Resumes Done Right: Avoid Useless Buzzwords

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

My husband tells me that "passion" seems to be the latest buzzword among resume writers. In the latest batch he read, mentions of passion were cropping up an average of 1.5 times per resume, though one young woman included that term six times. (She sounds like an exhausting person, frankly.) So what did the resume-reader glean from all that? Nothing, he told me.


He's in newspapers, an industry far more troubled than IT, so all that "passion" might represent a higher state of anxiety among those applicants. But it brings us to an important point in all forms of writing, and especially resumes: Show, don't tell. It follows that if you have passion, that must manifest itself in something tangible. That's what you put on your resume. Describe how your passion compelled you to do something that the potential employer might find valuable. And be specific (one of the points in the accompanying slideshow.)


After hearing about the popularity of "passion," I put out a call for folks to tell me about the useless phrases they see on IT resumes. Here's what some of them said by e-mail.


Saeer Butt, senior software architect for IT services company Zaphyr Technologies, offered this insight:

  • "Involved in" or "responsible for"-A recruiter cannot figure out if the IT person has the skills to do this task or merely oversaw the task.
  • "State-of-art" or "cutting-edge"-Everyone claims to be working on the state-of-art technologies. IT folks should define what the technology accomplishes and let others decide whether it's state-of-the-art.
  • "On-time delivery"- While everyone complains that IT projects always get delivered late or not at all, for some reason all IT resumes claim to always deliver projects on time. He says, "I wonder what happens to their ability to deliver once they get hired?" Instead, he suggests writing: "Completed a 36-month project in 30 months."


Raj Goel, CTO of IT services company Brainlink International, said the term "A+ Certified" tops his list of useless terms. He likens it to a student who took anatomy 101 claiming to be a doctor. In reality, it means a person passed a test on the basics of IT, nothing more, he says. And he says terms such as FTP, Telnet, HTTP and WWW are "resume stuffers" unless the candidate is a protocol developer.


He really gets skeptical, though, of any graduate in the past five years who claims to know 10 or more languages and five or more operating systems. He complains:

Rather than having a small resume that focuses on their strengths, the candidates list every language, OS or certification whose book cover they marginally glanced at.

Said Stephanie Anderson, recruiter for Systems Alliance, an IT consulting and software development firm:

If you write SEO on your resume in the skills section, as a recruiter, that means absolutely nothing to me. By focusing on the facts, detailing the details, and qualifying your qualifications, you actually make me want to call you. Tell me how you have used SEO for how many years, on what project and list your specific role and responsibilities when it comes to SEO.

Jay Reloj, senior recruiting partner for software development venture Freeborders, had similar thoughts:

In addition to looking for key words, I also look at the projects they have worked on. For example, if they are a software developer, I check to see if they have completed the project from start to finish, how big the team is, what their role is and if they took any leadership roles in the project. These indicators tell me if they are looking to be an individual contributor or looking to take on more responsibilities in their next endeavor.

What buzzwords do you find useless on an IT resume? I've started a discussion thread in the Knowledge Network where you can post your egregious examples.