With corporate lingo so widespread and major companies normalizing the use of “yogababble,” it’s easy to fall into the traps set by LinkedIn influencers and the like—especially when you’re writing a resume or cover letter.
If enough people with seeming credibility are using buzzy phrases, an early career professional might think to pepper their resumes and cover letters with the same kind of language. The truth is, though, is that you will sound more knowledgeable without branding yourself as “well-versed in high-agility marketing campaigns,” or as “an insight leader looking to scale data-driven startups.”
But first, it helps to understand what buzzwords are and how they can easily slip into your job application materials.
What are buzzwords?
There are some buzzwords that become so merely because they are overused—not because they’re necessarily devoid of meaning. In business parlance, you’re probably familiar with referring to some aspect of a company’s dealings as an “ecosystem,” or its obsession with “impact points” and continual “touch points.” These terms aren’t necessarily useless, though the working world is oversaturated with them, which is why you should try to rid the corporate vernacular from your vocabulary in an effort to sound more human.
“The goal of a resume is to get you interview requests. You want the person reading it to feel like there’s a real person on the other side of the resume, not some faceless drone,” Marc Cenedella, the Founder of Leet Resumes, tells Lifehacker. “It’s important to write sentences that sound like a real person.”
The grossest example of buzzwords comes when there is little meaning easily derived from the words used in corporate settings. These terms exist to position whoever is using them as some sort of self-appointed expert or industry insider, privy to language that only a select few highly-trained specialists can employ.
Courtesy of Indeed, here’s ten overwrought terms that easily wade into buzzword territory:
- Return on investment
- Customer journey
- Deep dive
- Core competency
There are far, far more beyond that, which is why it’s good to understand what it shows when you use these terms, and how to replace them with better, more relatable and direct language. Absent the hollow rhetoric, you’ll come across as more human.
How to replace buzzwords with more meaningful language
Many candidates—especially the greener ones, maybe fresh from a business program—tend to forget that they’re marketing not only their skills, but themselves as people who are likable and relatable. As Cenedella puts it, there are any number of reasonable synonyms to replace the overwrought and cliché-laden prose you might be using in a cover letter.
Don’t say ‘I was hired to synergize cross-company content collateral to optimize our consumer-facing growth matrix’ when what you mean is ‘They hired me to make our social media rock, and I was successful.’
Basically, you want to strive for simplicity. Cenedella drives this home further with a good example: “A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t talk that way with co-workers over beers, you shouldn’t write it that way on your resume.” If you want to showcase your achievements, feel free to do so, but don’t hype yourself up with exuberant drivel.
Most importantly, you are not a brand, so there’s no need to present yourself as one, or to abide by the buzzword blueprint used by certain folks and businesses. If you purge all the jargon and speak honestly about your strengths and accomplishments, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.