Enough Already! No More Career Clichés!

I see them on résumés, hear them in networking meetings and interviews, and spot them in the all-important summary section on LinkedIn. No more career clichés!

Job seekers and employees seeking to get promoted internally are overusing buzzwords and tired descriptors with the hope that they will magically get the attention of their audience.

Well, guess what? They are boring, uninspiring, and a turn-off. Enough already!

Time for a pop quiz. Have you used any of these lately?

  • Team player
  • Results driven
  • Fire in the belly
  • Excellent leadership skills
  • Great organizational skills
  • Work well autonomously
  • Self-starter
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Customer-focused

… I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift.

It’s not the words themselves that are the problem; it is that they have no value when used alone. Comments like these in résumés are empty. They have no meaning. No credibility.

I have seen as many as twenty – or more – listed at the top in a candidate’s “executive summary.” It’s a waste of real estate on the page and can quickly get you tossed into the “no” pile.

These are not the key words that recruiters and hiring companies are looking for! As a matter of fact, many of these clichés are really just “tickets to play” or basic skills you need to have if you are going to be successful in the job you are applying for. And if you are hoping to get found with those words when a recruiter does a key word search, wrong again.

Here is an exercise to check yourself on the importance of the skill sets you are highlighting. Read each phrase and ask yourself “versus the opposite?” For example, “I am a team player” as opposed to “a loner who doesn’t work well with others.” “I am customer-focused” rather than “someone who thinks customers should go pound sand.” Now you see exactly how basic – and empty – these descriptions are.

If you’re going to use the phrases, make them relevant and important.

Try to think of these words and how they have been applied in your career. Look at your current and past positions, reflect on your experiences, and identify real examples for each term. Most importantly, can you measure your success using quantifiable metrics for each of them?

Here’s how you might use them instead:

Attention to Detail

At XYZ Company, I detected an error in a financial system, which saved the company $350,000 when the problem was corrected.

Time Management

I was recognized by management for my ability to manage a high volume of projects across several product lines with no sacrifice to quality.

Customer Service/Sales

I exceeded my sales quota by 48% by providing a consistently high level of service to customers, and up-selling to enterprise-grade products.

Problem Solver

I deployed a new accounting software program that reduced accounting errors by 89% in the first year.


I analyzed our various company-wide courier services and negotiated better rates with a main supplier that reduced costs by 25%.

Can you see how you have given these statements meaning and how credible they sound with a little more detail? The next time you’re tempted to include these sorts of qualities and skills in your résumé, make sure you have an example to back each one up.

Please comment, add your suggestions and ask questions at any time!


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