Five Descriptive Phrases That Are Meaningless On Your Resume

by Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan, Co-Founders, Hollywood Resumes

One of the biggest and space-wasting resume mistakes that will have hiring managers rolling their eyes is listing intangible qualities in the skills section of your resume (or in a professional summary, if you’re writing a CV for higher-level positions). The skills section should be reserved for any special type of job-related training you’ve had, proficiency in computer programs, languages you’ve learned, or other measurable skills. But writing that you’re a “great communicator” or “possess strong attention to detail” is impossible to verify, and recruiters aren’t just going to take your word for it that you’ve got these skills. Instead, you need to demonstrate these types of qualities by showing how your responsibilities at each of your previous positions required them. Prove that you’ve got an intangible skill by using a concrete example. Recruiters will then be able to infer the point you’re trying to get across, and they’ll have a reason to believe you. Here are five commonly used descriptive phrases that won’t help you on your resume (or cover letter!) but can be easily worked into bullet points in a straightforward way.

People-person

“People-person” is one of the most annoying phrases to come across on a resume, not just because it sounds cliche, but because it could have several different meanings. Are you trying to say that you work well with others? In that case, you could say that you “collaborated with a team” on various projects. If you’re trying to prove that you have excellent customer service skills, you could say that you “assisted clients” or even that you managed a reception desk or answered a phone. The key here is to demonstrate that you have experience interacting with a variety of people (use the job posting as a guide for crafting a relevant bullet point). Plus, you’ll have an opportunity to show off your charming personality in your interview, so there’s really no need to call yourself a “people-person.”

Detail-oriented

Being detail-oriented is incredibly important in most positions, especially those entry-level jobs where you’re supporting an executive or a team and trying to prove that you’re worthy of moving up the ladder. But once again, simply saying so on your resume isn’t going to do the trick. Think about the responsibilities at your job that required extreme attention to detail — maybe you were handling multiple tasks at once, or you were responsible for meticulously putting together intricate spreadsheets and triple-checking them for errors. If a job posting asks for a “detail-oriented” person, make sure to pick out some of your more tedious or complex duties to highlight on your resume.

Excellent written and verbal communication skills

For starters, it’s pretty easy to show your written communication skills by having an eloquently written and typo-free resume and cover letter (which will also remind recruiters that you’re detail-oriented!). But to add to this, you can show your written communication skills by describing experiences where you were required to do a large amount of writing. Were you responsible for handling your department’s email correspondence? Did you frequently write reports or other documents? Turn these responsibilities into bullet points. Meanwhile, verbal communication skills are demonstrated by the amount of interpersonal interaction you had during your job. Listing phone-answering duties and communicating with clients or other departments can be a good way to emphasize your verbal communication skills. And again, much of this will come across in your interview.

Strong organizational skills

Being organized is crucial for any job, but the good news is, this skill is probably the easiest to substantiate in a resume. “Organized” is a great action verb that can be used to start off many possible bullet points — you could have organized files, meetings, events, office space, and any number of other things, both large and small. Updated, maintained, monitored, facilitated, prepared, and implemented are some other great verbs that could show how a specific responsibility required organization. Any duties that forced you to multitask can also be helpful here.

Self-starter

“Self-starter” is one of the most elusive qualities that you can list on a resume (and that you might see in a job posting). But fear not, there are ways to prove this one too! A person who takes initiative is usually a strong leader, so think about what projects you led, new procedures you implemented, or ideas you brought to life. Also helpful, tasks you completed under minimal supervision. But never call yourself a “self-starter.” It makes you sound entitled and pompous, not like someone who should be seriously considered by hiring managers.

Hollywood Resumes is a resume writing service dedicated to entertainment industry job applicants. For more career advice, sign up for the Hollywood Resumes newsletter, and get free tips delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.