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Resumes and cover letters: be careful of the words you chose!

Career management -
25 November 2015

Resumes and cover letters: be careful of the words you chose!

To catch a recruiter’s eye, an application must be well presented, easy-to-read and complete but that’s not all! The right, catchy words are needed to underscore skills and experience.

Words to avoid

Whether in the resume or cover letter, some words make recruiters cross you right off their list. A CareerBuilder survey shows that HR professionals abhor certain terms like "the best," "a fighter," "outside the box," "synergy," "friendly," "results-oriented," "teamwork," "dynamic" and "motivated."

But why do they hate them? They are just too vague and already heavily used by other candidates. A recruiter expects a candidate that stands out and has skills others do not. Simply saying that you have "team spirit" is not relevant information for an HR manager. It is best to describe a specific situation where you display that famous team spirit.

Action verbs, gauging success

You can score points with some terms: according to a Oasys Consultant survey, 63% of recruiters appreciate the use of action verbs in a resume. So words like "improved", "achieved", "created", "negotiated", developed", "increased", "obtained" and "solved" are preferred because they describe concrete achievements and show a candidate’s involvement in his previous position. It is also worth mentioning words like "ideas", "sales revenue" and "below budget" when describing your achievements. Guaranteed results!

Finally, remember that a computer often pre-selects applications based on keywords. Ads often include certain skills and experience. These are the keywords the algorithms look for. So they need to be in the resume and cover letter to avoid being eliminated right off the bat.


Christelle Genier

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