Do Cliches Have a Place on Resumes?

Do Cliches Have a Place on Resumes?There is much advice that advocates for the use of quantifiable accomplishments on a résumé. I am certainly in agreement with that because of how clearly they can show the application of your knowledge and talents in real-world situations.

In the same breath, however, some say that you should avoid every qualitative description that is a cliché. Each time I read that suggestion, I think, “Hold on — don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” 😉

Without a doubt, clichés can be overused and abused. If you do nothing more than say that you are “well-qualified,” a “team player,” or a “top performer who thrives in a fast-paced, multitasking environment” but don’t provide examples that validate those claims, you haven’t achieved the goal of giving prospective employers any sort of value.

However, to leave off every single one of them could potentially hurt a résumé in a few ways:

  • It could eliminate important keywords that an applicant tracking system (ATS) is using to screen candidates. Just to see what would happen, I typed the phrase “detail-oriented” into’s search engine and got more than 71,000 jobs pulled up as a result. I then typed “innovative” and had almost 200,000 jobs listed. “Team player” had nearly 80,000. If these characteristics are important enough for companies to include in their job postings, why would job seekers choose to keep them off of their résumés?
  • It shows what you have in common with the company and its existing team. With organizations increasingly looking for candidates who fit in well with their corporate culture, shared values, characteristics, work styles, and communication, making clear connections with similarities to the company are important to spell out on your résumé. If you don’t connect the dots for the hiring managers, they won’t take the time to find out more about you.
  • While the exact amount of time spent on a résumé is up for debate, the fact remains that decisions regarding whether a candidate is interviewed or not happen quickly, so you need to make the case for why you should be chosen easy to take in. I’m all for having stories to concretely demonstrate skills and attributes, but you can’t include them all. By using qualitative descriptions (even if they are clichés) in conjunction with stories, it allows the reader to more quickly draw conclusions about the skills set that your accomplishments indicate.

So how do you know when enough’s enough? Take a comprehensive look at your résumé.

  • Does it look like you have crammed your résumé with boilerplate wherever possible, or are you strategically using a few clichés that mirror the language used on the job description and/or the company website?
  • Do you have stories of substance that flesh out the claims you make?

With clichés, a little goes a long way, so don’t go overboard. You don’t want them to think you are telling tall tales with your claims. But two or three clichés, when paired with your success stories, can make for a winning combination!

What do you think? Can clichés be a good way to toot your own horn?

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Image courtesy of gingerpig2000

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