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8 Overused Cliches Employers Are Sick Of Seeing in Resumes

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Looking for a new job isn’t easy, and it can be hard to want to put your best into every iteration of your resume and cover letter. But here’s the thing: even though the economy’s been improving, times are still tough. Plenty of people are looking, and that means for every job opening you see, there’s some HR person out there who is being swamped with a deluge of resumes.

If you want to be sure your resume will actually make them hit the pause button (figuratively) and not the delete button (literally), you’ve got to avoid these cliche words and phrases that sound impressive but don’t actually convey much meaning.

creative thinker

“I’m a creative thinker”

Unless it’s literally part of your job title (e.g., Creative Director), “creative” is an adjective that’s become so overused it’s utterly meaningless to many recruiters. Think of what the inverse of this statement would be: “I only think inside the box.” “I can’t come up with anything new.” “I have no ideas of my own to contribute.” Literally no one is going to say that, so it means that stating the obvious is well, pretty obvious.

Instead of saying you’re creative, demonstrate that you’re creative with a well-written cover letter. Give a specific example of a problem you’ve overcome, a solution you devised, or how you’ve managed to expand your current role.

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“I’m results-oriented.”

Again, who exactly doesn’t want to get results for their employer? (A person they don’t want to hire, that’s who!) They will assume you’re results oriented, so show them the actual results.

Numbers can help here: Quantify how many sales you made in the last quarter, the number of people you’ve supervised as part of your team, or the amount of traffic your ad campaign drove to your client.

guru“I’m a guru/ninja/expert/etc.”

No, no, no. Unless “Guru” or “Ninja” is your actual job title, skip the enthusiastic euphemisms. Yeah, if one of your references describes you that way, it’s great — but if you’re talking about yourself like this, it’s a bit empty.

If you really are extra-super-good at what you do, show it by listing your accomplishments: Grants you won, conferences you’ve spoken at, programming languages or software you’ve mastered, and so on. If you’re kicking butt, your accomplishments will convey that for you.

communication skills

“I have excellent oral and written communication skills.”

Another case of something you should show, not tell. Though you’ll frequently see this on job descriptions, if it shows up in your cover letter or resume it feels like filler — because it is. If you really do have excellent communication skills, you’ll have a cover letter that’s clearly written, appropriately tailored to the position, and inviting to the reader. Same goes for your resume.

Drop this line, and spend the extra time proofreading to make sure that you don’t have any spelling errors or grammar gaffes. (If you’ve read your own resume so many times that you won’t even notice a mistake, ask a friend to proof it for you.)

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“My references are available upon request.”

Well, yeah, they should be! Even if a potential employer hasn’t asked for your references yet (and many don’t until you’re doing a formal application), it’s more than acceptable to let them assume that of course you have references.

If they have asked for you references, name them and give their contact info in the appropriate part of the form, in a separate document, or below your cover letter, if you’re sending that in the body of an email. (In those instances, say something like, “Attached please find my references” or “Please find my references listed below.”) If they didn’t ask? Just don’t mention it for now. Use the extra space to say something useful about yourself!

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“I’m detail-oriented.”

No one’s going to say “I’m a total space cadet” or “I don’t sweat the small stuff.” But saying you’re detail-oriented has become such a cliche as to be totally meaningless (not least because so many recruiters see resumes that are riddled with spelling errors and cover letters personalized for the wrong company by applicants who claim to be “detail-oriented”). Again, show this by making sure that your cover letter and resume are free of basic grammar and spelling slip-ups.

You can also demonstrate your attention to detail by being specific in your discussion of what you do: Managed a staff of three interns; Served as liaison between lab group and department head; Spearheaded development of pay-per-click marketing campaigns for X, Y, and Z clients.

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“Duties:”

Don’t just list! Your resume needs to tell a story about you, not just rehash the job posting for your previous gig. Instead of making a simple list that begins with “duties” or “responsibilities include” (come on, you know that sounds like a total snoozefest), use active verbs to help convey the specific tasks you’ve accomplished on the job. Collaborated with internal team and external vendors to source products, implemented a new system for tracking leads, revamped corporate website to reflect new brand strategy.

Even if what you do isn’t terribly thrilling, using specific, active verbs can your resume stand out. (E.g., “Client communication” versus “Communicated with clients to ensure that targets were met and issues were promptly resolved.”)

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“I’m passionate about what I do.”

Are you? Though today many employers want an intense level of commitment (which is a whole other deal), there are limits to how “passionate” one can be about, say, a call center job. Likewise, if you’re just starting out and you’re applying for jobs that are in a wide range of fields, you probably don’t have a “passion” for each and every one of them. If you actually are into what you do, it should be conveyed not only by your cover letter and resume, but also by your web presence (and yes, you should assume that before you get an interview request, you’re going to be Googled).

Your LinkedIn profile should obviously show that you’re excited about what you do, but ideally any other public profile (e.g., Twitter, which relatively few people have set to private) should reflect your interest and enthusiasm, at least a little. If it doesn’t, just leave “passionate” out of it. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for an interview fail: “So, what makes you passionate about being an administrative assistant?” “Uhhhhhhhhh.” Don’t lay out anything in your cover letter or resume that you aren’t ready to answer for when you finally get that call.

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The 50 Best Books for the Unemployed

Being unemployed can be stressful, frustrating and depressing, especially in an economy where jobs are scarce, competition is fierce, and there doesn’t seem to be much change on the horizon…

While things may seem bleak, it’s important to keep your chin up and your motivation high if you’re going to make your way back into the working world or move from college into your first job. There is no arguing that unemployment stinks, but it can be an opportunity as well, a chance to reevaluate who you are, what you want in your career, learn more about and hone your abilities. These books will help you look at the silver lining of unemployment,and suggest that you spend your time away from work learning, growing and ultimately becoming a better employee.

Inspiration

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Don’t sit around the house moping if you’re unemployed. Read these books to get inspired and reignite your drive to find work, start a business or be the successful person you know you can be.

  1. The Unemployed Millionaire: Escape the Rat Race, Fire Your Boss and Live Life on YOUR Terms! by Matt Morris: Once homeless and heavily in debt, Matt Morris knows what it’s like to be down and out. In this book, he shares how he turned his life around, created a new career and made millions, offering steps that could help inspire you to start your own business or break out of your unemployment slump.
  2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: This classic book will show you some simple, but powerful, ways to be a better leader and employee and change how you see yourself and your life.
  3. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss: Why work harder when you can work smarter? In this book, you’ll learn some tricks that will let you work less and live more when you start your own business.
  4. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: If you’ve been throwing around the idea of starting your own business, this book is a must-read. It offers inspirational advice on everything from dealing with customers to effective time management.
  5. Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale: A motivational classic written by Boston-native Dr. Norman Peale, this book can help you to stop focusing on the negative in life and start seeing what good things you have going on. The attitude shift could be just the change you need to get your life back on track.
  6. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen: You’re only as successful as you allow yourself to think you’ll be, or that’s the lesson this book aims to teach. While it doesn’t promise success simply as a result of thought a la The Secret, it does show how changing your way of thinking can change your level of happiness, outlook on life and belief in yourself– all stepping stones to success in any facet of life.
  7. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson: Change is a fact of life, but so many of us have a hard time coping with it when it happens to us. You may no longer have your job, but this book will show you some powerful lessons that will help you deal with change, create new goals and find your new inner “cheese.” Johnson received his psychology bachelor from the University of Southern California and his M.D. degree from the Royal College of Surgeons.
  8. Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny by Anthony Robbins: Whether you buy into the lessons espoused by motivational and self-help speakers or not, this book can help you to break out of an unemployment funk. How? By reminding you that no one can get you a new job, career or business but you.
  9. Your Best Year Yet!: Ten Questions for Making the Next Twelve Months Your Most Successful Ever by Jinny S. Ditzler: Parts of your year might have sucked pretty bad, but this book offers some hope that things can be better. Learn how to set goals, determine your core values and focus your energy where it matters most.
  10. What Should I Do With My Life? The Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson: You might be sitting there right now wondering what you should do with your life. There are no easy or right answers, but this book shares some touching stories of others who were searching for and sometimes finding their true callings– an amazing source of inspiration for anyone feeling lost.

Just for the Unemployed

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Learn more about dealing with unemployment and commiserate with others who’ve lost their jobs.

  1. The Adventures of Unemployed Man by Erich Origen, Gan Golan, Ramona Fradon and Rick Veitch: Taking a humorous look at unemployment, this graphic novel follows the hero Unemployed Man and his sidekick Plan B as they battle the villainous The Just Us League.
  2. iJobless: 50 Ways to Survive Unemployment by Jenny Holmes: Offering tips on lowering your monthly expenses, making money and staying motivated, this book aims to help you be, oddly enough, successful at being unemployed.
  3. $100K to Nothing: My Journey From a Six Figure Income to the Unemployment Line in the Worst Economy of Our Time by Dan Holt: A story that is all too common these days, Dan Holt lost his job in 2009 and has struggled to find a new one. In this book, he documents his experiences and shares advice that can help others in the same situation get back to work.
  4. Unemployment: The Shocking Truth of Its Causes, Its Outrageous Consequences And What Can Be Done About It by Jack Stone and Joe McCraw: Taking on the negatives of capitalism head on, this highly political read may not be for everyone, but for the unemployed it can help put a face on the many forces that helped contribute to job loss.
  5. Little Victories: Conquering Unemployment by Tom Brophy: Learn how to battle the depression and frustration that can come with unemployment – and celebrate the little victories that happen along the way – as you work your way back into a job with help from Department of Labor veteran Tim Brophy.
  6. The Unemployment Survival Guide by Jim Stringham and David Workman: While you might not feel that you’re going to get through being unemployed, you will, and this book will show you how, offering tips and tools to help you grow and learn while unemployed.
  7. Gainfully Unemployed: 17 Ways to Maintain Your Sanity While Looking for Work by Jonathan Wade: If you’re pulling out your hair, staying up all night and generally stressing out about unemployment, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Read this book to learn how to stay sane and keep busy while out of work.
  8. Landing on the Right Side of Your Ass: A Survival Guide for the Recently Unemployed by Michael B. Laskoff: You might be out on your ass from your last job, but this book shows you that it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. A veteran of downsizing, Laskoff (New York) shares the steps of grieving for a lost jobs and the process necessary to move on.
  9. Rebound: A Proven Plan for Starting Over After Job Loss by Martha I. Finney: Just like getting dumped, getting laid off can be an emotional and trying experience. In this book, you’ll find advice on protecting yourself, moving forward and finding a sexy new job to rebound with.
  10. Unemployment Boot Camp: Tactics for Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century by R. A. Long: Need some help kicking your unemployed butt into gear? Based on military-style thinking, this book will help you develop your own battle plans to survive and thrive during unemployment.
  11. The Healthcare Survival Guide, Cost-Saving Options for The Suddenly Unemployed and Anyone Else Who Wants to Save Money by Martin B. Rosen and M.D. Abbie Leibowitz: One of the biggest worries for many who have lost their jobs is how to keep up with health insurance without going broke. This book offers some great advice and information that can make that less of a worry, so you can concentrate on finding a job.

Motivation

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Keeping your motivation levels high is key when looking for work, so give these books a read for a dose of inspiration that will help you push yourself on to bigger and better things.

  1. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz: This book teaches that a positive and optimistic mindset can go a long way, even when things seem at their worst. Learn how to turn your unemployment into an advantage and get motivated to meet your goals through this popular self-help read.
  2. 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler: Those in dire need of motivation should check out this book for advice on creating your own action plan and changing self-limiting behaviors that may be holding you back.
  3. Jobless: How to Quit Your Day Job and Start Your Climb to the Top by Alan De Keyrel: You’ve already got the lack of a day job part done, so now you can start working on climbing to the top with the help of this inspirational book.
  4. Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success by John Maxwell: You might think losing your job was a failure, but as this book will teach you it may simply give you the motivation and experience you need for future success.
  5. The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life by Laurie Beth Jones: Do you know what you want out of life? Out of work? In this book, you’ll learn how to figure out your life path and what the power of setting goals can offer to you in your professional life.
  6. Maximum Achievement: Strategies and Skills That Will Unlock Your Hidden Powers to Succeed by Brian Tracy: If you’re unemployed, you’re probably not feeling that you’re really living up to your true potential. Yet this book offers up some ways that you can get back into the game and start using all those skills, even some you didn’t know you had, to find success in life and business.
  7. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath: Unemployment can make you feel weak and helpless, but if you want to get back into work, you’ve got to know your strengths. Use this book to figure out where your true gifts lie– you might just be surprised.
  8. Motion Before Motivation: The Success Secret That Never Fails by Michael J. Dolphies: The lesson of this book? All the planning, talking and thinking about doing things is great, but the only thing that really matters is what you do.
  9. Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams by Mike Dooley: This book asks readers to look inside themselves to find inspiration and spiritual guidance that can bring greater happiness and help you to more adeptly work towards meeting your goals in life, which in the short term might just mean finding a job.

Networking and Business

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These books offer help and assistance with finding success in business and meeting people who may be able to help you find work.

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: Whether you’re the CEO of a company or an unemployed person, this book is an essential read for anyone in the business world. First published in 1937, the book offers some fundamentals for understanding human nature that can make you more likeable – and ultimately more hirable.
  2. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino: Getting a job is really a matter of knowing how to sell yourself. In this book, you’ll get classic sales tips that may just help you finally find a new job.
  3. Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead by Nancy Ancowitz: If you’ve always been the shy and retiring type, finding work can be doubly stressful. Luckily, there are books like this one that will teach even the shiest job seeker how to market themselves.
  4. Louder Than Words: Take Your Career from Average to Exceptional with the Hidden Power of Nonverbal Intelligence by Joe Navarro: Want to know if you’re doing well in an interview or not? You could learn volumes by learning to better read body language, a skill this book will help you to hone.
  5. Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need by Harvey Mackay: While you might be pretty thirsty for work right now, this book still has some amazing networking tips to offer that can help anyone, even those already in desperate need of a job, make connections that can lead to employment, contract work and more.
  6. Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking by Tim Hurson: Tim Hurston shares some insights into what it takes to be a leading entrepreneur in this book, a great read for anyone considering starting their own business.
  7. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi: This book will help you learn some networking skills that could just land you a new job – or at least a few interviews.
  8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini: If you want to get others to do as you wish, like hire you, you have to be a master of persuasion. Learn more about how persuasion works and how you can use that to your advantage in this book.
  9. Work Less, Live More by Bob Clyatt: Bob Clyatt worked hard and retired at the age of 42. Then, he lost much of his savings when the stock market tanked. In this book, he shares how he’s taken on part-time work– something the unemployed may want to consider as an option as well to help make ends meet.
  10. Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina: Personal development guru Steve Pavlina’s book will help you learn to create goals, take charge of your life, get motivated and work hard to get where you want in life.

Job Hunting

man-job-search-620jt100812Job hunting is rarely an entertaining activity, but it can be a lot more stressful when you’re unemployed. These books will show you how to take charge, impress employers and get back to work faster.

  1. What Color is Your Parachute? 2011: A Practical Manual for Job-hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles: Perhaps one of the most popular job hunting books of all time, here you’ll find powerful advice on every aspect of the job hunt, from the best way to find job openings to building a better resume.
  2. Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design by Laurence G. Boldt: Use this book to figure out what you want to do and how to actively take steps to make those career goals a reality.
  3. The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide: How to Find Hope and Rewarding Work, Even When ‘There Are No Jobs by Richard Bolles: Another great read from Richard Bolles, this book serves up some advice for job hunters who are desperately in need of some guidance when it comes to finding work.
  4. Work at Home Now: The No-Nonsense Guide to Finding Your Perfect Home-Based Job by Christine Durst and Michael Haaren: Many people these days telecommute to work, and it may be possible for you to find a job like this as well. Learn more about home-based jobs and the best places to look for them in this helpful book.
  5. Powerful Unemployment: Practical and innovative ideas for staying motivated and having fun while looking for a new job by Sheila Boddy: This book contains a step-by-step guide that will take readers through the often scary waters of unemployment and give them the confidence and knowledge to find the opportunities they’ve been waiting for.
  6. Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0: How to Stand Out from the Crowd and Tap Into the Hidden Job Market using Social Media and 999 other Tactics Today by Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry: The market is packed with job hunters, many of them just as qualified as you are. So how can you stand out? This book offers some tips and tools that can help separate you from the herd.
  7. How to Say It on Your Resume: A Top Recruiting Director’s Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume for Every Job by Brad Karsh: When was the last time your revised your resume? It might just need an update, and this book can help make sure that your new and improved version will be best it can be.
  8. Acing the Interview: How to Ask and Answer the Questions That Will Get You the Job by Tony Beshara: Interviews are nerve-wracking, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth going through the process. In this book, help yourself to prepare for success in any interviewing situation.
  9. Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring: Take Charge of Your Career, Find a Job You Love, and Earn What You Deserve by Ford R. Myers: Finding a job during an economic crisis is, well, scary. This book will show you the different rules for looking for work in an economic downturn and what you need to do to develop your career while you wait for work.
  10. The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search: The Proven Program Used by the World’s Leading Career Services Company by Orville Pierson: Make your job search a smarter one by using these helping tools that some of the top career services agencies employ.

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I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.

A small part of my job is to edit, proof-read, correct, …

The major part is to ensure all the departments are conveying the right message and keep a common house style for all communications. Yet some of the complacent co-workers insist that this means that we (PR&Communications Unit) are just a rabble of plain mortals whose sole ability in life is to put commas here and there.

Dear fellows:

“It’s easier to teach a poet how to read a balance sheet than it is to teach an accountant how to write.”
– Henry R. Luce (1898-1967)

Here’s one for you, sloppy co-worker. It matters. Got the chip on my shoulder now.  Try me. 😉

Via Harvard Business Review

If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.

Some might call my approach to grammar extreme, but I prefer Lynne Truss’s more cuddly phraseology: I am a grammar “stickler.” And, like Truss — author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves — I have a “zero tolerance approach” to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.

Now, Truss and I disagree on what it means to have “zero tolerance.” She thinks that people who mix up their itses “deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave,” while I just think they deserve to be passed over for a job — even if they are otherwise qualified for the position.

Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies, iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job hopefuls can’t distinguish between “to” and “too,” their applications go into the bin.

Of course, we write for a living. iFixit.com is the world’s largest online repair manual, and Dozuki helps companies write their own technical documentation, like paperless work instructions and step-by-step user manuals. So, it makes sense that we’ve made a preemptive strike against groan-worthy grammar errors.

But grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.

Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn’t in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.

On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?

Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.

Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.

In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are “essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.” The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.

And just like good writing and good grammar, when it comes to programming, the devil’s in the details. In fact, when it comes to my whole business, details are everything.

I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.

That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.

Kyle Wiens

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