Many people try to avoid using buzzwords in the workplace. Their argument is that many buzzwords are overused and defeat the user’s purpose of appearing to be smart or professional. And when these people are in a position of hiring others, avoiding using buzzwords on your resume and other communication may appeal to them.
So what’s a buzzword? There is really no reference or glossary to check. But several years ago, a survey done by the professional networking site, LinkedIn, listed the top overused buzzwords in LinkedIn profiles, which could easily be compared to resume. The buzzwords that were identified were: creative, motivated, multinational, responsible, experimental, effective, specialise and analytical.
Who knew? Does that mean you shouldn’t describe yourself as motivated or responsible? Not really. There are many subjective views on this matter, the best route is to avoid stuffing your resume, emails or any communication with a future employer with words that you would not typically use.
Almost no employer will hold against you that you use a word or another to describe yourself or skills. What might backfire is using a resume or a cover letter that seems to be too scripted. The impact may not be instant or conscious, but a hiring manager may lose interest in an email that doesn’t flow well. The challenge is even harder if you’re communicating in a language you’re not familiar with. Where to draw the line between being professional and trying to write nicely and not coming off as too scripted?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Review for clarity
You think you know what an expression means, look it up just to be sure. In many cases a change of proposition can change the entire meaning. In addition, many expressions are commonly misused. If you’re unsure, steer away from using this idiom or expression in a foreign language unless you’re sure of how and when to use it. Instead, write clearly and in simple terms that you totally understand. Being safe is better than showing off — and being sorry later.
In addition, what really matters in communication is getting your message across and being human. If you’ve met with a hiring manager, send a thank-you note that reiterates your interest and gratitude for the meeting. The focus will be on your courtesy and interest.
You don’t want to be remembered for your overuse of any one word. Regardless to how great you think this word is, you should work on being remembered as the best fit for the job. Having a “multinational” experience may be just one aspect of what you want to focus on, not everything.
But buzzwords are contiguous., however If almost everyone in your current office is overly using a particular phrase, you may not even notice that until you step into a new environment, and your repetitiveness is frowned upon.
Although you should not be paranoid about how you talk or write, think briefly of how you answer questions, and what content you communicate. Do you string together words like: robust, efficiency, time-management, enthusiasm, etc.? Or do you explain clearly how you manage complex projects without wasting time or resources. The latter is the way to go even if it includes some of the terms that, many think, resonate with employers.
One easy and safe way is to pay attention to your hiring manager’s style and follow suit. Some companies are more formal than others. And, to be fair, some employers may like those highly scripted emails full with keywords that they are looking for. Try to read between the lines of the job post. Look at the company’s website and be quick in picking up the tone of the person you’re communicating with.
If you’re unsure, be yourself. Employers want as much certainty as they can get in the hiring process. Being human and revealing your personal style of communication can put a hiring manager at ease. In addition, it is easy to be professional without pushing promotional language in your communication. Write clearly and sincerely, and you will be able to navigate the hiring process with the minimal use of empty words.
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.
To use or not use
Use words and phrases that you understand
Care about the context and message rather than the terms
Check for your future employer’s preferences