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Most important skills (rephrased) for a new resume

You've accomplished many things (throughout your career). You've exceeded your goals and mastered countless skills. Now you're on a job hunt and you can't remember any of them for your resume.

It's important to keep your resume up-to-date, whether you're looking for a job or not. Career experts advise job seekers to avoid common resume mistakes, but one error left off the list is the overuse of clichés and vague phrases.

“If a job seeker places overused phrases on his or her resume, the chances of standing out from other candidates are greatly diminished," says Kathy Sweeney, a certified professional resume writer. “A resume is a marketing tool and should be utilized to distinguish the candidate from other people vying for the same position."


In the first glance at a candidate's resume, employers want to see career progression, concrete accomplishments, any gaps in employment and potential growth within the employer's company, says Sally Stetson, co-founder of Salveson Stetson Group, an executive search firm. Because employers want to see significant accomplishments, rather than lists of job duties, job seekers must provide solid illustrations of their talent.

“Providing specific examples may allow a potential employer to relate the applicant's work experience to potential business needs within their company," Stetson says. “These examples will also demonstrate a business and results orientation."


When employers search for candidates in their databases, it's based on “exclusion" rather than “inclusion," Sweeney says. In other words, employers look for keywords as a way to narrow the applicants down the 10 or 20 most-qualified candidates. These chosen few are left standing only after others are weeded out.

But what some candidates think constitute keywords and phrases are actually vague generalities that show up on the majority of resumes.

“Keywords are not 'team player' or 'good communication skills,'" Sweeney says. “If an employer searched for those phrases, they would receive about 1,000 resumes that would be considered 'relevant' to their search parameters." Instead, keywords are solid functions like, “sales," “marketing" or “business development," she says.

13 clichés most overused on resumes:

Strong communication, customer service and organizational skills.
Try: Possess strong communication, customer service and organizational skills, which increased customer satisfaction from 85% to 98% and realized 100% on-time delivery of assigned projects.

Introduced new products.
Rephrase: Developed, introduced and launched successful new products, which increased market share 3% and contributed $3 million to bottom-line profitability.

Track record of success.
Use: Consistently surpassed sales goal by 10% or more each year.

Possess leadership, communication, motivational and inspirational skills.
Instead: Highly-effective leadership, communication, motivational and inspirational skills, which led to 98% employee retention ratio and four out of six employees promoted into management positions.

Exceeded all productivity goals for the department.
Reworded: Exceeded established department productivity goals 16% through development/implementation of best practices to increase employee output, communication of corporate objectives and introduction of compensation plans to reward high-performing individuals.

Go-to person.
Instead: Selected by CEO for special customer service assignment that improved customer retention by 14%.

Team player.
Use: Possess strong commitment to team environment dynamics with the ability to contribute expertise and follow leadership directives at appropriate times.

Served as company spokesperson.
Rephrase: Served as highly-successful company spokesperson, which generated positive media relations, resulted in identification as an industry expert, and garnered coverage in business/industry publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily and PC World.

Partner with others.
Try: Collaborated with key members of the finance and information technology departments to develop and implement a new sales tracking tool.

Spoke with existing customers on a daily basis.
Use: Successfully interacted with clients to generate repeat and referral business, which resulted in $1.5 million in new product orders.

Expert presenter, negotiator and businessperson.
Rephrase: Expert presenter, negotiator and businessperson able to forge solid relationships with customers, which improved sales 33% and increased customer base from 10 to 50 new clients.

Managed cross-functional teams.
Instead: Led diverse, cross-functional teams in the fulfillment of corporate productivity, quality and bottom-line objectives.

Resolved customer difficulties quickly and tactfully
Use: Honored with the “Customers Come First" award for consistently resolving customer difficulties in an expedient and tactful manner.

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