Executive Resumes & Career Transition Strategies Blog

Reflections of an Executive Resume Writer
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“Fluff” Words Are Needed in Your Executive Resume – Judiciously Used

An article appeared recently on CNN.com listing “25 words that hurt your resume.” Included were such words and phrases as:

Aggressive, Ambitious, Competent, Creative, Detail-oriented, Determined, Efficient, Experienced, Flexible, Goal-oriented, Hard-working, Independent, Innovative, Knowledgeable, Logical, Motivated, Meticulous, People person, Professional, Reliable, Resourceful, Self-motivated, Successful, Team player, Well-organized

I have upon many occasions reviewed ineffective executive resumes replete with such phrases, to the virtual exclusion of any substantial accomplishments or “hard skills.” While certainly it is important to avoid over-use of such phrases (especially in lieu of accomplishments), it is important to bear in mind that most employers and many job listings actually include such phrases, so they are obviously of importance to potential employers.

The key is to match the employers’ terminology and demonstrate concretely how you have shown these qualities. And remember that key word searches may well be conducted based on some of these “fluff” terms as well. Thrown into a resume on their own without supporting evidence, these are indeed “empty” words. Matched with actual accomplishments showing that the candidate truly does have these qualities, they can become very powerful indeed.

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