Avoid Repetition on Your Resume

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blah word in 3rd degree handwritten on blackboardHow long does the average HR professional look at your resume?

Six seconds.

In six seconds, there’s no time for redundancy. Even after you’ve edited out any basic grammar errors, your resume may still be bogged down by repeated words, stock phrases, and concepts. Here are Grammarly’s top tips for avoiding repetition as you write your resume—and, hopefully, for getting the job of your dreams.

Use keywords wisely. Using keywords can be a great way to get your resume past the automated gatekeepers. Many companies use screening software to pre-sort the resumes they receive, and your chances improve if your resume uses the right keywords.  However, stuffing it with too many is just as bad as skipping them altogether. Once your resume makes it to a recruiting manager’s desk, it’ll sound like it was written by a machine. The best source for keywords is the job posting itself. Mimic the company’s language in your resume—just don’t overdo it!

Shift the focus from duties to accomplishments. If you’ve worked in the same field for years or done similar work for different companies, you may find that your resume looks like you’ve cut and pasted the same job description over and over again. Instead of listing your duties—which are often the same from job to job—try writing about your accomplishments instead. According to professional resume consultant Michelle Lopez, “Quite apart from the repetition, duties tell, they don’t sell. Employers expect more than a list of duties – they want you to show them the reasons they should consider you over another candidate. The way to do that is by showcasing your results.”

Vary your verbs. According to Dr. Matthew J. Livesey of The Art of the Resume, “When you repeat yourself, you send the clear message that you are out of new things to say, or that you are trying to cover over a deficiency of some kind.” One of the most frequently cited pieces of advice for resume writers is to use active verbs; however, make sure that you use a variety of verbs to describe your work history. Use a thesaurus if you’re stumped for synonyms, but be wary of what Linguist Henry Watson Fowler called “elegant variation”—using excessively flowery synonyms for a simple concept.

Watch out for stock phrases. Buzzwords, clichés, and empty jargon have no place in your resume. In an attempt to make work histories sound more exciting and accomplished than they really are, job seekers often dress up their resumes with impressive-sounding phrases. Unfortunately, hiring managers see so many of these phrases that the words lose any impact they might have had. Check out this list of twelve words and phrases to cut.

Read it out loud. The best way to catch and correct repetition in your writing is to read it out loud. You may feel a little silly, but the ear often catches what the eyes don’t. If you find yourself stumbling over a particular section or if your instinct is to read something differently than the way you wrote it, you should probably change it.

According to Ben Yagoda, author of How to Write Good, “word repetition is a telltale—maybe the telltale—sign of awkward, non-mindful writing.” So prove your skills to a prospective employer by taking the time to write the best possible resume!

Read more in Resume Writing

A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and nearly FIVE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
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