Your resume is designed to communicate your accomplishments and distinguish you from other job seekers, but there are certain words and phrases that can actually disguise your qualifications.
Indeed, peppering your resume with vague terms can be a red flag to employers, who may feel as though you are trying to exaggerate your qualifications or hide knowledge gaps. Here are some common buzzwords to avoid when writing your resume and advice for what you should say instead:
'Familiar with …' Using terms such as this — "knowledge of …" and "experience with …" are close cousins — can send your resume to the bottom of a potential employer's pile of applications because your level of knowledge in a certain area can't be accurately determined using these phrases.
Be as specific as possible when discussing the skills you possess. For example: "Thorough knowledge of Microsoft Office applications, including daily use of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Working toward Microsoft Office Specialist designation."
'Optimize,' 'leverage' and 'utilize.' Many applicants insert business buzzwords into their resumes in an attempt to sound more accomplished or sophisticated. But rather than making you sound "in the know," these types of words can make it seem as though you can't communicate in a straightforward manner.
Keep things simple and, as much as possible, quantify your achievements to truly show the impact your actions had.
'Responsibilities include …' One of the biggest mistakes job applicants make is including a long, drawn out list of all of their duties in a previous position. Hiring managers likely know the types of tasks you performed in a previous role and don't need a detailed breakdown. Instead, describe how you helped a previous employer save money or increase efficiencies, your advancement in a past role, or how you changed a job you held for the better.
Although it's best to steer clear of buzzwords in your resume, you should use keywords to stand out from other applicants. Keywords are terms that appear in the job description. They describe duties, qualifications or certifications, for instance, and may be used by resume-scanning software to determine which applicants best meet the qualifications of the job. Including phrases from the job description is a good idea, but only if the terms accurately describe your background.
If you're wondering whether or not to use a word or phrase in your resume, ask yourself if it helps convey the value you can bring to a prospective employer. If a term is used to cover for a lack of experience or make it sound as though you're a sophisticated insider when you're not, leave it out.