To Make an Impression, Cut the Gobbledygook

Susan Hall
Slide Show

Five Tips for a Well-Done Tech Resume

A tech pro's resume has to match the speed of this fast-changing industry

I can barely watch The Weather Channel because of the people there who not only use the word "impact" as a transitive verb, but also torturous evolutions of it such as "impactful" and worse. It's like a death from thousands of paper cuts.

 

In a slideshow on Forbes entitled, "The Most Annoying Business Jargon," Bryan Garner, editor-in-chief of Black's Law Dictionary, says the use of "impact" as a verb became popular because most people don't understand the difference between "affect" and "effect." (Hint: "effect" is the result.)

 

Though the slideshow contains some real groaners, such as "move the needle," "low-hanging fruit," and "price point," it doesn't come close to listing all the pain to be found in the vocabulary of IT.

 


The accompanying story talks about the acceptance of such language. It quotes Patrick Gray, president of Prevoyance Group, a strategy consulting company in Charlotte, N.C., saying:

There's a thieves code in the corporate world: "I'll use words that sound important but make no actual sense and give you the same privilege if you don't call me out on it."

Gray suggests you set yourself apart by speaking clearly and avoiding cliches. Says Seth Linden, executive vice president at Dukas Public Relations:

Clear and concise language makes you a better executive. Period.

Another source in the story is Karen Friedman, author of "Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners." ITBE contributor Don Tennant also spoke with her recently about why this especially seems to be a problem in IT. She told him:

I will have IT people say to me, "My audience understands this language. They know what I'm talking about, so it's OK." And my response to them is, no, it's not OK. Your audience may understand the words, but it's still up to you as a speaker to facilitate understanding. You have to help them understand, why should I care about this? Your audience may understand the definition of the words, but what does that mean? Will it save them time? Will it save them money? Can they do more with less? So your job as an IT person is to really consider your audience, and put it in context for them. Be very careful about using jargon or buzzwords, and mistaking that for communicating. If you keep your language plain and simple, you're going to be a little bit punchier, and a little bit better understood.

In her article, "Technical Resumes Are No Place for Fluff," IT resume specialist Jennifer Hay warns against the advice of some professional resume writers who suggest so-called "power words" such as "leveraged," "strategized," "innovated," and "spearheaded." They don't tell the reader anything. Instead, she advises, use clear language and specific details to explain your accomplishments.

 

Especially in job hunting, there's a very good reason to take particular care with the words you use: You won't offend anybody. You don't know who will be doing the first pass on the resumes and it might be someone like me who'd hit the "delete" key rather than wade through a morass of buzzwords or interview you. As Matthew Rothenberg, editor-in-chief of job site The Ladders, told me:

Usually the first folks you're going to be talking to are HR generalists. Chances are they're going to be more concerned with your business savvy and sense of a senior professional that you're presenting rather than a list of tech qualifications. If you're tech-minded, that might be where your head goes. You've got to be ready to show the whole package.


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