Executive Resume Phrases to Avoid – Say THIS, not THAT
As a top professional, I’m sure you’ve had a resume or two come across your desk filled with cliches and overused buzzwords. When we repeatedly hear the same executive resume phrases and claims, we tune them out, and all the resumes blend together.
There are times in life when we want to follow the crowd and times in life when we want to STAND OUT, rise above, and position ourselves as unique individuals. (Like when you’re fighting with hundreds of other qualified job applicants for only ONE coveted leadership position).
To truly stand out with a memorable executive resume, you want to ditch the cliched phrases, overused buzzwords, and weak language.
Keep in mind that buzzwords are different from keywords. Keywords that actively describe essential qualifications should be left in to help your resume demonstrate clear alignment with the target job. Just be sure to add supporting evidence to back the keywords up.
Phrases to Avoid on Your Executive Resume
Overused catchphrases that hiring managers and recruiters see day after day.
Once they’ve heard the same thing hundreds of times from hundreds of candidates, the words lose all meaning and feel inauthentic and redundant. (Which certainly won’t help you stand out among a sea of competitors).
Leave these common phrases off your resume (Don’t say this…):
- Superior communication skills
- Strong work ethic
- Exceeded expectations
- Proven track record of success
While these phrases may describe YOU, they can also very easily describe everyone applying for the job. Instead of falling back on old favourites, provide proof! Rather than tell what you’re good at, how can you show what you’re good at?
Be specific and provide examples (Say this…):
Rather than say you have superior communication skills, show how the skill helped you achieve great things for the organization. Are you a strong presenter who delivers regular business reports to the board or is called upon to share thought leadership at conferences? Do you engage staff through regular communication touchpoints? What did these communications tactics achieve?
The details and results are what you want to spotlight, shared with supportive context.
Instead of saying you exceeded expectations, share how and give concrete examples of success. Perhaps you directed the implementation of a national operating strategy, which was projected to save the company $500K. Or, maybe your leadership promoted a heightened culture of continuous improvement that reduced inefficiencies well beyond initial goals, generating $1.2M in annual cost savings. Now that’s an example of exceeding expectations!
To stand out from the crowd, executive resumes need metrics!
Use strong language on your executive resume. Avoid repetitive common verbs such as managed, helped, managed, supported, managed (you see the negative pattern here?). You have limited space to prove yourself, so make every word count. Leverage high-action language to enforce your high-level abilities.
Swap out weak verbs (Don’t say this, say that…):
- “Responsible for” – to: oversaw, spearheaded, launched
- “Organized” –to: executed, monitored, established
- “Assisted”- try: facilitated, collaborated, or partnered with
- “Managed” – to: championed, directed, drove
Looking for more inspiration? Here are 60 executive resume action words to consider.
Fluff and fillers that aren’t pulling their weight.
Be ruthless with your editing to ensure you don’t have any redundant content or unnecessary information. Start strong to grab attention and give resume readers only the good stuff! Don’t say things that won’t add value to the reader; say things that demonstrate alignment!
- Forget the career objective statement. Consider a branding statement or short and succinct Summary that defines your differentiators.
- Provide only relevant job experience within the last 10 – 15 years. Only share earlier history if required or extremely related.
- Eliminate “references upon request” (it’s unnecessary – employers know they can ask).
- Ensure every detail relates to THIS job – some accomplishments and experience will be more relevant than others.
- Skip the basics and focus on your higher-level skills and accomplishments. Don’t default to sharing duties; emphasize leadership impacts and results.
- Read the job description carefully and curate resume statements based on the qualifications and outcomes for each specific role.
Replace overused phrases with specific examples demonstrating how you put those skills to work to achieve great things! Use concrete metrics that only you have to set yourself apart and rise above the competition. When reading your executive resume, pause on each point and ask yourself:
- “So what?”. Why does this point matter? Does it demonstrate specific skills?
- Is this point unique to me, or is this something anyone could share?
- Am I using active language that aligns with my career level?
- Can I strengthen this content with more specifics or metrics (think: how many, how much, how often?).
- Does this statement matter to THIS audience?