Jane has just written her résumé’s professional summary.

“Jane is a hardworking professional and an enthusiastic team player known for her self-starter attitude. As a natural problem solver and a detail-oriented worker, she brings a dynamic approach to every project she undertakes. Recognized as a thought leader in her field, Jane is results-driven, always going above and beyond to exceed expectations. Her go-getter spirit and strategic thinker mindset make her an invaluable asset to any team, ready to tackle challenges and drive success.”

What have you learned about Jane’s ability to do her job?

Nothing. No specific accomplishments have been mentioned.

Now read this persuasive summary that Jane wrote later:

“Jane is a strategic project manager with a record of launching market-leading products and driving market share growth by up to 5% within one year. Directly contributed to process optimizations that enhanced team productivity by 20% and significantly reduced time-to-market. Leverages a keen analytical approach to market trends and team dynamics to exceed project goals consistently in fast-paced environments.”

This summary is compelling. It could get her the job.

Why? What’s the difference?

She cut the clichés and banned the buzzwords.

She showed what she did using direct, specific language rather than telling a vague story about her image.

In this article, we’ll dig into what’s behind this fundamental difference and why specificity is so good for your job prospects.

We’ll also take a look at specific clichés and buzzwords you should avoid.

The Power of Specificity

Clichés and buzzwords have similar problems.

Buzzwords are overused jargon. They show up on résumés so often that the screener, who has probably seen hundreds or thousands of résumés, just skips over them while reading. The résumé’s impact is lost. You don’t stand out from the crowd. You are ignored.

That’s not what you want to happen.

Clichés are overused generalities. They are not specific, so they don’t show the reader useful information. The words are skimmed or skipped over, giving the reader no favorable impression of you.

What’s lacking in Jane’s first summary is specificity. She is not writing specific facts, only boringly vague descriptions.

When you’re specific about your accomplishments, you tell a compelling story about yourself and your professional history.

People notice this, especially résumé screeners and bosses.

Show, Don’t Tell

When applying for a job, you want to prove your value to the company. Do it with specific facts, plain and simple.

Show them what you’ve done. They can figure out for themselves what you can do for them. That can get you the job if you’re otherwise a good match.

Let me demonstrate.

Clichés and Buzzwords

Jane is a hardworking professional and an enthusiastic team player known for her self-starter attitude.”

Blah, blah, blah.

This description is imprecise and unmeasurable.

What was the task? What did she do? What was the result? That’s what a potential boss wants to know.

Specific Descriptions

“Jane is a strategic project manager with a record of launching market-leading products and driving market share growth by up to 5% within one year.”

Wow! Jane’s awesome.

Jane has had measurable, positive results in her challenging job. The company made money because of her managerial prowess.

That’s the impact this one sentence has.

“Hire her,” is what the boss may be saying now.

Clichés and Buzzwords

Here’s an incomplete list of clichéd buzzwords. You should avoid them (and many others) if you want your résumé to stand out from the “telling” applicants.


Hard work is expected on every job. Instead of telling them you work hard, demonstrate how your hard work led to specific achievements.

Team player

Don’t state that you’re a good team member. Show how you’ve collaborated with others to meet real-world objectives.


As a professional adult, you are expected to be a self-starter—it goes without saying. Show instead measurable instances where you identified a need and took the initiative.

Problem solver

Yes, everybody solves problems. It’s better to provide examples of issues you’ve solved and the impact of your solutions.


If you can’t handle details, you’ll likely be fired. Show them that your detailed work is awesome, including the example of the perfect résumé they have in their hands.


This is awfully vague. Your initiative and achievements should naturally demonstrate your energy and drive.

Thought leader

Show, don’t tell. Include publications, speaking engagements, and other instances where your ideas led to change.


Show them the metrics. Do the math. Measure your accomplishments. Share them in your résumé.


Like many other buzzwords, it’s too generic. It’s also out-of-date language. Specific examples of your ambition, projects, and results are compelling. Use those.

Strategic thinker

Calling yourself a strategic thinker may be a bit vain. It is far more advantageous to illustrate your strategic thinking with a brief statistic or anecdote.


This article has one fundamental lesson: show, don’t tell.

“Show, don’t tell” is a time-tested storytelling technique. It works because people respond to specificity with attention and sometimes with awe.

Telling your so-called story as a vague, cliché-ridden, buzzword feast has the opposite effect from what you intended. All the nice-sounding words don’t mean anything, so perhaps the same applies to you.

That’s not the impression you want to give.

Looking Forward

Eliminating clichés and buzzwords throughout your résumé is only one thing you have to worry about.

There’s spelling, grammar, ATS-friendly formatting, résumé document structure, and more. Not to mention the content.

Our service, aiapply.com, uses the power of AI to automate the writing and formatting of your résumé.

You needn’t perform the tedious tasks associated with tailoring every résumé to the job position you’re seeking. This essential step is time-consuming and frustrating. We do it for you.

You can try us out for free.

Just upload your current résumé or CV, supply the job description, and let us create an entire application kit, including a tailored résumé, cover letter, and follow-up email.

We’re ready to help you through your job search journey. From headshots to résumé translation, job interview practice to curated job board, we’ve prepared the way for you to succeed.

If you have questions, please contact us.

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