Linkedin Identifies Top Overused Resume Buzzwords and Phrases

December 6, 2012

In today’s world of search engines and queries, keywords play an important role. They help users sift through the seemingly endless content on the Web to find people and businesses. However, when it comes to online resumes and profiles, some buzzwords are so overused that they may actually be hurting job applicants more than helping them.

LinkedIn recently released its annual list of the most overused buzzwords and phrases. According to The Wall Street Journal’s At Work blog, the company analyzed more than 187 million user profiles to find the top 10 commonly used words and phrases in 2012. “Creative” topped this year’s list, followed by “organizational,” “effective,” “motivated” and “extensive experience.” Other words that made the cut include “track record,” “innovative” and “problem solving.” At Work pointed out that eight of the 10 buzzwords used by U.S. professionals in 2012 were also on last year’s list. This year’s newcomers were “responsible” at No. 8 and “analytical” at No. 9.

Most applicants think these words will help them stand out in the sea of LinkedIn profiles; however, if used incorrectly they can be completely meaningless.

“So what if you’re creative?” asked Susan Britton Whitcomb, author of “Resume Magic” and president of the Career Coach Academy, in NBC News. “What does that mean?”

As NBC News pointed out, keywords and phrases are essential in today’s world of electronic screening and make sense for certain industries. For instance, advertising professionals should use the word “creative.” However, job seekers need to do more than just list these words.

“My immediate reaction is that I think anytime you use subjective terms or buzzwords in a resume, it is OK, but they should be backed up with documentary proof,” explained Whitcomb to NBC News.

Indeed, a LinkedIn blog post recommended that professionals demonstrate their qualifications by using hard data and concrete examples such as numbers and/or links. It is important to be specific about what you have done and what kind of skills and experience you gained--that kind of information is more convincing and important to potential employers than commonly used words. The bottom line, noted Whitcomb in NBC News, is that employers want to see that you can save them money, make them money and/or save them time.

When considering what buzzwords to use, LinkedIn also recommended that job seekers not use descriptors that employers already expect you to be. For example, being organized and trustworthy are traits that hiring managers and colleagues expect of all employees so they may not be the ideal strengths to highlight. NBC News, however, pointed out that these attributes might be acceptable for new graduates with limited work experience. If you are a senior level executive, though, do not expect to get away with it.

“I think that you have to use words that are appropriate,” said Wendy S. Enelow, career consultant and author, to NBC News.

If you are having trouble coming up with new buzzwords, LinkedIn recommended researching the companies you are interested in to find out what terms they use to describe their desired candidates. You can also search top executives’ profiles to see what descriptors they use or view other LinkedIn professionals’ profiles for inspiration.

According to NBC News, the study also looked at buzzwords around the globe. “Creative” was also No. 1 in Australia, Germany and New Zealand. In Switzerland, professionals overused the word “analytical” and in India, “effective” topped the list.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


“Are Your Buzzwords a Buzzkill?: 3 Tips to Get Noticed,”, December 4, 2012, Nicole Williams

“Ban These Buzzwords From Your Resume,”, December 4, 2012, Leslie Kwoh

“Creative, organizational, effective—and totally predictable,”, December 4, 2012, Tanya Mohn

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