reply

  9. Excellent up-to-date information. I also enjoyed reading the comments of the above experts. It’s true that keywords and phrases used in recent years will not be enough to capture the attention of employers today who have an abundance of eager candidates. It is more important than ever for job seekers to submit an eye-catching resume that is fresh, unique and stands out in a crowd.

    Here is a list of the latest Resume Power Words: http://bit.ly/97NzJ

    Diana Lewis
    ResumeBear

    Comment by Diana Lewis | July 15, 2009 | Reply

  10. Although the human voice aspect sounds nice, I’m not sure how many times you can use the word “I” in your resume without overkill (just look at Liz’s paragraph as an example). In my mind, the human-ness of your resume comes out when you align your accomplishments/experience with the needs of the employer. I agree that you want to make your resume stand out, but if everyone kept saying “I did this” and “I am that” as Liz does in this article, wouldn’t everyone start sounding the same after awhile?

    Resumes are meant to be written with hard-hitting action verbs that get right to the point, and they are not meant to be redundant. With a 30-second read, you don’t want the reader to wade through the material. You want it to be front and center.

    I don’t agree that narrative-style writing on a resume is the wave of the future. If you want your resume to be unique, then bring something unique to the table.

    Comment by rezlady | July 16, 2009 | Reply

  11. I’m not a fan of first-person wordage within a resume. The tactic reminds me of an old resume writing technique jobseekers used 1-2 decades ago, which is probably the core of my dislike.

    Visit your local library and take a look at any resume advice/sample book dating back to the 1980/early 1990 time-frame [hoping they still have resources dated back that far] … you’ll see what I’m talking about. Jobseekers back then began resumes with an intro statement that started with something like this: “I’m a Manufacturer’s Representative seeking a position …” The above example provided by Liz similarly starts out “I’m a Marketing Researcher who’s driven …”

    When it comes to resume design and content, moving forward with fresh writing techniques and promotional strategies gets my vote. The use of first-person wordage in a resume however is completely out of the question for me — not only because I’m against reapplying the old technique, but because my resume-writing clients wouldn’t allow it either.

    Imagine an executive from a Fortune 100 company receiving a resume draft containing an opening paragraph with “I” statements — sounds too 5th grade to me. =]

    Regards,
    Teena Rose
    http://twitter.com/teenarose

    Comment by Teena Rose | July 16, 2009 | Reply

  12. […] Resume Writers- Keep Your Plate Out of the Boiler […]

    Pingback by Can You Go The Distance? « Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog | October 27, 2009 | Reply

  13. Wonderful information! I am taking you post as an reference point. Thanks!

    Comment by jobs | September 21, 2010 | Reply

  14. Great article with many takeaways. I can truly see the value in the multiple approach, I think you’ve made some truly interesting points. thanks for sharing this with me!@bose

    Comment by Resume Formats | June 16, 2011 | Reply

  15. “Resume Writers: Keep Your Plate Out of the Boiler « Jeff
    Lipschultz’s Blog” was quite enjoyable and instructive!
    In todays world that’s challenging to deliver. Many thanks, Rochell

    Comment by http://tinyurl.com/wintsteel12156 | January 11, 2013 | Reply

  16. “Resume Writers: Keep Your Plate Out of the Boiler « Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog” was
    certainly compelling and insightful! In modern world that’s
    very difficult to accomplish. Thanks a lot, Alina

    Comment by http://tinyurl.com/johncamm00171 | January 23, 2013 | Reply


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