Being one of the main hiring principles at my agency, I see many resumes, and one of the main areas of questions I get asked by recent graduates is about their resumes. How can they make them stand out? What are employers looking for? My current boss is a whiz at reading resumes -- and I don't mean reading as in reading a book, but rather like reading people. Especially for entry level positions, he's not so concerned about the actual words, but whether or not the experience the potential candidate has garnered is in line with the kind of person who is going to be dedicated and willing to put in the hard work that's needed for junior positions.
However, applicants will try to use the words they think will have the most impact and improve their chances to attain that all important foot-in-the-door. For the past few years, LinkedIn reports on the most overused buzzwords from over 135 million business profiles from their social platform. The most overused word in 2010 was "extensive experience," but it dropped to fourth place last year behind "creative," "organizational," and "effective."
The following is a list of ten words and phrases that could probably be left off most resumes that no one in the digital marketing industry would miss.
Well hell, I would hope so! Why not list how many words per minute you can type too? Some things are just hackneyed in this business and better left unsaid. Not only that, but there's no real way to prove it until they meet you in person and can vet that out in the conversation. Just saying your detailed-oriented doesn't mean squat on a resume.
Guru and visionary
Unlike some others, I'm not so fed up with the term "expert." Yes, it needs to be qualified to what extent your expertise lies, but terms such as "guru" imply that you're beyond an expert in something; that folks should be showering you with rose pedals or sacrificing goats in your honor. And, hey, if you're a guru, why do you need a job? Self-appointed royalty titles only make most people feel like you're going to be a huge pain-in-the-butt to work with.
Proven track record
Proven to who? Under what scoring system? Believe me, if you've successfully handled more than five years in a demanding position at a solid company, no one's going to wonder if you can prove yourself. Last I checked, most companies don't just keep people on the payroll that don't perform. And if you don't have that, then you don't have a proven track record so saying it only makes you look like you're trying to peacock.
This is just too subjective. Someone could think they're innovative just because they used a new font in their email or were the first person from their small circle of friends to know what a Tweet was. This is an entire industry of innovators and innovation. If you're going to list this on your resume, you better have been in a role with a progressive company that included innovative thinking as one of the core requirements of the job.
Out of the box thinker
Usually this tries to imply how resourceful this person can be (which is a much desired trait). However, this can also give employers the wrong idea that you can only think outside the box --most positions are in desperate need of an "inside the box thinker: now who could grow into an outside the box position once they've proven yourself. I think it's best to come off a bit more conservative on your resume and wait for the actual interview to impress the hiring team with what else you can bring to the table.
This term is used with regards to the "interactive industry." Interactive is a very old-school term to describe the digital marketing industry that makes me cringe. It's a legacy word from the mid-nineties when our business was trying to sell-in the channel. "It's better than a magazine ad because it's interactive." Sure, that may be true but it's a very limited view of what this amazing medium can accomplish. If you're still calling what you do "interactive," then you might want to push the "update button" on your career.
Proficient in Microsoft Word.
See No. 1, "detail oriented." If you don't know Word, you don't belong in this business. To me, this is someone who doesn't have any true software skills who is trying to fill in the additional skills box on the resume template. I've even seen people list "email" as one of their software skills! I wonder if "Words with friends" should count too?
Mature and seasoned-professional
This actually isn't something that I personally feel is a red flag but when I was doing research for this article, I found that this came up a lot. Conversely, "young" and "energetic" is also frowned upon by a lot of people. The notion here is that you're giving people a reason to immediately bucket you into a group that actually might have a negative reaction than a positive one. "Mature" could imply that you're stuck in your ways and too old to change. Personally, I think the digital industry should have a few more seasoned folks in their ranks, but this is a huge no-no listed by many hiring professionals so I would avoid it.
Ninja, rain-maker, home-run hitter, etc.
I can't tell you how many nonsensical titles I've read over the years. Yes, they're actually more fun than "guru or "visionary" and most of the time I think people use these to get a chuckle more so than actually think they're impressing anyone. But, again, it might be sending the wrong message that you're a jokester versus a potentially serious asset to their team.
This is just too broad. It's like saying "I've got X, Y, Z, and a bunch of other stuff I can't list." Let your references tell the hiring team how much more you have to offer besides the education, honors, and work experience you've listed on your resume. Yes, intangibles are vitally important to any employer, but don't discount how important the tangibles can be when you're being represented by a piece of paper in the initial stages of the process.
Josh Dreller is VP of media technology and analytics for Fuor Digital, LLC.
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