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When it comes to resumes, I have one simple rule: if you can’t prove it, you can’t say it. That means statements like exceptional customer service, outstanding project management skills, and superior communication and leadership are O-U-T. Why? Because unless you won the Exceptional Customer Service Award, it’s just your opinion of your performance. Your resume needs to balance your desire to promote all the amazing qualifications you have with the needs of the employer who is desperately searching through piles of applicants to find the 10 (or so) best to interview out of hundreds of candidates. If you don’t offer proof, you likely won’t make the cut.

Employers want you to demonstrate your abilities, rather than claim them. Here are some suggested alternatives to the usual resume fare:

Weak statement: Superior/exceptional communication skills

Better: Demonstrated public speaking abilities through 10 conference presentations to audiences of 100+, and successful completion of the Toastmasters Advanced Communicator Gold level.

Strongest: Presented to medium-large groups at 10 professional conferences, resulting in 20% increase in sales from new clients.

The weak statement doesn’t actually say anything other than the applicant can communicate, and they think they’re good at it. The second statement is definitely stronger, but only focuses on the skill; it demonstrates that the candidate can speak in public and is good at it (the Toastmasters qualification) but it hasn’t related the skill to a professional application (how will this help the employer?). The third statement leaves out the Toastmasters designation in favour of stating the skill and connecting it with a measurable outcome.

So what does this mean for you? When editing, consider:

  • The impact your work or actions had on others. Did you help make money? Increase partnerships or collaborations? Acquire new clients? Make things better, faster, cheaper, safer? Have you introduced new things (products, services or programs) that address a need? Who was affected and how?
  • If you aren’t in a numbers industry, and there are few of those since even non-profits love their numbers, consider whether your work (e.g. research) contributed to larger or ongoing projects, which allowed others to build upon your contributions.

  • Leave out adjectives in favour of action verbs, and if you’re curious about the most overused words for 2013, check out this LinkedIn infographic.

As always, comments & questions are welcome at