Take These Overused, Trite Words Off Your Executive Resume

Executive resume errorsIf you want to impress employers, don’t repeat the same tired words you’ve seen in other documents!

These terms can water down your personal brand message (and bore recruiters).

To ensure you’re piquing the interest of hiring authorities, scan your executive resume for these too-common words and phrases – and consider using more powerful replacements:

1 – Significantly.

Did you grow revenue? Cut costs? Increase market share? If so, use these achievements to your benefit. In executive resume writing, there’s an old adage that states “show, don’t tell.” You’ll need to find a quantifiable way to spell out the highlights of your career, rather than making vague references to your results.

Pulling in metrics breaks up blocks of text, preserves precious space, and elicits more attention. Consider the difference in message (and length) between these sentences:

“Launched new market study to create significantly more business.”

“Gained 53% more business from market planning project.”

Even if you can’t recall specific dollar amounts, consider adding percentages or approximate ranges (such as “increased sales 31%” or “trimmed costs more than 7%”). This strategy can also help you avoid revealing confidential company information.

2 – Accomplished.

After you rise to the leadership ranks, you’ll have achieved many positive results for the company – so list them! “Accomplished” is often too generic to describe your career wins, especially when used in your opening Qualifications Profile paragraph.

As an alternative, consider deleting the paragraph altogether (as seen in this COO resume sample, or incorporate specific metrics in place of a descriptor.

3 – Visionary.

Many executives ARE visionary leaders known for foresight and progressive leadership. However, “visionary” has gone the way of “accomplished” as an overused descriptor.

As shown in this sample of a CFO resume under examples of Fiscal Authority & Executive Value, your ability to identify market opportunities, drive down costs, and anticipate growth needs should be detailed on your resume – eliminating the need to label yourself a “visionary”  leadership candidate. However, if you MUST use this term, back it up with examples of your capabilities.

4 – Results-oriented.

This phrase has unfortunately become meaningless and should be removed from your repertoire. Employers expect leadership hires to be results-driven – and a powerful executive resume must demonstrate impact to the bottom line in order to capture attention.

Therefore, you’ll need to focus intently on showing margin improvements, describing cost controls, or showing how quickly growth occurred from your efforts, instead of merely referencing your ability to achieve results.

5 – Responsible for.

Similar to the worn-out descriptor “self-motivated team player,” this phrase somehow never goes out of style. Yet, you’ll probably find it on nearly every top list of overused resume words – and for good reason.

When most executives think of their span of authority, “responsible for” seems to fit as a precursor for budgets, divisions, or teams. However, it takes up valuable space and often ends up being repeated for each job shown on the resume.

Instead of using this phrase, simply list your areas of accountability (such as $11M Budget, 200-Member Team, Global Operations), as shown under each position in this sample Chief Marketing Officer resume.

6 – Effectively.

Yes, you CAN write an executive resume without resorting to redundant words such as this one. After all, it’s obvious that you attained the results you’ve listed on the document (making each one “effectively” executed).

Rather than filling precious space with this word, ensure your resume speaks to RESULTS, such as improved revenue, better market share, or positive changes in company culture.

7 – Etc.

While not technically a word, “etc.” crops up in numerous executive resumes as a substitute for other terms – seemingly saving space, but instead doing your document a disservice.

When you use “etc.” in place of specifics, your executive resume will lose the power of the keywords you didn’t list. In addition, this term makes employers guess at the remainder of your expertise, which is not a good idea in today’s competitive executive talent market.

As an alternative, consider adding the omitted words in a list on your resume (as shown in this example of a COO resume under Span of Expertise), rather than including them in a full sentence. You’ll save space, while preserving the potency of your brand message.

In summary, take the time to flesh out your leadership achievements and value as an executive when presenting your credentials. Looking at executive resume samples can provide inspiration, but only if you’re taking notes on fresh and innovative ways to present your qualifications.

Better yet, start with a blank page and prompt yourself to describe the most relevant accomplishments of your career. Your executive resume (and the results it generates) will show marked improvement.

Executive Resume Writing Services

Need a competitive edge in your job search? As an award-winning executive resume writer, I create branded, powerful resumes and LinkedIn Profiles that position you as the #1 candidate.

My clients win interviews at Fortune 500 firms including Citibank, Google, Disney, and Pfizer, plus niche companies, start-ups, and emerging industry leaders.

Get in touch with me to experience the outstanding results I can bring to your transition.


Share your thoughts with me

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.