How Job Seekers Can Effectively Brand Themselves by Choosing Meaningful BuzzwordsMar 11th, 2011 | By Bill | Category: Employment News, Resumes
The business networking site LinkedIn recently published a list of the top 10 “overused buzzwords” of the year in US LinkedIn profiles, which they state are:
- Extensive experience
- Proven track record
- Team player
- Problem solver
Reviewing the list gave me pause for consideration. Scanning the list you see the usual suspects one almost expects to see these days on all resumes. When you consider that in many cases the job postings that people are responding to contains statements like “…this role requires a strong, results-oriented manager that is a proven team player…”, is it really any wonder that job seekers parrot back the exact same statements that the company claims they are looking for?
Why we use “buzzwords”
At some level, it would be pretty silly NOT TO tell them (in your cover letter and your CV) that “I am exactly who you are looking for”, including reinforcing the same phrases used in the job advertisement. That just seems to be a natural part of how people play this game… Now, there is a pretty fundamental point to be made here, and that is pointing out the critical flaw in this whole process — “… if you are telling me this is what you want (through the language in the job advert) and I want you to seriously consider me for your role (and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be wasting my time responding to your job posting), OF COURSE I am going to tell you that I am a perfect fit, and so I’ll parrot back the language you use, so you can see how well I match with your requirements…”!!
And why those words can backfire
What does happen, however, is that once inundated with cover letters and CV’s that all contain the same buzzwords, reviewers get very jaded very quickly and pretty soon we question everything we read and subconsciously we start to discount much of what we read. Now job seekers have to use some expressions to describe themselves, so how do they do that, given this level of skepticism inherent in the process?
How to choose the “right” buzzwords
What we coach our clients to do is:
First, develop clarity about your real personality and develop your own “descriptors” that you are very confident describe your true working nature;
Second, state your work accomplishments embedding your applicable descriptor(s) so people can clearly see the linkage between your chosen “buzzword” and how it directly relates to a stated accomplishment;
Third, fully quantify any claims that you are making in your CV. For instance, if you believe you are “innovative” (one of the top buzzwords from the LinkedIn list), then quantify that by stating something like “with 3 different companies over 8 years, created 12 new business processes that each generated minimum of 20% improvement…”.
Finally, we strongly suggest that people be very selective about what posted jobs they apply to. Rather than applying to everything that you think you can do and continually reworking your CV/cover letter to match their requirements, only apply to job posting that TRULY MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS of the kind of job that you are really well suited for — that way you don’t waste a lot of time endlessly re-jigging your CV/cover letter, and what you do submit is actually a true reflection of who you really are, not someone you are pretending to be.
The best strategy for job seekers
New buzzwords will come and go, and their constant use will continue to drive CV reviewers to be highly skeptical of what they read. That much is hard-wired into the traditional job search process of responding to posted advertisements. For the job seeker, then, the best strategy is not to stay away from certain words, but instead to spend time discovering what “meaningful and authentic” descriptors are for you, to lay claim to those words, and to clearly illustrate how those words really do accurately and fully describe you. Because, if you truly are “results-oriented” and a “team player”, then those are the best descriptors of who you really are and they are an accurate description of the individual that a company will be hiring when they hire you — regardless of how many other people have polluted those terms through inappropriate and unsubstantiated usage.
Tim Ragan is the owner and principal of CCI (http://www.ccinternational.ca) and brings a broad range of business management experiences to the company.
Tim spent over 20 years in domestic and international assignments with various global high tech companies. Tim brings his passion to CCI where he is keen to help people discover their true calling and really prosper in their chosen career directions.
Tim has a B.Sc. (EE) and an MBA. and regularly teaches “Business & Society”, a course that examines the ethical and moral implications of modern business and its interaction with government and civil society. He can also occasionally be spotted teaching marketing and BPR (business process redesign) courses.
To read more about how to design a Successful Job Search, or to read any of our publications, click on the link.
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