Resumes are such important documents. Your future livelihood may depend on the words you use to communicate your qualifications. So it’s only natural that job seekers are tempted to use longer, fancier, more formal words, rather than the simplest, most direct forms. But it’s a temptation you should resist. Too often, the result is a document that sounds ridiculously proper, and fails to achieve its goal of quickly communicating your value to the employer.
Unnecessary words, fancy adjectives, vague claims with no proof—these are all symptoms of a job seeker trying too hard to be clever and brilliant, rather than clear and brief. You want the employer to think, “Wow, this person seems to have the right kind of experience and background for the job,” not “This person is a walking thesaurus.”
You don’t have to dumb down your resume to monosyllables. Just be aware that the bigger and more numerous the words, the cloudier the message, and the more likely the employer will get distracted by the sizzle and miss the steak.
With apologies to our non-carnivorous readers, here are some phrases pulled from actual resume samples I found on the internet that overdo the sizzle. Following each one is a version that shows how you might shift the focus back to the steak.
Too Much Sizzle: Recognized for the application of impressive research, analytical, and forecasting skills that discover untapped profits and elusive resources
The Steak: Applied research, analysis, and forecasting skills to identify new profit centers and resources.
Too Much Sizzle: A highly experienced Operations Executive who has demonstrated the ability to lead diversified teams of professionals to new levels of success in a variety of highly competitive industries, cutting-edge markets, and fast-paced environments
The Steak: Operations Executive with ____ years of success leading diverse teams in a variety of industries and markets, including ____, ____, and ____.
Too Much Sizzle: Professional engineer with a persistent nature and a progressing passion for this industry
The Steak: Professional, results-focused engineer with an enduring passion for the industry.
Too Much Sizzle: Troubleshooted technical problems arousing out of the satellite product and always reached a solution [Troubleshooted!? Arousing?! Did this guy even proofread?]
The Steak: Diagnosed and resolved technical problems arising from the satellite product.
Too Much Sizzle: Created portfolios for perspective and existing clients, performed research research on equities and mutual funds using PDQ and Corporation's shell system and handled client's accounts and questions while [Another epic failure to proofread. And note the five "ands" in one sentence!]
The Steak: Created portfolios for new and existing clients, researched equities and mutual funds, and managed client accounts and questions.
Bottom line: Your resume is supposed to nudge the reader toward calling you for an interview, not toward a dictionary. Skip the flourishes and fluff. Keep your writing clear, professional, error-free... and meaty.
Please share other examples of overembellished resume language, or post a question in the comments section below!
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