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5 Words and Phrases to Avoid on your Resume/Cover Letter

Let's start with the big ones. 

1)   "Dear Sir/Madam" and "To Whom it May Concern".  These are outdated phrases that don't show a lot of creativity.  If the contact name is provided, address your cover letter to that person; if it's not provided and there's no way of getting it, try "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Hiring Committee" if it's a large organization.  Directing your resume to the Human Resources Department is a step in the right direction as well.  It diminishes the possibility of your resume getting lost in the shuffle, or having it sit on the fax machine for weeks because no one knows where it belongs.  Whenever possible, though, make a quick call to ask the name of the person responsible for hiring new staff.

2) We usually encourage the use of an objective on your resume so that the person looking it over knows exactly what job you want, how many hours you can work and that you took the time to personalize your resume.  Whatever you do, avoid objectives like, "An interesting position with a growing company".  That doesn't really tell the employer much, and in fact, it might be better to avoid an objective altogether than to use that one.  Instead you might consider adding in something like, "to obtain a part-time position in the food service industry at (company name)."  An objective should be simple and straight forward.

3)   "Handled".  We see this word a lot.  A resume is a tool with which to showcase your skills.  "Handling" stuff isn't one of the more impressive ones out there.  Instead of saying "handled difficult customers", try something like "professionally de-escalated volatile interactions" or "treated customers with respect while articulating company policies and guidelines".  These examples tell the reader exactly what you're capable of and are much more impressive.

4)   I, I, I.  This one can be tricky.  When you're trying to sell yourself it feels natural to use "I am dedicated..."  "I was responsible for..."  "I excelled in...", but try to vary your sentence structure to keep the reader's attention.  For example, instead of saying "I pride myself on keeping my skills up-to-date, and as such, I am proficient with computers" you might write, "Continuous workplace training kept my skills up-to-date and provided me with superlative computer skills.  "I" should never appear on your resume and it should be kept to a minimum in your cover letter.

5)   "Works well independently or as part of a team".   Try spicing it up so that your point is the same but the recruiter doesn't just skim over this overused phrase and miss the point altogether.  What about, "flourishes in a team environment" or "adept at completing focused, independent tasks"?  The possibilities are almost infinite, so why not pick a phrase that really describes your working style, one that only appears on your resume?

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