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Make every word count

Ever since computers started answering customers’ phone calls, there have been automated greetings and messages to keep the caller occupied while on hold. We’ve all had the experience of hearing the recorded message – repeated over and over – assuring us our call is very important, and help is just a moment away, and asking us to please continue to hold for the next available representative.

We have learned the game, and to the computers’ credit, they have trained us to play along. But I wish the people who write the scripts would be honest. What if they provided meaningful information in those recorded messages? Like, sometimes, it says your estimated wait time is 4 minutes, or you are the…second…caller in line. That’s helpful! I can now manage my expectations accordingly.

This was on my mind last week when I called my doctor’s office. Their recorded message informed me my “call would be answered in the order it was received.”

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash
I don't know whether my call was received first, or fifteenth, or fiftieth. "Your call will be answered in the order it was received" is a meaningless serving of word salad masquerading as helpful information. Share on X

Such silence-fillers are intended to make the customer believe they are on the receiving end of some measure of service. Dear reader, let us not be fooled.

My quest in this resume writing gig is to rid resumes of meaningless phrases. My goal is to make every word count. 

For example: If, on your resume, you claim to be a strategic, out-of-the-box thinker who is proactive and results-driven – I’m going to ask you to prove it. I want concrete examples to support your assertion. Why? Most times, people use those words because they think they sound good. But I assure you, they don’t add anything substantive.

If you can't back it up, don't claim it on your resume. Share on X

Do you self-describe as a hard working, self-motivated team player? Well, gosh, who isn’t? I have yet to meet a job candidate assert that they’re unmotivated, uncooperative, and lazy.

See what I mean?

In contrast, what if you describe yourself as a “logical, innovative thinker, exercising just the right blend of strategic and tactical thinking to solve business challenges?” That’s better! Of course, I’ll still look for supporting information on your resume. But that description gives me (the interviewer) a framework to ask a targeted question that is more likely to yield a substantive answer.

Substantive answers make for better interview outcomes. Share on X

So: Make every word count. Join me in my quest to eliminate all the tired old phrases and use meaningful words instead. Try it when you’re writing emails! It’s good practice. Then read your resume and look for the word salad. Then replace or delete it.

For related reading, check out my previous post wherein I call for a ban on buzzwords.

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