When I was a teenager, the comedy of George Carlin, who died this week, was a godsend that could brighten the worst of days. At a time in your life when you could be content one minute, depressed the next, and confused less than a minute later, listening to George wax humorous about the contradictions, hypocrisy, and the usually public taboos of the time helped me put it all in perspective.
To honor the comic genius's quintessential sketch 7 Words You Can Never Say on TV, here's a list of seven words and phrases you shouldn't include on your resume. Chances are this list won't serve as the basis for a Supreme Court case, as George's did.
1. "Effective Communicator"
This phrase doesn't distinguish you from other job applicants, but that's exactly what you need to do today to be called in for an interview. Hiring managers assume you can communicate well, so, if you don't know how — either by email or with your voice — you have about as much chance of getting hired as a tree.
Every job requires a certain level of attention to detail. So, again, this won't help your resume — or your chance at landing an interview. The best thing to do here — if you know the job you're applying for calls for this trait in particular — is to be ready to explain in an interview how your high level of attention to detail resulted in a key accomplishment in your current or previous job.
3. "Highly Skilled"
This is a nothing phrase. You have skills, and you can use some or all of those skills in some kind of job that calls for them. The only way you don't have skills is if you've been doing — here it comes — nothing. Do you believe you have more skills than the average applicant? Show, don't tell.
You'd better be if you get the job. Again, this is a trait that can go without saying. It just doesn't distinguish you from the others who may want the same job.
5. "References Available Upon Request"
This was regular practice in the world of resumes that has become passé. Always assume that an employer will want to check references, or at least conduct a Web search on you and what you've accomplished. So, don't state this on your resume, but do make sure you have the names and contact information of pre-screened potential references if you're called in to interview. And keep those people in the know on your possible job change so they won't be surprised should the hiring manager call them.
6. "Energetic Team Player'"
As opposed to what? A "Lethargic Loner"? Just about every organization wants someone who has the energy to do a job and can work effectively with others, and if they don't get that vibe from you, those empty words on a resume won't convince them.
7. "Able to Meet Deadlines"
Here's a question to ask yourself: If you were to meet just one of every 10 deadlines, how long would you last in your job? Once again, this is an obvious trait that merely says you can do the bare minimum.
There are other words and phrases that could have made this list, but, hey, I limited myself to seven in honor of the late, great George Carlin. Got any others? Please share them with us in the Comments section. (But make sure they're appropriate enough to pass the censors — wink wink!)
Just for fun: Who would put manure dodge ball on their resume? Check out our Dwight Schrute sample resume!