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Overused LinkedIn Buzzwords … Are Job Descriptions and Recruiters to Blame?

by
Paul DeBettignies
Dec 13, 2013, 9:45 am ET

LinkedIn came out with “Top 10 Overused LinkedIn Profile Buzzwords of 2013.”

As usual there has been a lot of attention given to this yearly list including articles giving advice on how not to use these words. I am sure speakers and trainers have already updated their slide decks.

So I wrote a blog post and sent it to Todd here at ERE with a bit of a rant about how I think job descriptions are to blame.

And how I wish LinkedIn would do the same thing with job descriptions.

Guess what? LinkedIn did, sort of.

Todd pointed me to The 10 Buzzwords Recruiters Overused in 2013 (scroll down here). It’s a look at Recruiter profiles and buzzwords.

And guess what …  you ready for this?

Some of the words are the same.

Are you shocked? I hope not.

So who is to “blame” for this?

I doubt those doing a job search, networking, and working on their personal brand just happen to be using the same set of buzzwords.

Is it possible that job seekers are using these words because they are seeing them in our profiles and job descriptions?

Do a job search for any of these overused buzzwords.

For example I found “innovative” 603 times on LinkedIn within 50 miles of Downtown Minneapolis, including:

  • “Do you want to be part of an exciting, innovative, and fast-paced growing software company”
  • “You’ll develop strategies that drive sales and innovation while creating a fast, fun experience that inspires guest loyalty.”
  • “…manufactures and markets innovative, high quality…”

A LinkedIn search for U.S. jobs containing some of the 2013 buzzwords gives these results:

  • 52,291 strategic
  • 37,983 effective
  • 32,848 innovative
  • 22,293 creative (many of the results have this in the title)

LinkedIn’s infographics state:

Originality goes a long way when marketing yourself to the professional world — both online and off.

When it comes to having a strong recruiter brand, originality and authenticity are keys to success.

The same can be said for job descriptions too.

So before we start giving the general population a lesson on how to best use their LinkedIn profiles we should first look at our own profiles and job descriptions.

Maybe then we can have more strategic, creative, and effective job descriptions and profiles that will bring us the innovative people we are looking to hire.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Maureen Sharib

    Here’s what I want to know:

    What Were The Top 10 Underused Buzzwords On Profiles On LinkedIn In 2013?

    What Buzzwords Would Recruiters Like To See In 2014?

    Add Yours.

    Here’s One From Me:
    Teachable

    What’s Yours?

  2. Cheri Wilcox

    As usual Maureen you read my mind.
    I’ll add my word: wisdom

  3. Maureen Sharib

    OK!

    We have two!

    We need 8 more!

    Anyone?

    Come on!

    It can’t be THAT hard…

    I’ll add another/ no, I’ll add three:

    Ready, Willing (and) Able

    That’s 5

    we need 5 more…

  4. Jim DAmico

    Paul great thoughts. I’m curious though on the OP’s thoughts, why does it matter? Is a commonality of words having a quantifiable effect on quality of hire and corporate earnings. I beleive most Americans, although they may have a considerably larger vocabulary, use only about 2,000 words with regularity.

  5. Paul DeBettignies

    Maureen and Cheri,

    I am not a buzzword guy and I cringe when I hear myself use them. The other day in a meeting I said “… thinking outside of the box..” and I froze, with a long pause, and apologized for being “one of them people”. Everyone laughed.

    Jim,

    My point was I see how our industry is quick to pass judgment on people, in this case their online profiles, when it us who are leading the pack.

    We use these words in job descriptions and then criticize people when they use them in their profile. That’s messed up.

    I noticed a number of our trainer colleagues commenting on the list and have those buzzwords in their profile too. Hypocrisy.

    Maybe the Minnesota winter is getting to me already?

  6. Maureen Sharib

    Overused Buzzwords-LinkedIn Profiles 2013

    Responsible Strategic Creative Effective Patient
    Expert Organizational Driven Innovative Analytical

    Dang Paul – you caught me out.

    I suppose it’s true: “When there’s a finger pointing there are three pointing back at you!”

    I had three of them in my LinkedIn profile!

    strategic
    If you believe people are a true strategic advantage – hire (or buy) the best!

    effective:
    TechTrak specializes in timely and cost-effective hiring and competitive research methods.

    organizational
    My Specialties:
    Organizational Discovery

    My first, knee-jerk reaction was to defend against them but then I got to thinking: “Hey, Maureen, you silly goose, use this as a learning opportunity! Maybe the Universe is trying to tell you something (again.)”

    So I studied my Profile landscape and decided it could use some old-fashioned erasing and correcting – back to the drawing board, so to speak.

    It was pretty painless to wipe away the “If you believe people are a true strategic advantage – hire (or buy) the best!”

    Here’s why: Almost nobody (really) believes people are a true strategic advantage and when you get right down to it our own sometimes acerbic Keith Halperin is probably right; most say they want to hire the best but truth-in-action sees them reluctant to pull their wallets far enough out of their six-inch-chained (to the bottom of their silk-lined) pockets to do so. Now that paltry, usually falls-on-deaf ears line reads:

    If you (truly) believe people can make a difference you’re going to have to reach them with a special message that tells them so. We can do that for you. Call us.

    My Specialties:
    “Organizational” Discovery – much tougher word to do away with. I struggled with that one because at the heart of what I do – that’s what I do! I frame out whole organizations within companies for my customers so they can see, at a glance, who does what for whom so they (my customers) might reach out to those persons within those (usually competitor) organizations to see if they want to do it for them!

    That’s been the meat and potatoes of my business from the beginning.

    How do you cut the surgeon out of heart surgeon?

    You don’t!

    I decided to leave it alone and I don’t feel I have to defend against it (although I just did!)

    effective: TechTrak specializes in timely and cost-effective hiring and competitive research methods.

    Hmmm… Does anybody really care anymore? Seventeen years ago when I wrote this I could demonstrate how my phone-sourcing services saved, on average, more than 78% of traditional recruiting costs but those numbers have transformed today and need to be stated differently.

    What probably says it better is that the savings are still offered; however they’re found more in the time component – it’s far faster to pick up the telephone – call into a company and gather the information needed than it is to spend hours and hours whaling and wiling away on the Internet sometimes chasing phantoms.

    How do you value Time – the most precious of all commodities? Can it even be considered a commodity? Is it something with value when more of it can never (truly) be purchased by any of us on this mortal Earth?

    That’s my dilemma early this still-dark and quiet Saturday morning and I’m going to ask for help from all of you in solving this one.

    I’m also going to thank you, Paul for encouraging this exercise and I encourage any of you reading this to do as I have done – run these words against your own profile – against your own marketing materials – for some comeuppance.

    In the story Camelot, when Lancelot is introduced he goes on at great length about how perfect he is for the Round Table.

    A knight of the Table Round should be invincible
    Succeed where a less fantastic man would fail.
    Climb a wall no one else can climb
    Cleave a dragon in record time,
    Swim a moat in a coat of heavy iron mail…

    But where in the world/Is there in the world/A man so *extraordinaire*?
    C’est moi! C’est moi, I’m forced to admit.
    ’Tis I, I humbly reply
    That mortal who
    These marvels can do
    C’est moi, c’est moi, ’tis I.

    When he meets Guinevere for the first time, she is less than impressed with his ego. When Lancelot asks what virtue he could possibly lack, she suggests, “Humilité?”

    As I recall, she goes so far as to spell it for him.

    H U M I L I T E

    I’m thinking this might make an excellent SIXTH WORD in our search for ten!

  7. Gareth Cooper

    We get these lists going around this time every year and 2014 will be no different.

    Who is to blame?

    Well maybe the following case will illustrate a possible reason for one of the unpopular buzzwords – “Innovative”

    1) LinkedIn develops and aggressively promotes a new product called influencers

    2) “The Innovators Dilemma” finds its way to LinkedIn as the buzzbook for 2013.

    3) Suddenly every recruiter with a LinkedIn account is encouraged and being influenced to create more disruption/innovation to stay relevant. Hey disruption does not sound to attractive as a personal characteristic in the realm of HR so innovative is the next best thing.

    3) Recruiters get inundated with message after message and version after version of innovate, innovate innovate…

    4) Recruiter believes he/she must stay relevant so uses innovative in the profile or job desc.

    5) Recruiter sees others being influenced and so he/she follows the flock.

    6) Dec comes by and the flock are told be be more innovative.

    Make sense?

    The way things are shaping up, “big data cruncher” is a leading contender for 2014′s unwanted buzzword.

  8. Sally Pelliccia

    I’m a little late to this discussion but have some thoughts. Some word usage – there is just no getting around. For example, I’d like to expand the realm of buzz words to include resumes. How does a graphic designer write a resume and not use the word “creative?” The same holds true for a product designer who is paid to “innovate.” Why wouldn’t you use these words in a job description? I don’t think it’s the word so much, as the same old cliché application. The words are fine, “effective” even, when used in thoughtful, substantive and well-written sentences.

    Also a factor – do our employers understand the effort required to write a good job description? Recruiters and hiring managers alike, are seldom afforded the time to write strong job descriptions.

    One last comment – have you ever noticed that most of the people who use the phrase “think outside the box,” seldom do?

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