Making your resume unique enough to stand out from the crowd is a tightrope walk. If you want to get found in massive databases, then you have to use keywords, or your resume will simply get skipped. If your resume is too similar to other offerings, then you won't stand out, diminishing your chances of getting an interview.
It is a very real, very annoying catch-22 for most job seekers, especially since we don't spend a lot of time reading other people's resumes to see what they are offering potential employers.
As it turns out, you don't have to be a document voyeur; LinkedIn has done the work for you, by trolling the profiles of the more than 85 million members, who have posted a resume since the site launched in 2003, to see what terms are overused. On Tuesday, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company released a list of the most overused words and phrases found in U.S.-based members' profiles. The most used term was "extensive experience," with other terms in the top ten including "innovative," "motivated," "results-oriented," "dynamic," "proven track record," "team player," "fast-paced," "problem solver" and "entrepreneurial."
So, what can you do with this information to keep your document out of the rejection pile? The first step is to purge those terms from your resume and replace them with more descriptive entries.
“If you’re using any of these 10 terms, wipe them out," said Lindsey Pollak, a career and workplace expert. "Instead, note that you have eight to ten years of experience or that you increased sales by 300 percent. Include meaningful phrases that apply specifically to highlights you’ve achieved in your career.”
Of course, we all know that this is not always possible. You may not remember specifics from your older positions. It may be hard to remember by how much you increased sales at a job you had five years ago. In this case, you may want to keep the listing a bit more generic, rather then guessing at a figure, but change up the terms. A handy list of action verbs, such as the one provided by Quint Careers, can help you to find a less popular replacement. Maybe instead of "motivated," options such as "boosted," "coached," or "guided" can say the same thing, in a less generic way.
Just beware: this survey likely represents the average job seeker, since LinkedIn hosts resumes for everyone from fresh-faced college graduates to executives from every Fortune 500 company. No information was provided on users in specific fields or broken down by career level. If you want more specific information about how to stand out in your field, then you may have to start reading resumes on your own.
LinkedIn was not available for immediate comment.
(Image from LinkedIn Analytics)