Want to stand out in a crowded executive job market?
Don’t repeat the same tired words you’ve seen in other resumes!
You’ll otherwise run the risk of boring employers and missing out on keywords that can help you get past ATS systems.
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:
Overused Resume Word #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 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.
Overused Resume Word #2 – Accomplished.
“Accomplished” is often too generic to describe your career wins, especially when used in your opening Qualifications Profile paragraph. No doubt, you’ve already produced many bottom-line results in your career – so list them!
As an alternative, consider deleting the paragraph altogether (as seen in this COO resume sample, or incorporate specific metrics in place of a descriptor.
Overused Resume Word #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.
Overused Resume Word #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.
Overused Resume Word(s) #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 52 Reports + $45M Budget), as shown on this sample of a CIO resume.
Overused Resume Word #6 – Effectively.
Of course, you achieved results effectively… but you CAN write an executive resume without resorting to redundancies such as this word. After all, it’s obvious that you attained the results listed.
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.
Overused Resume Word #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.