Why should I use résumé buzzwords?

Career & Education

Why should I use résumé buzzwords?

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, March 01, 2020

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Dear Career Advisor:

I have been sending out many applications but up to now I have not received an invitation to an interview.

In commenting on my résumé, someone recently told me to try to include “buzzwords”. I am not sure what is meant by the term or how to go about making the changes. Please guide me.



Matthew T


Dear Matthew:

There could be several reasons for your not being invited to an interview despite sending a number of applications. It could be that your application was generic, meaning that it was not tailored to match the requirements of the job for which you were applying. If that were so, we urge you to not make the same mistake going forward. A generic application will not do much to advance your desire to persuade the hiring manager. Your cover letter and résumé should convey that you are aware of the specific needs of the employer and that you are prepared, based on your experience, skills, and competencies, to fulfil those organisational needs.

Indeed, one likely reason could be that your application is not richly peppered with buzzwords or keywords. The terms are used interchangeably, both referring to those generic or specific attributes that are commonly desired in candidates, or which the job-seeker feels will be advantageous to highlight. These buzzwords or keywords are often seen in job advertisements and job descriptions.

It is to be noted that as a screening device to short-list candidates, many employers visually or electronically scan résumés and résumé databases on the lookout for desired buzzwords. It is, therefore, recommended that keywords are appropriately included in your application documents.

Popular buzzwords tend to vary, as do other trends in the employment landscape. Therefore, words or phrases such as hard-working, diligent, self-motivated, which were popular on job boards a few years ago, appear to be trending downwards and are being replaced by terms such as collaborative, adaptable, analytical, etc. The NACE Job Outlook 2020 survey of employers conducted in August 2019 found that the top attributes employers seek on a candidate's résumé are problem-solving skills, teamwork, strong work ethic, analytical/quantitative skills, communication, leadership, and initiative. You would therefore do well to analyse which of these you possess and include them in your application documents. Appropriate buzzwords can be gleaned fom the job adert itself.

Note, though, that the indiscriminate use of buzzwords, if used as stand-alone descriptors without the inclusion of supporting evidence to show how the job-seeker has demonstrated these attributes can be more harmful than helpful. Similarly, clichéd words and phrases that describe basic traits that any job-seeker would possess, such as 'hardworking', 'expert', 'creative' and 'responsible', might not be advantageous unless supported by unique supporting evidence.

We instead recommend the use of industry-related or jobs-specific keywords in your career objective or summary statements and moreso, the ones that will indicate that you meet the specific requirements of the job you desire. Your claim of possessing these keywords should be later supported with descriptive evidence in the writing of your accomplishment statements in the “Experience” section.

Take the time to review your application documents and make the effort to strategically include relevant keywords that will attract the attention of your reader.

All the best in your job search.



Career Advisor


Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mancehster, Jamaica. Submit your questions to her at careeradvisor@ncu.edu.jm

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