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Creative, organizational, effective – and totally predictable

If your LinkedIn profile says you are "creative innovator with an extensive track record of effective organizational problem-solving" then you might be a job-hunting cliche'. You also may be job hunting a bit longer than you would like.

LinkedIn, the social networking career website, on Tuesday released its annual list of the most overused buzzwords and phrases.

 “Creative” tops the list among professionals based in the U.S. who used the website’s profiles in 2012. “Organizational” and “effective” were the next two most overused words.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that job seekers with these admirable traits (and who aren’t afraid to say so) should stop using these words.

“Focusing on overused words can often be a missed opportunity,” said Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. LinkedIn profiles “are not one-page resumes,” she said. An online profile allows more space to better detail experiences and to demonstrate and quantify what job candidates have done by adding more skills.

“The more specific, the easier it is to find” a prospective employee, Williams said. “Deeper dive” profiles are more convincing and effective than relying on commonly used words, as they set the candidate apart by providing concrete examples, using hard data and linking to projects that are unique. 

Other buzzwords that rounded out the top 10 among U.S.-based professionals include: motivated, extensive experience, track record, innovative, responsible, analytical and problem solving.

Using common buzzwords can sometimes be good, career experts said, but with qualifications.

“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,” said Susan Britton Whitcomb, author of “Résumé Magic,” and president of the Career Coach Academy in Fresno, Calif.

 “So what that you're creative?  What does that mean?” Whitcomb said, noting that a description that  translates into “saving money, making money, or saving time” for employers is the bottom line for hiring managers or human resource professionals.

Trudy G. Steinfeld, assistant vice president and executive director of New York University’s Wasserman Center for Career Development, agreed.

“I’m a big fan of LinkedIn,” said Steinfeld, “but I think that for anything on a resume, you have to be able to back it up.”  The way the job market searches are conducted today via electronic screening, certain key words and phrases are essential, but providing details that reinforce those words is critical. “I can’t stress that enough.”

Job candidates writing resumes and online profiles should not only qualify key words but also use the opportunity to differentiate themselves. “That is key,” Steinfeld said. 

Wendy S. Enelow, a career consultant and author of more than 20 books, including “Best Keywords for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews," said keywords are the backbone of any effective resume. "They should help you get the job. I don’t care that they are underused or overused.” In certain professions, she said, it is essential that particular keywords or phrases be used.

For example, if a recruiter is looking to fill a spot in an advertising agency, the word “creative” or “creativity” is appropriate. “That word better be in. It should be overused. You haven’t helped yourself if you leave it out,” Enelow said. And a logistics professional would be expected to include the phrase “supply chain management,” she said. “I don’t care if every other logistics executive uses it, they could help you get the job,” said Enelow, who is also executive director of Career Thought Leaders Consortium, a think tank of career industry leaders.

However, she said certain soft skill words that reflect a candidate’s attributes, such as “responsible,” might be more acceptable for a college graduate just starting a career with limited experience than for a 54-year-old senior level executive who has run a business, when such qualities would be expected. In that case, strong verbs, like “managed” or “directed,” would have more impact.

“I think that you have to use words that are appropriate,” Enelow said.

This is the third year that LinkedIn has issued its buzzwords ranking. Last year, “creative”, “organizational” and “effective” were also the top three overused words. In the 2010 ranking, the first year the study was conducted, “extensive experience” was the No. 1 buzzword. This year, LinkedIn noted, more members described themselves as “responsible” and “analytical,” which made an appearance on the ranking for the first time, bumping “dynamic” and “communication skills” from the list. “Motivated” is now ranked higher than “extensive experience,” the top buzzword in 2010.

The study also included the No. 1 buzzwords for other countries. Creative also was the top word in Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden. In Switzerland, the top overused buzzword was analytical; in India: effective.