You have a job opening. You post a job listing. Résumés pour in.
You start to review them, and if you quickly tire of seeing words like "proven," "dedicated," "motivated," and "passionate," you're not alone.
Resume.io, a company that provides online résumé-building tools, recently surveyed over 1,600 hiring managers and asked a simple question:
"Which commonly used words do you most dislike seeing on résumés?"
To those who regularly review résumés, the responses are unsurprising. (Yet evidently will come as a surprise to job seekers, since they would otherwise avoid them.)
Here's the top 10, ranked by the percentage of respondents who included them in their "most irritating" list:
- Proven 73%
- Dedicated 70%
- Adept 65%
- Great 61%
- Motivated 57%
- Committed 53%
- Excellent 49%
- Strong 44%
- Best 40%
- Passionate 38%
What do all the words above have in common?
Which means, in terms of résumés, they have no meaning.
"Dedicated" to me might be "slacker" to you. "Proven" to me might be "all we know is you managed to pull that off once" to you.
Adjectives without proof? They're just filler.
What words do you want to see on résumés? Facts. Figures. Words that describe goals achieved, targets exceeded, and timelines met.
Say you need to hire a fulfillment manager.
"Proven track record of delivering excellent fulfillment center results" sounds impressive.
"Led a team that over the past four years processed over 750,000 packages with a 99.8 percent on-time shipping rate and a .0024 percent error rate" proves a track record.
Like many adjectives, "proven" is in the eye of the beholder. They're great when other people use them to describe the candidate -- but the candidate should never use them to describe themselves.
If only because they don't need to.
Great candidates list facts, and let you decide if those facts qualify as "adept." Great candidates list figures, and let you decide if those results qualify as "excellent."
Like "dedicated." Every extremely focused person I know readily admits they sometimes struggle to stay disciplined. It's hard to stay on track. It's hard not to go off on tangents. It's hard not to give in and, to use a football expression, take a few plays off.
Dedicated people constantly struggle with self-discipline, because they're constantly trying to stay disciplined. That's why they're the last people to describe themselves as self-disciplined: They know dedication is a challenge that must be met, each and every day.
And they prove their level of dedication by the extent of their achievements -- not their ability to overuse adjectives.
And one more thing: Some candidates don't have a lot of facts and figures. They're young. Or they're hoping to switch careers. They're long on enthusiasm but short on experience.
That's OK. The smaller your business, the more likely you are to be an expert in your field. Transferring those skills to new employees is relatively easy.
But you can't train enthusiasm, a solid work ethic, and great interpersonal skills -- and those traits can matter a lot more than any skills a candidate brings.
Even so, avoid the temptation to view "strong," "great," or "passionate" as proxies for accomplishments, achievements, or drive.
Because what matters is what people do.
Not what they say -- especially about themselves.