While urging readers to create powerful LinkedIn profiles, the remarkable Brenda Bernstein, author of the useful The Essay Expert blog, published the ten most overused LinkedIn buzzwords for 2010 with a caution that they can become trite and clichéd.
She is absolutely right.
In addition to clogging up LinkedIn profiles, these buzzwords are over-used and under-explained in resumes, cover letters, and resume objectives. On their own, they communicate exactly nothing. I challenged myself to use them in a single-sentence resume objective and in a single cover letter sentence, and here are the results:
COVER LETTER I have extensive experience working in fast-paced, results-oriented settings where I have shown myself to be a dynamic, innovative, and motivated team player and team leader who has created a proven track record of problem solving and entrepreneurial achievement.
RESUME OBJECTIVE* I am seeking to join a fast-paced, results-oriented group where I can build on my experience as a dynamic, innovative, and motivated team player and team leader, and can continue to demonstrate my extensive experience and proven track record of problem solving and entrepreneurial achievement.
Neither example communicates anything, however, this fine group of words can serve you well if used with care and supported with meaningful specific information.
Extensive Experience Only by relying on telepathy, can a prospective employer understand what you mean by “extensive experience.” In a cover letter, mention two or three of your most impressive professional accomplishments. If you have a very long list of relevant achievements, consider creating an addendum to your resume. For example, a real estate lawyer might list a dozen big-dollar deals.
Innovative and Motivated Similarly, “innovative” and “motivated” are meaningless unless they are either attached to or supplanted by specific information. These words are very effective when used by people who are providing your recommendations.
Results-oriented What do you mean when you say that you are “results-oriented?” What is the opposite of “results-oriented?” Would you otherwise be “failure-focused?”
Dynamic “Dynamic” is a word that other people may use to describe you, but one that sounds jarring when you use it to describe yourself.
Proven track record “Proven track record” is a phrase that cannot stand on its own. It needs a list of achievements.
Team player Calling yourself a “team player” must be accompanied by at least one example of successful group or team projects with which you were associated. If you are an introvert who prefers to work in a room all by yourself, do not try to sell yourself as a team player.
Fast-paced Writing about a “fast-paced” environment is a waste of space unless you can support the statement with facts about your unusual whirlwind occupation. Other than “watching oil paint dry,” or “growing bacteria in the lab,” there are no slow-paced jobs.
Entrepreneurial Every employer seeks candidates with an “entrepreneurial” spirit. If you use it, you must support the “E-word” with meaningful specific information that demonstrates what you have done to create or improve something. Note, please, that entrepreneurship is not always about money. People who promote organizations and activities in a community are entrepreneurs, too.
*NOTE: I strongly oppose the use of resume objectives, because (1) they offer a writer the opportunity to submit a sentence or sentence fragment that is both pompous and meaningless; and (2) the only true short objective is “a day’s pay for a day’s work.” Use your cover letter to convey your real reasons for applying for the job.