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4 Worst Resume Clichés

These days, the job market is more competitive than ever. Job seekers are competing with more and more people for open positions. And that means they need to stand out when it comes to getting their resumes noticed. Hiring managers and HR professionals see hundreds of resumes every week. To get noticed in that crowd, a resume needs to stand out. One way to accomplish that? Avoiding typical resume clichés.

Evaluating resumes now? Here are 4 resume clichés that should make you think twice about inviting that person for a job interview:

1. Vague buzzwords. Resume buzzwords have two major problems. First, everyone uses them, so they’re not going to help you stand out. More importantly? They’re vague, and don’t really tell hiring managers anything about your qualifications.

“Strong communication skills.” “Attention to detail.” “Passion and drive.” There’s no doubt that these are desirable qualities in a prospective employee. But when every resume includes them, they lose their meaning. Instead, look for more meaningful phrases and information that speak to their unique qualifications and show why they’re the best person for the job.

For instance, you might want highlight the fact that you have great communication skills. But everyone puts “good communication skills” on their resume. What you can do instead? Show, don’t tell. Each word choice on your resume is a chance to showcase your “good communication skills.”

Another example? The phrase “team player.” Every candidate wants to show potential employers that they can work well with others. But “team player” doesn’t really mean anything – and it’s incredibly overused. Instead, use more specific phrases that highlight your ability to collaborate with others and your commitment to overall team success.

2. Overselling professional accomplishments. It’s true that candidates want to put their best foot forward with their resume. That means highlighting and emphasizing qualifications to prove that they’re the best candidate for the job. But highlighting and emphasizing is different from overselling – and a candidate overselling oneself on a resume is a big red flag.

Never exaggerate or lie about qualifications on your resume. Hiring managers and HR professionals reading your resume will likely be able to spot it in an instant. Even if they don’t, it’s certain to come out in the interview. And anyway, what’s the best that could happen? Y

If you spot a lie on a resume, don’t interview that person. Consider giving them feedback. And candidates, please don’t exaggerate or lie about qualifications on your resume. What’s the best that happen? You get the interview, and they realize you’re a liar in the interview. That hurts your personal brand. Or maybe, you’ll get hired for a position you’re not qualified for, and you’ll probably fall flat on your face.

Look for people who highlight the qualifications and experience they do have. See if it’s backed it up with concrete examples – whether it’s with an award or recognition, or just a great reference.

3. Filler information. Resumes provide a very limited amount of space in which to make your case for employment. In fact, they’re designed that way. That’s why you shouldn’t prioritize interviewing people who fill the valuable space on their resume with unnecessary, irrelevant fillers.

Fillers can be unnecessary content or unnecessary formatting that only serves to take up space. One of the most pointless phrases found on most resumes? “References available by request.” Hiring managers know you have references available, so you don’t need to waste space telling them. Another common filler tactic? Including personal information like hobbies, interests, or groups. If you’re just out of college and your experience with Photography Club gave you valuable leadership skills, fine. But if you’re several years into the workforce, you don’t need to highlight your interest in knitting on your resume.

A good rule of thumb? If it doesn’t relate directly to the job you hope to land or the industry you want to break into, leave it off your resume – and save the space for something more important.

4. Outdated or irrelevant skills. The last resume cliché you should avoid? Outdated or irrelevant skills. Sure, speedy typing and proficiency in Microsoft Office are important for most positions. But in this day and age, there’s no need to highlight those skills – it’s practically a given that most applicants will have them. The same goes for things like “social media expertise.” Unless you have real, meaningful experience (read: other than your personal Facebook), leave it off.

What should you look for in a resume?

The interesting skills that relate to the position and set the candidate apart from the competition. Are they certified in the nice to have skills? Are they certified in the great to have skills? If the candidate needs to have significant experience with industry-specific software or programs, is it listed on their resume?

The resume is often the first look that employers get at work history, qualifications, and experience. Great resumes stand out. Make sure to avoid resumes with the overused clichés and fillers, and keep an eye out for the resumes truly great professional accomplishments and skills.

What resume clichés make you not invite the candidate for the job interview?


abby perkinsAbby Perkins is Managing Editor at Talent Tribune, a blog dedicated to all things HR. SmartRecruiters is your workspace to find and hire great people.


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