Overused phrases that drive employers crazy!


Some phrases are used so often on resumes they’ve become totally generic and scream, “I can’t think for myself!” To avoid this trap before you use a phrase, think about what you’re really trying to say and how an employer will interpret it.

Here are a few examples of common resume phrases and what they REALLY mean.


Phrase: “Able to work both alone and with others”

What it really says: “I’m a human being, whoopdeedoo!”

What you can say instead: “Successfully coordinated ad hoc committee of up to ten staff members in the implementation of new design process”

 Phrase(s): “Helped with…” “Responsible for…” or “Duties included…”

What it really says: “Yawn!”

What you can say instead: “Orchestrated” “Implemented” “Designed”

Phrase: “Hard-working”

What it really says: “Well you had better…that’s what I pay you for!”

What you can say instead: “Completed software design project ahead of projected timeline through the use of exceptional time-management skills”

Phrase: “Multi-tasking”

What it really says: “Wow, I can both walk and talk at the same time…I must be a multi-tasking!” (yes this is sarcastic)

What you can say instead: “Designed and completed three simultaneous interior renovation projects, while remaining on time and under budget”

Phrase: “Knowledgeable in the use of Microsoft Office and various other types of software “

What is really says: “Knowledgeable can simply mean awareness, it doesn’t imply actual use plus it’s totally vague I need specifics!”

What you can say instead: “Proficient in the use of Microsoft Office Suite: including a strong working knowledge of Excel and Word, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CS5, as well as 3D modeling experience using AutoCAD”


Remember, don’t just say a phrase; by quantifying it you’ll automatically add strength to what you’re saying. Below are a few great articles on overused phrases and how a few simple changes will improve your resume.

10 most over used words and phrases in Canadian resumes

45 Quick changes that help your resume get noticed

7 Phrases to remove from your resume



Muscle your résumé to the top of the heap!

Ok you’ve got the bones for your résumé now let’s flex those muscles.

Don’t worry about formatting at this point; your main goal is to list the duties you performed on the job and the skills you learned while performing those duties.

 1. Duties

Take each job or volunteer position and think about what you did, put it in simple terms, you can always elaborate later. If you’re having trouble coming up with info walk yourself mentally through an average day on the job taking note of all the things you did, from opening the store (Key holder duties) to checking stock (Inventory management duties).

 If you’re really at a loss for what to include or English is your second language, check out www.workingincanada.gc.ca and type in your job title and look under duties.

 2. Quantify what you did

Now take those duties and add numbers. (*if possible)

 EX: “Able to up-sell customers on sale items resulting in a 20% increase in revenue for outlet store”

 3.  Skills

Phrase your duties as skills.

 Take this duty: “Rang in customer purchases and exchanges at front counter” and turn it into a skill: “Knowledgeable in the use of Point of Sale operating system for cash, debit, credit and gift card purchases”

Note the difference. Generally skills point to the ability to operate a piece of equipment or a program usually gained on the job or through educational pursuits, however this mainly covers what’s considered “hard” skills, but what about “soft skills?”

4. Soft skills

Soft skills are personality or character traits which although unquantifiable are none-the-less essential and much sought after by employers so they should definitely be included in the skill section of your résumé.

Taking the above examples, you can draw out the following “soft skills”

EX:  “Ability to assess and understand new technology” or “Strong numerical skills” or “Comfortable in fast-paced work environments”

Now that you have most of the content, it’s often a good idea to get help from your friendly local resume specialist on how to tailor your résumé towards your objective and sector so it truly reflects you!



MCACESBlogs is a series of blog posts aimed at assisting job seekers and their peers with job search! These posts were created by students of the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. If you like what you read, be sure to like, follow, distribute to your network. Thank you and happy reading!

Release the Krakens…I mean Résumés!

When you send your résumé out into the technological abyss, do you ever wonder if it’s become dinner for some mythical multi-tentacle squirming sea squid in the job market “sea.” Or perhaps your résumé has gotten lost amid the clamoring of other résumés, for what other explanation really makes sense as to why employers don’t get back to you?

But don’t let that thought stop from taking a chance and casting your résumé out to companies. Many fishermen and fisherwomen are looking specifically for someone with your skills and abilities, however first you must tangle with the beast to get to them!

1. Don’t underestimate yourself!

More often than not, most job-seekers don’t apply for jobs they really should thinking their boat is full of holes, but sometimes we’re just not the best judge of our abilities so ask for someone else’s opinion when you’re on the fence. I generally recommend that if you have 50-60% of what’s listed, the rest is just gravy! However, you do want to be careful regarding the words “asset” and “necessary” or “must,” the “musts” are usually not negotiable.


2. It’s all about résumé diversity

With competition being fierce why be a common ol’ sardine when you can be an Ahi tuna?  By formatting and tailoring your résumé to the specific job posting you will show care and attention to details.


3. Address it properly

Call the company and politely ask for the names of the hiring manager, if that fails, search the company online or in the Scott’s directory (usually available at most libraries). If you’re still stuck then address your cover letter to the “Hiring Manger” or “Supervisor” and not “Dear Sir or Madame” or “To whom it may concern” which screams “I didn’t do my research!”


4. Don’t cast with an empty line!

I recently read that up to 20% of résumés sent electronically to HR managers can’t be opened. Amazingly, this is a mistake that’s so easily avoided! Unless specified, send your résumé and cover letter in one document and attach it to the email as a .pdf or .rtf doc. Generally, your cover letter should include a proper intro paragraph, so to avoid redundancy and for easy reading also paste your cover letter into the body of the email.


5. Key word Software

It’s invariably becoming more and more popular especially with large companies, basically, this software filters résumés based on specific information. To navigate this, use as many buzzwords from the job posting in your résumé as you can, since the more keywords included the higher up it goes in the proverbial pile. Also avoid using tables, graphs, unusual fonts and clipart if you can. The software is rather simple and will invariably turn your beautifully formatted résumé into a jumbled mess.


So now when releasing your résumé into the great beyond you’ll know to avoid the stormy weather and may even get a few bites! Sushi anyone?


A Resume Perspective- Using Bullets

Resume formats, by and large, are a personal preference. While that is true, once one has developed an “eye” for the development and critiquing, certain characteristics seem to have universal acceptance among those in the business.

Let us take the use of bulleting, for example. Most practioners lean towards the standard solid circular dot. I have also seen the use of the black and white triangular arrow style, but, regardless of your choice, consistency of use throughout the resume gives the most visual appeal.

The skill sets need to be targeted but can be hidden in the blur of bullet designs. For some reason even the use of the dash appears to minimalize or weaken the impact of skill strength.

The dash, despite even in bold, does nothing to attract the eye to the separation of the skill sets creating an overall “wordy” impression. Computer programs also offer numerical bulleting as another option. As a personal choice, I would hesitate here, because the act of numbering makes your skill sets appear few in number. It stares out at the employer as only “6” statements regardless what the quality of the strengths/experience these statements highlight.

Of the other options is the 4 diamond, diamond shape. Using this type, like the black and white triangular arrow, creates a visual busyness one should consider avoiding.

The hollow circular dot also lacks the impact that draws employer or recruiter attention, by being barely visible. The check mark has its place in the bulleting world but should be attributed to more advertising or flyer type use. Another option available if you are using colour on your resume is the various three color tones with a black cross running through it. It too, would be best left for other media applications. Finally, it is absolutely correct to use nothing at all with spacing between skills sets.

In the end, it is up to you as an individual to make your bulleting choice. Choose carefully and sparingly remembering it is the very first impression or contact the employer has with you and you want him to see you in the best possible light.

Jackie Fulton is a Continuing Education Student currently studying within the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACES offers a comprehensive Employment Advisement program for our students. For more information about Employment Advisement, please visit the MCACES website, www.mcaces.ca or contact Lidia Siino, Employment & Communications Specialist at Lidia.siino@mohawkcollege.ca.

I Object to Objectives!

When we talk about building a résumé we refer to prime real estate space and how to use it effectively. The common fear is that you have so much to put on your résumé and only two pages to complete the task and yet you use up at least four lines including spaces with an objective that isn’t going to assist you with getting an interview.  Why you ask?

How much thought did you put into your objective?

Is it the same one you use for all the job postings?

Do you object to objectives?

Do you object to objectives?

Have you customized it to the current company you are applying to?

Is it even relevant to the position you are applying for?

Is it a selling feature for you?

Does it peek the employer’s interest in reading more?

Wow, and to think this is at the very top of your résumé which is the most prime real estate going in a résumé. Would this space have been put to better use? Now that I have your complete attention, let’s look at what to include in an Objective.

When writing an objective, indicate the level or type of position you are seeking and the skills you want to use in the position. It provides an opportunity for you to give some indication to describe and customize why you are the perfect candidate for the job! Ask yourself, what makes you stand out from the rest?

Otherwise I will stick with the statement that I object to objectives! Leave it off and don’t waste the space!

Melanie Graham is a Continuing Education Student currently studying with the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACES offers a comprehensive Employment Advisement program for our students. For more information about Employment Advisement, please visit the MCACES website, www.mcaces.ca or contact Lidia Siino, Employment & Communications Specialist at Lidia.siino@mohawkcollege.ca.

Top 10 Résumé X Factors

Simply put, an “X” factor is anything within your résumé that can cause an employer to eliminate you and your document from a job competition. Is your résumé “X” proof?  Read on to decide!

10. Does my résumé have typos?
Take the time and ensure your résumé is free of any spelling errors or typos. Always triple check information, and have at least one other person read your document.

9. Are there too many buzzwords?
It might sound like a good idea to include that you “Participated in a fusion of synergy within a collaborative team environment,” but what does that really mean?  Don’t hide behind industry jargon.

8. Is my résumé too long?
Unless you have many published works to list, most résumés should be a maximum of two pages. Anything more than that and the document loses focus and the employer loses attention.

7. Is my résumé too short?
Not quite having a full page for a résumé will leave questions from the employer. There are many reasons a job seeker may not have a lot of information. Try expanding on your skills, education and additional transferable areas so that you end up with a full page.

6. Am I missing information?
Many job seekers will avoid adding their current education because it isn’t complete, or leave dates out from experience or education because it may make them sound old. Would you want to work for someone who would devalue your depth of experience?

5. Is my résumé OVER FORMATTED? 
Imagine being an employer and having to find suitable candidates amidst a barrage of CAPS bold, underlining and other text effects. When you over format your work, it really takes away from the content. Strive to achieve a balance between good content and non-distracting formatting.

4. Do I have a meaningless objective?
Do you want to work in a progressive work environment where the employer regularly recognizes your greatness and you get paid far more than you’re worth? Me too! The point is; I wouldn’t place that within an objective. If you do use an objective, ask yourself, what you can do for the employer rather than outlining exactly what an employer can do for you. Also, the purpose of an objective is to state your intent of employment which is usually mentioned in the cover letter, so in most cases, you might not need to include one.

3. Does my résumé lack consistency?
The more consistent your résumé is, the more professional looking it will be. Sometimes, when job seekers look to edit their résumé, they forget to ensure the entire document is consistent. Double check information and make sure sections have similar font styles, sizes and formatting.

2. Is my résumé too pretty?
Coloured paper. Coloured font. Scented paper. Pictures of you within the résumé. Unless you are in a highly creative field, try to avoid adding these gimmicks to your document. Some tourism or modeling agencies will ask to see a picture of you with your job application. Unless requested, let the quality of your content speak for you.

1. If an employer read my résumé, would they want to meet me?
After reviewing your résumé, if you were the hiring manager, would you consider interviewing you for the position? Are all of your relevant knowledge, skills and abilities listed within your résumé? Make sure you include as much transferable content as possible. It’s the difference between having a résumé that sounds good, and having a résumé that gets you an interview.

Lidia Siino is Program Manager for the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College, in Hamilton Ontario. She also works as a Professional Development & Communications Strategist for MCACES, the Mohawk College Association of Continuing Education Students. If you would like more information about the Career Consultant Certificate Program, please visit                                                               http://www.mohawkcollege.ca/continuing-education/career-consultant.html or contact lidia.siino@mohawkcollege.ca.

Lidia Siino, centre, with students from the Career Consultant Certificate Program @ Mohawk College.

Lidia Siino, centre, with students from the Career Consultant Certificate Program @ Mohawk College.