Why the 10 Most Overused Buzzwords on Linkedin Don’t Matter

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2012-12-12 | BY Proven Recruiting's Editorial Team | IN Job Seekers

Why the 10 Most Overused Buzzwords on Linkedin Don’t Matter

You may have seen the recent blog post from LinkedIn admonishing job seekers who use “buzzwords” on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. The Wall Street Journal quickly chimed in, urging 187 million LinkedIn users to “ban” terms such as Creative, Analytical, and Problem Solving from their professional lexicon.

In the same breath, WSJ’s “At Work” blog also reminds us that buzzwords are inevitable, and they aren’t going anywhere any time soon. (Think about it – if we all ban “innovation” from our resumes, we are simply opening up a slot for a new buzzword to move in.) It’s a confusing game of whack-a-mole that misses the most important point. Which is, that in the recruiting industry, words – buzzing or not – are meaningless unless they are used to describe specific examples of professional achievements.

On top of that, job seekers are not alone in their attraction to buzzwords. Companies often send me job descriptions seeking “change-makers, problem solvers, do-ers, go-getters, creatives,” etc. There’s a market for the vague trendy jargon, and I would argue that job seekers should pause before tossing out the very language their potential employers often speak.

In fact, job seekers who respond to this list by swapping in less-common synonyms for “creative” or “effective” might run the risk of missing the point entirely. Nearly ALL words are subjective. And hiring managers (who by the way see many more than the same 10 buzzwords over and over again) might not interpret new terminology in the way it was intended.

Instead, I would encourage all professionals to consider the authenticity of the words they select and the availability of evidence to support them. This is far more important than the trendiness of the terminology, and it should be the primary consideration when determining which words to use and which words to “ban.” Plus, it should help to provide clarity and focus down the road for professionals who are responding to a job post that is, inevitably, also filled with buzzwords.

The takeaway is very simple. Based on my experience as a professional recruiter, I believe that job seekers should only describe themselves using concepts that are demonstrable in terms of past performance. These concepts should be communicated in concise statements that convey past performance > results > accomplishments. And these statements should use the terminology that feels most appropriate to the individual the job seeker, whether it is popular or not.

Because ultimately, even “buzzword” is just another buzzword. (See “Puffspeak” in the 1980s and “Mindshare” in the ‘90s). What makes a resume or LinkedIn profile stand out to my clients is tangibility. Desirability. Results. Specifics. Clear-cut examples that illustrate exactly what an applicant’s “Motivation” can do for their company.

I will even go so far as to say that Creative, Organizational, Effective, Motivated, Extensive Experience, Track Record, Innovative, Responsible, Analytical, and Problem Solving are still OK in my book. They’re what employers want. But if you’re going to tell me that you, too, are “Creative,” you better be able to prove it. Otherwise, this is a buzzword you should probably ban.

Test your resume lingo: 


Bonus: for step-by-step assistance in structuring specific examples to validate broad behavioral terms, check out Drexel University’s STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) Method handbook here.

We want to hear your thoughts! Did you alter your LinkedIn profile as a result of the latest Overused Buzzwords list? Post a comment below and let us know.

About the author:

Viet Tran, Associate Partner, PROVEN Orange County

Viet has over 5 years of professional experience in the search industry. Viet began his career with a $1 billion staffing company as a Researcher in the Finance and Accounting Industry. Subsequently, he has successfully completed high-level searches in the Life Sciences, Information Technology as well as Engineering industries. He strategically partners with his candidates to develop their careers. He specializes in high-level opportunities in Southern California. Viet graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a BA in Psychology. He is looking forward to partnering with you. In his spare time, he enjoys running.

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