Unemployment claims increased last week, and job seekers still turned...

Unemployment claims increased last week, and job seekers still turned up at job fairs across the nation. This one was Tuesday in Independence, Ohio. (May 3, 2011) Credit: AP

Your résumé 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. For example, if an applicant writes, "Assisted manager in optimizing marketing campaigns," it's difficult to determine exactly what the person did or how he or she did it.

Indeed, peppering your résumé 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 résumé and advice for what you should say instead:

"Familiar with ..."
Using this or similar terms -- "knowledge of ..." and "experience with ..." are close cousins -- can send your résumé 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.

For instance, an administrative professional who says she is familiar with Microsoft Access may have used the program everyday ... or only twice in several years. Be as specific as possible when discussing the skills you possess. For example: "Executive assistant with 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 résumés 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: Instead of saying that you "utilized resources to improve company Web site," describe more specifically how you increased the number of visitors to the Web page. 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. Although it's OK to mention a few basic functions, 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.

'CFA,' 'MCTS,' or 'CPS.'
What do these letters stand for? They are all acronyms for common professional certifications (Certified Financial Analyst, Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist and Certified Professional Secretary, respectively). If you didn't know that, you can rest assured that many hiring managers won't either. This is especially true because the first person to see your résumé is often a human resources professional or internal recruiter, not the person who directly supervises the open position. As a result, try to avoid industry jargon so anyone reading your résumé can understand your unique selling points.

Although it's best to steer clear of buzzwords in your résumé, 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 résumé-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 résumé, 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.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com

Latest Videos


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months