Avoid these 5 buzzwords when applying for a job

When reviewing CVs and cover letters for job applications, a recruiter has to wade through a sea of people who describe themselves with sentences such as “ambitious, motivated critical-thinker”. In a world where recruiters often have hundreds of applications to review, these phrases do nothing to set you apart and merely bloat your CV’s word count. Telling someone you’re a “workaholic” may sound good in your head, but really it’s a major warning to a potential employer.

These hyperbolic terms tend to be vague and non-descriptive, and can pin you as candidate who can’t communicate in plain English. Rather than using buzzwords, it’s better to set yourself apart through straightforward phrases that specifically describe you as a candidate. For example, rather than saying you have “expert knowledge” in a given function or field, use specific examples of projects or work you have completed to depict your expertise.

Additionally, it’s not just your CV and LinkedIn profile that need to be void of common buzzwords and phrases. If you’ve successfully made it to the interview stage in a job application process, be careful that you don’t let them leak into verbal communication with a potential employer.

Here are 5 common buzzwords to avoid when applying for a job, and some suggested phrases to replace them with:

1. “Workaholic” / “Hard worker”

Avoid this one at all costs. Think of it this way – who would not describe themselves as a hard worker in an interview? Nobody is ever going to admit that, so you’re just wasting space and time by including phrases like these. If you want to show someone that you “give 110%”, stay clear of descriptive jargon and  give specific examples of responsibilities or key projects you had with a previous employer.

Better alternatives: “achieved”/ “organised”/ “carried out”. Use these simpler terms coupled with specific examples to show a potential employer that you’re very dedicated to your work.

2. “Problem-solver”

Most of the time if you have to say you are something, then you may actually not be that type of person. In particular with the concept that one is a “problem-solver”, any employer is going to expect their staff to be able to handle issues or problems they run into during the workplace.

Better alternatives: “resolved” / “negotiated”

3. “Excellent communicator” / “team player”

Communication is such an integral part of pretty much every job out there, especially in the “work from home” landscape that many find themselves in due to Covid-19. A good rule to follow is if you have to tell people you are something, then you probably aren’t actually one. A better way to show you’re an excellent communicator is to strip back the jargon, and describe how your skills helped you improve or complete a task.

Better alternatives: “Listened” / “advised” / “consulted”. Use real-world examples of how your communication helped you impact a project or previous work experience.

4. “Creative”/ “thinking outside the box”

This one is a no brainer. Using this phrase does the complete opposite of what people intend it for. If you tell a recruiter that you “think outside the box” to show you like to do things differently, then why are you using the most common cliché to say that? Use your creative skills to produce something original to set you apart, or share stories of how you implemented or changed work processes.

Better alternatives: “changed”/ “created”

5. “Expert” / “Specialised” / “Experienced”

It’s a recurring theme in this blog, but let your work do the talking for you. Fancy words do nothing but give vague descriptions of your abilities and experiences. Use projects that will show the skills or qualities that will tell a recruiter that you’re a master of your craft.

For example: if you’re an expert videographer who has lots of experience with drones, you could give an example of how you used drones on a specific project to get a positive result

Better alternatives: “delivered”/ “used” / “researched”

Armed with this knowledge, it’s probably a good time to de-clutter your CV from the cliché pitfalls we all fall into from time to time. Stick to accurate descriptions of your previous experiences and use of skills, and a recruiter is much more likely to see you as an ideal candidate.

Best of luck in your next job application!