Using Resume Buzzwords to Get an Interview

12 October 2018 Reading Time: 6 minutes

There’s one thing we can guarantee a recruiter will notice in the time they take to review your resume. Not your resume header, or the length of your resume. It’s not even your name or personal website. What recruiters notice no matter what when they look at your resume is simple: language. More specifically, your use of language.

Recruiters are looking to see key competencies on your resume. The way you package these will influence both the recruiter’s perception of you as a worker (which inevitably will affect whether or not you’re called for an interview) and how you fair in comparison to others. So how can you use buzzwords to your advantage? See below.

Buzzwords to avoid

Everyone optimises the buzzwords they include on their resume – unfortunately, this has led to many words being misused and overused. More than 2,000 hiring managers indicated that overused buzzwords make them disengage with an applicant’s resume. Looking at them, the reason behind their negative impact is clear: they’re fluff, they have no actionable meaning. Examples of the worst-offenders include:

  • Best of breed
  • Go-getter
  • Think outside of the box
  • Go-to person
  • Results-driven
  • Detail-oriented
  • Team player
  • Bottom-line
  • Hard worker
  • Strategic thinker

These descriptors are frivolous without evidence to back them up. And if you have the evidence, you probably don’t need to say you’re a “team player” as the evidence should speak for itself.

You might be a “go-getter”, but what does that mean for the business? What have you done that shows that’s who you are? Merely describing oneself without any proof is the fastest way to leave a poor impression on your recruiter. Believe me, recruiters have said it time and time again: be specific.

Detail-oriented

We’ve all seen detail-oriented at some point in our career. Whether that’s been in your career guidance textbook in school or on your resume in the past, it’s up there with the most common phrases included on a resume. The logic is technically sound. Recruiters are looking for people who pay attention to the details, right?

While you’re not necessarily wrong, let’s consider the old saying “The proof is in the pudding”.

In this case, the proof of being detail-oriented should be apparent in your experience (your career pudding, shall we say). Rather than tell the hiring manager you’re detail-oriented, show them that’s what you are. When it comes down to comparing someone who evidenced this characteristic versus someone who merely stated it, the former will get you called for an interview. So, be detail-oriented and showcase work that reflects that.

Tip: Instead of describing yourself as detail-oriented, use more impactful language. You’re attentive to business needs and have reflected this by reducing costs by X %, for example.

In his program manager resume, Tobias describes pitching revolutionary health technology to the Clintons.

Enhancv Using Resume Buzzwords to Get an Interview Resume buzzwords

There’s no need to state that he’s detail-oriented in his resume in light of this. We clearly see he’s meticulous in his work.

Team player

Without collaboration, businesses quickly become ineffective and fall short of their goals. Recruiters look for people who will add to the dynamic of their employee environment and mesh well with others’ work styles. While this is true, the hiring manager isn’t looking for a “team player”. Let’s start off with what impression being a team player leaves on the recruiter. Team players generally avoid confrontation, they concede when faced with any opposing opinion, they make sure everyone is happy (on the surface), and rarely disrupt the status quo. Does that sound like an employee you’d like to hire?

The reality is, team players are followers; not growers. Recruiters are more interested in those that will make positive changes in their organisation. After all, if they needed nothing to change, there wouldn’t need to be someone new hired.

Again, the proof is in the pudding argument is relevant here too. Rather than describe yourself as a team player, include examples of where you have worked well in a team. Perhaps you have experience working on a project team or something similar. This is where that experience will shine.

In Aaron’s real estate resume, he describes collaborating with trustees to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Enhancv Using Resume Buzzwords to Get an Interview Resume buzzwords

With prior experience working on a team that went on to exceed goals as shown, there was no need for Aaron to describe himself as a team player. Not only is it evident to the recruiter, but they see how this trait can benefit their organisation.

Hard Worker

I don’t think there’s a company in the world that is looking for lazy workers. Describing yourself as a hard worker is up there with writing “resume” on your resume header or closing your resume with “references upon request”. You’re stating the obvious. Not only does this take up valuable space, it’s adding white noise. The recruiter hopes you’re a hard worker – that’s a given. What they don’t know, and what your resume should be showing them, is how you’re a hard worker. What is your impact?

On his account manager resume, Maximillian describes his work with AIESEC where he implemented a digital sales system that increased sales by 100% for the organisation.

Enhancv Using Resume Buzzwords to Get an Interview Resume buzzwords

With this, recruiters at Amazon got to see his dedication to volunteering projects and their success. This easily translates into hard-worker without having to use those words directly.

Alternative ways to use common buzzwords

Sometimes, you may find yourself in a circumstance that you need to include a (common) buzzword on your resume. This is most likely to occur when applying to organisations that use ATS (automated tracking systems). Some organisations configure these systems to scan for buzzwords when compiling a list of applicants. The best strategy for this is to use buzzwords that are included in the job description and turn them into subsections on your resume.

For example, Paula included being “independent” as one of her strengths as this was something potential employers were looking for on her ecommerce resume.

Enhancv Using Resume Buzzwords to Get an Interview Resume buzzwords

Using action words on your resume

Action words are used to describe your impact in previous roles. The typical action words people think of when putting their resume together are increased and decreased. While these are everyone’s bread-and-butter, there are alternatives you can choose from too.

Alternatives to increased

  • Augmented
  • Boosted
  • Improved
  • Strengthened
  • Doubled
  • Widened (profit margins)
  • Raised
  • Cultivated (new sales)

Alternatives to decreased

  • Reduced
  • Slashed
  • Cut
  • Shrunk
  • Minimized
  • Curbed
  • Halved

Using buzz and action words effectively

Your buzzwords and action words should add value rather than be the value on your resume. Rather than throwing down flashy words in an attempt to cover up a lack of experience or some other shortcoming, buzzwords and action words should enhance what you already have. Buzzwords are most relevant in your personal summary whereas action words come into play when describing your previous experience.

Personal summary

These are used to introduce who you are to an employer – especially when making a career change or entering your first job. You can use the following formula to craft your personal summary:

[Description of current status] with an interest in [Industry / Role you’re applying to] hoping to improve skills of [hard & soft skills]. A [personal attribute] worker motivated by [aspect of company culture].

Buzzwords come in when describing your personal attribute. See a comparison of a well-used buzzword personal summary versus a poorly executed personal summary below.

Effective use

High-school student with an interest in computer applications hoping to improve my skill in Python, JavaScript, and A/B Testing. A dedicated worker motivated by independent work and personal freedom (with guidance) in tasks.

Ineffective use

High-school student with an interest in computer applications hoping to improve my skill in Python, JavaScript, and A/B Testing. A worker motivated by independent work and personal freedom (with guidance) in tasks.

As seen in the above example, buzzwords are best when used to enhance your description rather than pad it out.

Previous Experience

Action words should be used to describe the manner in which you carried out your duties and to enhance the achievement you’re mentioning. It’s important to quantify your past-achievements in conjunction with your action words too.

Previous experience without action words

Involved in 5-person team responsible for quality assurance of sold products each day.

Previous experience using action words

Spearheaded a 5-person team involved in quality assurance of sold products each day.

Using resume buzzwords and actions words on your resume

Recruiters come across many of the same buzzwords on applicants’ resumes. Sticking to the norm in this case will likely cause them to disengage and overlook your resume for someone else. The best way to enhance your resume is to use buzzwords sparingly and match them to the job description when mentioned. Using action words, recruiters can get a better sense of your previous experience and you can show your initiative. To see how others have applied these tactics, check out successful resumes from people who have gotten hired at Spotify, Amazon, Verizon, and more.

Dean O'Reilly

Psychology student with keen interest in academic research. Currently exploring the world of marketing distribution and content creation with Enhancv to help people get closer to the job of their dreams. Read more about my journey to Enhancv on Fast Company or Gay Times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *