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10 Words to Avoid on Your LinkedIn Profile

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If you want a potential employer to know how creative you are, don’t use “creative” on your LinkedIn profile.

Don’t use “innovative” or “dynamic” either.

Those adjectives are so popular on online job seekers’ profiles that they do little to distinguish you from other candidates. In fact, “creative” was the No. 1 overused buzzword on LinkedIn this year, the professional networking site announced today.

To identify trite words that professionals use to describe themselves, LinkedIn analyzed the profiles of its 135 million members. In addition to “creative,” “motivated,” and “dynamic,” “problem solving” is another overused phrase, as is “extensive experience” and “track record.” Ironically, these descriptors are so overused that they directly contradict the supposed creativity of a candidate.

Also interesting: “results-oriented,” which made last year’s list, didn’t make the cut this year. That’s partly because LinkedIn expanded the pool of profiles analyzed to include non-English ones, which were translated for this year’s data.

Globally, these are the most frequently used terms on LinkedIn profiles:

1.      Creative

2.      Organizational

3.      Effective

4.      Extensive experience

5.      Track record

6.      Motivated

7.      Innovative

8.      Problem solving

9.      Communication skills

10.    Dynamic

Since these words are used so much, they’ve lost some of their meaning, said Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s connection director. The problem, she said, is that those phrases are not specific to one type of skills. Instead, they can be used to describe anyone and everything – exactly what you don’t want when you’re applying for a job.

“Use language that illustrates your unique professional accomplishments and experiences,” Williams said in a news release from the company. “Give concrete examples of results you’ve achieved whenever possible, and reference attributes that are specific to you.”

For example, instead of writing of “extensive experience,” job seekers should say how many years they’ve worked in a field, how many and what kind of projects they worked on, or what kind of sales deals they closed.

Instead of describing yourself as “creative” or “innovative,” describe a situation where you did something differently, and explain why that approach was successful.

Those details – rather than vague, trite descriptors – will help you gain an edge in your job search.

Jessica Binsch is a digital journalist living and working in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism and blogs at CuriousontheRoad.com.

42 comments

  1. Funny how “Creative” is so overused, yet other articles have cited creativity as the #1 growing in-demand business skill. So it’s an asset. But of course, HR doesn’t necessarily see it that way, and I agree – a great way around that is to give contextual examples of where you’ve used such skills. Good article – thanks!

    • The Hummingbird

      The word “creative” is overused; creativity itself is in short supply. Truly creative firms almost never use the word, because their brands show it. Plus, one of the maxims of good writing is, “Show, don’t tell.”

      The article wasn’t saying to ditch creativity altogether. It was just warning us against being cliche in resumes.

  2. Athena

    Good article! I have LinkedIn and I rarely visit. I now know its quite useful especially in job searching. Thanks for these tips. I learned so well. =)

  3. Vickie Elmer

    I agree that we all need to be specific and avoid junk words or those that lose their meaning. But it’s also important to have the words in your profile that people use when they search – as I point out on my Fortune.com piece: http://bit.ly/u1qMao . If you must use these words to be found, use them sparingly and give the jump from the page examples too.

  4. Guest

    My take on this is: Avoid using LinkedIn altogether. If the medium is the message, then I’d rather use a more personalized way to present my personal brand.

    • Connie Crosby

      Probably best to avoid the fluff words altogether. A suggestion on what to do instead is given toward the bottom of the article.

  5. Using examples (PAS: Personal Accomplishment Statements) rather than over-used buzz words is spot on. Use the SAR format to describe your accomplishments. Situation – Action – Result

    • Alexis Koelbl

      Touhe! I am a corporate communications specialist. When I search for this job title, I get plenty of unrelated postings because “communications skills” is such an overused job requirement.

    • Bingo, Paul. Cliches are cliches, no matter where they are placed – and it only encourages the candidate to do the same, when these are used sooooo commonly by the recruiters placing the ads.

    • Catherine Adenle

      Good point, Paul. Agreed, all the words are overused but can Jessica do another post on the right set of keywords to use instead?

      • PDX Corp Recruiter

        Key words should not be adjectives. That’s just fluff. Key words to me are things like if the ad says “required – XYZ ERP experience” then you better have that listed down in the programs you know. Ultimately, those adjectives and adverbs up there aren’t really “key words,” because I will never do a search on the word “effective.”

  6. “Use language that illustrates your unique professional accomplishments and experiences,”

    I agree those overused words but what would be the best replacements for those words??uhmmm, now I’m think of an alternative words.

  7. It would be very good to know the most popular keywords for recruiters when searching for candidates. But it is important to include evidence to demonstrate your attributes and what you have actually delivered in your profile.

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  9. Yes, but what words, terms, aggregated or otherwise, are used by those in hiring positions and recruiters? While 1 through 10 appear trite and overused, that is how many job descriptions and postings appear. I submit that many job postings are too long, and almost draconian in style. Recruiters and Hiring Mgrs, alike, put too much and expect everything from an applicants. I know this is an employment market where these folks rule, and the applicant does not – but LinkedIn should offer a service helping recruiters/hiring mgrs get the right descriptions written to attract the right candidates. Candidates will respond with corresponding qualifications and will also learn to use qualifying terms in their profiles.

  10. ERIN ROSE B.

    As a recruiter, I search skills sets more than anything in regards to keywords. I have never searched for “creative dynamic problem solver” – so make sure your skill set keywords are accurate and plentiful. Think “seo” for your resume… Also use buzz words or the abbreviation for your industry, and list the multiple parent categories you qualify for. Ex: Finance + Capital Markets + Municipal Finance + Investment Banking + Public Finance. It may seem obvious, but it will make you turn up more often in the ‘right’ searches… also list all programs you know! Again, if you are in finance, it might seem obvious that you know excel, but if you don’t list it, you might not show up to recruiters based on how detailed they make their search query. In my niche, I always add ‘DBC’ to my search string to eliminate non-qualified applicants. AND- I would encourage you to think about how other companies call your position by a different title, so work those into your profile as well. Happy Hunting!

  11. It seems to me that it is too vague to say that “motivated” or other words are bad just because they are used frequently. When I am hiring, generally I have a specific skill set I am recruiting for, but I like to see people differentiate themselves.

  12. amilyjoe

    This is a great post. I agree that these words are used extensively and lost their meaning. But you need to represent your profile unique and different from other job seekers. We can show our strength just by describing the incident or giving an example. By this way our profile looks different as well as real and extends the visitors on profile.dentist coos bay

  13. Probst

    Thanks! I appreciate the tip. It motivates (inspires me) to revise my CV and pay attention to all the words. Keep the important ones and drop the bulk words…

  14. Helpful information.

    I’ve never paid too much attention to my linkedin profile, just created it, fill something out and haven’t touch it since. I was looking to play a bit more with it, since most of my friends tells me how great linkedin is.

    This article will come in handy. Thanks!

  15. I don’t think that there is any harm in a couple of words that describe you as a person – but the achievements you list must endorse your description. If there are no achievements anyone can describe themselves with one of the 10 adjectives above

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  17. Anonymous

    Interesting list. I’m a website designer, and I do use the word “creative” in my profile. I believe my 2 visual design degrees support the use of this word.

  18. Thanks for the reminder that we actually have more than just the ability to create something different and a little improvisation … really is not hard, just sometimes we forget to think outside the box.

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  21. Pillophyte

    So then… when the hiring manager types “creative, innovative, and motivated” into his or her search criteria, everyone will come up in the search EXCEPT ME!

  22. You guys are suckers – I am a motivated, effective, and creative organizational leader with a dynamic track record of innovative problem solving with extensive experience and developed communication skills

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  25. The irony of people who use words like these in your list is that so many people use them because companies use them to describe their ideal candidates.

    This leads to a second irony: #1: These companies are asking for bland, uncreative, uninspired, non-motivated, uneffective, – everything that is opposite of the qualities they think and say they want.

    #2: The companies themselves don’t fit the qualities they want either because their hiring skills are limited. These companies will only attract (and get) people applying for the jobs they offer who end up getting bored and spending most of their time in the job hating it.

    Bland, unoriginal companies get the employees they deserve.

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  27. Stan

    As someone who recruited employees before all of those words, creative, etc. really I would ignore anyway. I am going to spend my time on facts, what you did, how you did it, what were the results. Its like a friend of mine that put “graphic design” on her resume after achieving a Masters’ Degree, the (GD) was an AA degree. Do you think someone hiring you for a Masters in social work cares about your AA degree? She made so many excuses, “oh I can show how to …..” No. Get over it. What is important to you, may even reduce your chances of being hired if you try to argue your point. No one wants to hire someone that is combative of such a meaningless detail.

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