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November 9, 2012
Terms of 'Undearment'
 
In this age of personal branding and virtual knowledge, we all struggle with how to best describe our value, and the talents and abilities we bring to the party. And as we know instinctively, no amount of hyperbole or word inflation will mask our true character to people we know and who know us. Honesty, authenticity, and simplicity are the rules of the day when it comes to describing ourselves, our values and, most important, our value.
 
With this in mind, I have taken some time to enumerate words and phrases that should be eliminated from our lexicon and the written words in profiles and resumes. The envelope, please:
 
“Seasoned.” The word may be analogous to long experience, but let’s face it, you are not a piece of meat or fish. It’s a good word to use in gastronomy but not to describe your experience, value, accomplishments and career track record. A better alternative is “experienced,” “tested,” “accomplished,” or “veteran.” 
 
“Results Driven.” The sad fact is that the term “results driven” has been overused and abused. Everyone is results driven and many hiring managers now look askance at the term. So don’t use it. A better alternative may be “focused on accomplishing the task at hand,” “focused on achieving business objectives,” or “driven by strategy and business goals.”
 
“Team player.” It is a given. Unless you are not working, virtually every job requires people to work in teams or at least with one other person. And hiring managers tend to assume that if you have been successful at a job that you are able to work well with others. Possible ways of indicating that you are a team player, is to use terms like “diplomatic,” “tactful,” “able to excel under high pressure,” and “patient and resilient.” Another surefire method is to actually describe a project where you led a successful team. Keep it short, sweet, and succinct.
 
“Proven.” Proven is an important descriptive word to employ but by itself is an empty promise.  If you have a skill that has been verified in practice, give evidence. Tell a brief story of the “proven” attribute. An example might be “led a team of 13 people in the successful development of an application to automate the validation of source code, ” or “managed a team of six to produce the company’s 48-page annual report to shareholders, which was awarded a ‘Best of Annual’ award by the IR1 Association.”
 
“Top flight.” Generally a term of performance, “top flight” connotes “high achiever,” “top caliber,” or “pinnacle of human performance.” If in fact you are at the top rank in your profession, say it in a way that is evidentiary, such as, “recognized as the top Hadoop coder by XYZ company for ‘project take off,’” or “awarded an LMN Award for best critical business writing.” In this way you have given demonstrable qualification of your skill set.
 
“Self Starter.” Unless you are the new Nissan Leaf, leave the term behind. Hiring managers and HR folks want visible proof. Simply saying it is not sufficient. Like a defendant, you need to present the evidence in the form of an impeccable statement like, “initiated the revamp of the widget manufacturing process that save the company 20% on raw material costs.” You get the idea.
 
“Perfectionist.” Gold at 24 carats is pure gold and perfect. We all strive for perfection, but no one is perfect. So lose the term and describe what value you bring to the table instead of the word “perfectionist.” 
 
“Flexible.” Unless you are made of neoprene, proving flexibility could be painful. If, however, your thinking is flexible and you are able to easily adapt to changing environments or new conditions, you will likely want to visibly show how you have done so. Here is an example:  “developed successful strategy for communicating last minute CEO transition that resulted in favorable news coverage and a sustained share price.”
 
“Trustworthy.” If you are pledging for the next rank in Boy Scouts, “trustworthy” is worthy. However, on a resume, it could beg the question. Another way of demonstrating trust is to note that you have previously held a security clearance from the Government (If you have) or simply to not worry about it unless you are applying for a job where it is an essential requirement such as “security officer” or “bank teller.” The fact is, unless the job is in the “security” domain, it need not be noted and can be handled in the interview.

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Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.

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