Is your resume full of adjectives? Does your cover letter describe you in five different ways? How do you respond when an interviewer asks you to describe yourself?
Make sure that the words you use to represent yourself as a candidate for a job aren’t costing you your success!
There’s a common theory that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice in one particular field for someone to become an expert in that topic or skill. Before you dub yourself an expert in anything when writing your resume, take a minute to consider whether you really have reached expert status when it comes to that particular topic. Would other people consider you to be an expert? Or are you simply describing something you happen to be interested in, or enjoy doing? Use terms of authority sparingly if you don’t have the experience to back them up.
Once you’ve described yourself as an ideas person, a recruiter or hiring manager is going to expect you to be able to back up that claim. So if your heart is set on describing yourself as a creative person, you had better have some examples of specific circumstances when you’ve used creativity in the workplace. Make your self-professed creativity tangible to an employer, and demonstrate ways that your creative flair has made a positive difference to the way you work, or given you an idea that has benefitted your team.
Most people have to be organised to a certain degree, to get their work done and to operate efficiently at work and in life. When you tell a potential employer that you’re organised, are you setting up a false expectation that you are more organised than any other candidate? Before you describe yourself as organised, make sure that you can live up to the image of perfectly labelled and filed documents, neatly formatted spreadsheets, and precision timetabling.
Are you extremely passionate, and exceedingly enthusiastic, and very diligent about your work? Great! But using these types of words to quantify how excited you are and how much you want this job might not work in your favour. Using words like ‘extremely’ might make you seem a little too keen, or over-excited.
Most potential employers will be able to recognise your ambition in the way that you present yourself in your CV and at an interview. Being ambitious is a great quality; it means that you’re excited to strive for great achievements. But let your achievements and successes spell out your ambition for you. You don’t need to remind everyone of how successful you want to be, and that you’ll do anything to be competitive. You might accidentally come across as being a bit narcissistic, or potentially too focused on working towards your own success rather than that of the team or the broader business.
Young people can be keen to show off their effervescent personality. They’re fresh in the workplace, and everything is new and exciting. It can be a lot of fun getting to meet new people and experience the business world for the first time, and you want your potential employer to know how excited you will be to work in an office and to create your networks. But be careful not to make yourself sound as though your youth makes you ditzy or giddy. If you’re a friendly and easy-to-get-along-with kind of person, it will show through the way that you interact with an interviewer and their colleagues. There’s no need to spell that out for them in your application and risk sounding unnecessarily like an ‘air-head’.
Some words just seem a little pretentious or arrogant. Words like ‘guru’ or ‘master’ are amongst them. Try to avoid using terms to represent your work experience that you could use to describe the character of ‘Mr Miyagi’ in the movie ‘Karate Kid’.
8. Not at all
The worst way to represent yourself in a job application is not actually a word – it’s by not describing yourself at all. If an interviewer asks you to describe yourself, it is definitely better to have something prepared than to say “I don’t know”. Have something modest and accurate to say. It is vital that you describe your best skills and personality traits – but don’t toot your own horn too loudly.
Remember – this isn’t a definitive guide. We’re not saying that these terms won’t be received in a purely positive way if you use them. But we hope this inspires you to think outside the box a little when you’re next describing yourself in a resume.
What terms would you avoid using to describe yourself in a job application? And what alternatives would you use instead? Let us know!