How to Avoid Generic Wording or Resume Fluff

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

With less than 8 seconds to wow, it’s vital that every bit of your resume is designed to dazzle. Below are a few tips for avoiding the generic words, unnecessary information, and fluff that results in resumes landing in the pass pile.


A recent study by the career site Ladders discovered that the average time recruiters spend initially screening a candidate’s resume is just 7.4 seconds. The good news is that this is an improvement from the six-second screening time the site found in a similar 2012 study. The bad news is that you still only have a few moments to impress a recruiter and stand out from the competition. With so little time to wow, it’s vital that every bit of your resume is designed to dazzle—this includes everything from the information you present to the words you use. Below are a few tips for avoiding the generic words, unnecessary information, and fluff that results in resumes landing in the pass pile.


If you’re not up to the task of tightening up your resume or simply need a critical eye, the certified professional resume writers at SoCalResumes can help you build an attention-grabbing resume that recruiters will notice.



The Right Words


Carefully read the job listings for the positions you’re applying to and note the key phrases, terms, and technical skills commonly used. A stand-out resume will incorporate this language into it while highlighting the candidate’s skills and experience relevant to the position. The increasing use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) makes this step critical—according to the global background screening company HireRight, approximately 75% of candidates are screened out before ever reaching human eyes.



The Wrong Words


The best resume writers know to avoid buzzwords such as dedicated, motivated, and strategic. Words like these have become so overused that they’ve lost their value and do nothing to differentiate you from other applicants. After all, what job seeker isn’t going to claim they’re hard working or a team player? This survey by the hiring site CareerBuilder demonstrates the words and phrases recruiters dread seeing on a resume—for example, 38% of recruiters find “best of breed” a turn off—along with some of the best resume terms.


Show, Don’t Tell


Rather than using fluffy buzzwords to demonstrate your qualifications, the best resumes show, rather than tell, your skills with previous accomplishments. A simple recounting of the job description of a previous position demonstrates little to hiring managers and recruiters who read countless similar resumes every day. Focusing on what you accomplished shows potential employers your achievements and helps you stand out among a crowded field of applicants.


Expert resume writers know to eliminate overused words with strong action verbs when trying to get the attention of hiring managers. For resume purposes, action verbs are words that describe what you do. For example, instead of responsible for, attention-grabbing resumes will say guided, mentored, or directed. Similarly, instead of saying that you’re results-oriented, spotlight a time when you achieved a result—like how you increased employee retention by 15% in a competitive job market. Be specific and use percentages instead of raw numbers—impressive numbers at one company might not translate to another and past employers may not be keen on you sharing some information.



Remove All Unnecessary Information


It’s amazing how many professional resumes contain irrelevant and outdated information. Eliminate the commonly included information below to make sure employers see what really matters.


Mailing Address: It’s a digital world and if an employer wants to contact you, they’ll email you—which makes a street address irrelevant. In fact, depending on where you’re applying for work, you might want to consider dropping the address entirely. If you’re applying for jobs within your area, a local address may give preference. However, if you’re hoping to relocate, leave your address off your resume for this same reason. This is a fantastic example of why job seekers need to tailor their resumes to the particular job they’re applying for.


Email Address: Since employers will contact you via email, it’s imperative to have a professional email address. Novelty emails like tswiftfan1@gmail.com or hottstuff@gmail.com should be reserved for friends and family. Similarly, shared family accounts like joeandjane@gmail.com or thedoes@gmail.com should also be avoided. Lastly, don’t use your current work email.


References: One of SoCalResumes’ favorite resume tips is to cut the line “references available upon request.” It takes up space and distracts recruiters from more valuable information. Furthermore, employers know that you’ll provide references if asked.


Extensive Work History: The primary concern of potential employers is what you’ve done recently—diminishing the importance of the job you had fifteen years ago. Rather than focus on the past, highlight your skills and achievements relevant to the job you’re applying for.


Degree Dates: Unless the recency of a degree or certification is a selling point, drop the dates from them as they might make you seem less than current.

Social Media: Leave social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter off your resume if they don’t pertain to the job you’re applying for. In addition to taking up vital space, a social media account that isn’t aligned with your professional appearance can negatively impact your job hunt.


Instead, cultivate a professional profile on a career site such as LinkedIn and include the link at the top of your resume. Your LinkedIn profile doesn’t need to be identical to your resume, but the information should be consistent.



Get Resume Help


Writing a resume is difficult. Writing a great resume is even more challenging. A resume writing service like SoCalResumes can give you a leg up on the competition, helping you develop a winning resume that’s low on fluff and high on the eye-catching details that will land you an interview. Contact SoCalResumes today for a free resume review with 100% personalized feedback and specific recommendations and learn how we make sure you position yourself for career success.


Click on the following link for more resume-writing advice.


Need help with your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile? Our SoCalResumes professional resume writers can help!



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