For résumés, avoid cliches and empty phrases 

Do you think that describing yourself as highly qualified, a self-starter or a creative problem solver, will help you stand out on the job hunt? Think again. According to a new OfficeTeam survey, these are among the most overused terms on résumés.

OfficeTeam queried executives on the kind of terms they don't want to see on résumés, and solicited their advice on how to give employers what they're really looking for in your application materials and during the interview process. OfficeTeam is a staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals.

"A résumé full of cliches but short on specifics won't be memorable to hiring managers," said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. "Employers want concrete examples of professional achievements as well as descriptions of any transferrable skills that can be applied to the open position."

Added Hosking, "People recall the stories they hear. During interviews, job applicants should share anecdotes that illustrate their best qualities."

Instead of using "highly qualified," for example, highlight your accomplishments in previous positions, emphasize your specific skills and note any certifications you have earned.

Leave out "hard worker." Instead, explain exactly how you've gone the extra mile. For instance, did you regularly meet tough deadlines, handle a high volume of projects or tackle tasks outside your job description?

Don't use "team player." Instead, provide examples of how you partnered with colleagues or individuals in other departments to meet an objective.

Also not worth adding: "Problem solver." Instead. Be specific when you describe this quality. Highlight a difficult situation you encountered and how you handled it.

Instead of just saying you are flexible, consider that hiring managers seek candidates who can adapt quickly to new situations. Describe how you responded to a major change at work or dealt with the unpredictable aspects of your job.

Don't add the "people person" description. Instead, employers want professionals with strong communication skills who can build camaraderie with internal and external contacts. Provide an example of how you won over a challenging customer or co-worker.

Leave out "self-starter." Instead, show how you took action when you saw an issue that needed to be fixed. Companies seek individuals with initiative who can contribute immediately.

And, as always, don't forget how important it is to ...

Do what others fail to do!

Marvin Walberg is a job-search coach based in Birmingham, Ala. For contact information, see

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