Most Overused Words LinkedIn Profiles

10 Most Overused Words On LinkedIn Profiles

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For the third year in a row, the top ten most overused words on LinkedIn profiles have been announced. And, for the third year in a row, I’m not shocked to see all ten words break the basic rule of personal branding: stay objective.

Opinions Of Your Skills Don’t Belong On LinkedIn

The ten words, as seen on this infographic, are subjective. Meaning, if you use them, you are stating an opinion of yourself. Take a look:

  1. Creative
  2. Organizational
  3. Effective
  4. Motivated
  5. Extensive Experience
  6. Track record
  7. Innovative
  8. Responsible
  9. Analytical
  10. Problem solving

The problem with using these words is, while you think it’s okay to talk about yourself in this way, the reader of your profile gets the mistaken impression that you think you are, “all that and a bag of chips.”

Simple Test To Fix Your Profile

The solution is to test your profile and then take out any words that aren’t fact. Here’s how you test it: simply read each sentence on your profile and then ask yourself, “Says who?” to each one. If you can’t validate it within the sentence you are using it in, then it needs to go.

I used all ten of the words on LinkedIn’s list below to show you examples of how they get misused.

  • I am an effective, motivated professional.
  • I am creative with extensive experience.
  • I have great analytical and organizational skills.
  • I am responsible and innovative.
  • I have a track record of problem solving.

For all of the above, you can’t help but think when you read them, “Geez. Don’t you think a lot of yourself?!” Or, as I mentioned above, the immediate reaction becomes, “Really? Says who?”

Solution: List Accomplishments

Once you edit your profile, go back through and insert accomplishments that prove what you were trying to say about yourself. These would be examples of better fits:

  • I have a 10 year track-record of exceeding my employer’s performance review standards.
  • I have created 20+ projects in X, resulting in $_M in new revenues.
  • I have completed more than 100 business analysis projects that have saved my employers $__+ in the last 2 years.
  • I have managed teams of 2-50 through 15+ complete project lifecycles.
  • I have worked with over 400 customers to solve implementation issues that reduced client service calls by 50%.

Final Tip: Quantify To Qualify

Notice all of the above use numbers, percentages and statistics to prove the skill. This is the most compelling way to validate your experience. When it comes to LinkedIn, facts are always better than fiction!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

J.T. O'Donnell

Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of CAREEREALISM Media. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

45 comments

  1. I think the use of these words depends on experience. If you have solid, concrete numbers to use (managed a team of x number of people, oversaw a project with $x budget, etc.) then you can afford not to use these words. However, if you are a college student/someone with limited experience, you are almost forced to use these words because it is the only way to market yourself. You have to try to point out your positive qualities to be attractive to any job that will give you meaningful experience.

  2. I find interesting the fact that any statement is subjective/opinion until tested objectively/using scientific means. Regardless of objective statements made by an applicant, the task of scientifically proving accuracy is placed on the human resource person evaluating truth.

    What I have observed are several paradoxes that are created by telling people how to present work history data.
    1) Aligning employment history with computerized HR systems
    The more information on a resume helps a person to align with job offer criteria, How does an applicant meet criteria without copy and pasting data directly from the job request file to meet computerized criteria?
    2) Employers wanting Condensed Resume but wanting details of applicants
    HR people appear to have become lazy because they apparently throw out resumes that are too long but want details of how people have gotten to where they are. How does an applicant provide details while condensing their resume?
    3) My favorite – wanting to hire “innovative” employees using computers to assess “the right fit.” I think this is referenced as “Creating a Box for Innovative people to fit in.” Isn’t that a clear example of an Oxy-Moron!!!

    I think businesses need to stop telling people how to present themselves and start appreciating what is presented. Most businesses are loosing the best people because they are trying to stifle innovative people by telling them how to behave.

    .

    • Valerie I totally agree, we live in a world where we expect to be be able to box people into nice little packages – I call it the bubble effect. Worse still commerce and business today seem to only value the extroverts among us who are really good at selling themselves, but don’t always walk their talk. I am an introvert by nature – a deep and high level thinker who is able to process complex situations and problems really well – problem is I need time to think these things out and that doesn’t fit with the razzle dazzle of being an extrovert. I have been reading a great book lately called “Quiet – the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”, it has made me understand that my quiet strengths and leadership abiities come from that inner quiet and thoughtfulness I naturally posess. Very validating and makes me confident to be true to myself and not bend to what others think I should be. Some of the greatest world leaders throughout history were intorverts, so that must say someting.

    • Valerie,

      After a few years in my industry I had a resume that grew to 10 pages. Long before that happened, I added a 1 page summary that included all the “computer buzz words” that were required for the job. Each job “block” I wrote included extensive details of precisely what I did at that job, the summary merely included buzz words that HR could use to identify a match. I made the recruiters job easy because they found the match and then let the hiring manager deal with the details.

      I didn’t need to copy & paste from the job request because I actually had the skills. While it’s true I sometimes needed to add words to my resume to describe things I’d done (“they have a word for that? OK”) I never needed to – nor would have considered lying about my skills. I am not comfortable applying for jobs where I don’t have the skills required. In fact I’ve turned down jobs because I felt I wasn’t a good fit. And once I hit 10 pages, I pared down each job description especially those where I did relatively obscure things or they led in a direction I didn’t want to pursue.

      What you may not realize is that your resume has to address two very different target audiences – HR & the hiring manager. The summary is for HR. They look at the buzz words after the computer selects a match and confirms the computer selected a good subset of the required buzz words. The details are for the hiring manager (who frequently doesn’t look at your resume until you’re sitting in their office).

      As for innovation vs “right fit” – they’re not mutually exclusive. “Right fit” means you get along with people and share some of the same interests – those interests could be anything from art, sports, animals, cars, brewing beer, working out to volunteering to work with children or the elderly; or anything else the people – especially the hiring manager – have an interest in. So if you enjoy 12th century Chinese architecture and everyone else at the company likes to go scuba diving then no, you’re probably not a good fit. It doesn’t (necessarily) mean there will be company scuba diving trips, but it does give people something in common to talk about at the water cooler other than company business – it’s how people “connect”.

      Innovation means being able to create something new – such as how to brew beer using scuba diving apparatus. And keep in mind that people that write job descriptions often overuse words too, typically because they have no idea what to request. “Umm… so what do we want? Innovative sounds good… oh and we want someone that’s a good fit, right? And umm… what else? No you can’t put smells good on a job description… No Bruce you can’t put that either…. lets go have a drink, we can finish this later…”

      What it boils down to is two very basic things – employers want someone that can do the job (ideally fast and well), and someone that does not make other people at that company uncomfortable.

  3. This is something I have had a problem with while re-writing my resume. I have an MBA but I could still be considered pretty inexperienced with 3-4 years experience in my field. When I try to write my resume and quantify my responsibilities it sounds very inauthentic. I find that quantifying works best when you are in a sales role or some other type of role where achievements are easily quantifiable such as customer support etc. But when you work as an analyst in an entry level position it is difficult to quantify without sounding like you are reaching and making things up. Does anyone else have this problem?

    • That’s a good point Maria. Even though some advice is simple to understand, it doesn’t make it easy to actually do.

      If you haven’t gotten an answer you like here, you should try posting this question in our Career Advice Forum so our experts can have a crack at it.

      • I totally agree with Maria. Depending on your industry, position and years of experience, it is not always easy to be able to quantify your achievements. Some skills can’t be explained with numbers but rather with words, but you don’t always have the possibility to explain them without going over the ideal number of words allowed in a personal statement/profile.

  4. If i see or hear the word “Stakeholder” once more i’ll go bonkers. HR are guilty.
    Whats worse, there are often multiple stakeholders.
    How easy is it to satisfy multiple stakeholders, just by picking up the phone and talking to them?

    • Edward, you’re right about how quickly things can get complicated once “stakeholders” are involved. Unfortunately, it seems similar to some other reasons people give in the workplace for why something has to be done a certain way. Sometimes, those reasons are legitimate. Other times, they’re just excuses for people who don’t want to do more work, or they only want things done their way.

  5. Do you mean “most used” or “over-used?” The former simply indicates repeated occurrence while the latter implies redundant or frivolous use. Surely someone commenting on word choice would not intentionally use the linguistically agonizing term “most over-used?”

  6. @Angela: I think I would ask the co-worker to delete the copied material. He or she may not give thought to the fact that duplicate content is not acceptable, and people are numb and blind to the idea that plagiarism is theft. A kind but firm direct request might do the trick. If not, escalation might be in order.

  7. First of all, thank you for this article. I thought it was helpful, and definitely had me thinking more deeply about the topic (and inspired me to update my own summary, although I chose to use humour instead of metrics). I read almost all of the comments and it seems like a great environment for open discussion and learning. I agree with what has already been stated by some, which is to combine the “subjective” statements with the more “specific & objective” statements. However, I’d like to provide some examples, as well as justifications for my point of view.

    Examples:

    Subjective statement (from the article): “I am an effective, motivated professional.”
    Objective statement (from the article): “I have a 10 year track-record of exceeding my employer’s performance review standards.”
    Subjective + objective statement :”I am an effective and motivated professional with a 10 year track-record of exceeding my employer’s performance review standards.”

    Why is combining both better than having only one or the other?
    Subjective statement only: There’s nothing to back it up, as the author rightly pointed out.
    Objective statement only: It doesn’t spell it out for readers. Sure it’s implied, but readers (scanners, really) are just skimming the content, without stopping to think, “hmm, what does this imply, and how is it relevant to the employee we want”.

    For example, look at this “objective statement” from the article: “I have worked with over 400 customers to solve implementation issues that reduced client service calls by 50%”. A reader could think: “so what? I’m not even looking for customer service representatives” and quickly brush it off. What if I intended to imply that I have “great problem solving skills”, but the reader infers that I have “great communication skills”, “interpersonal skills”, or that I am “efficient”, and so on…

    It leaves too much room for error, and nobody is going to sit there and dissect exactly “what I meant to imply”. Here’s what I think spells it out, and would be a helpful improvement for the readers/skimmers: “I have a track record of problem solving which enabled me to work with over 400 customers to solve implementation issues that resulted in reduced client service calls by 50%.” Clear, simple, and justified. Because people just don’t have the time. Although, having both a subjective and objective piece makes the sentence longer. So, any thoughts or improvements would be welcomed!

    Marketer/Content Writer/Aspiring Entrepreneur/Student of Life
    Antony

    • I think you make a great point and I like the way that you combined the subjective with a quantifiable objective. It sends the message clearly leaving little room, as you stated, for interpretation.

  8. I disagree 75% with the article (quantifying my statement for more impact).

    But seriously, my main reason for disagreement is that any good recruiter hiresprimarily for ATTITUDE, which is inevitably subjective, and therefore necessitates the use of subjective language. The reason I disagree only 75% is that your profile can never be totally subjective – there has to be some substance and several specifics included, for example, total number of years of work experience is absolutely essential.

    I believe the use of subjective terms, when used judiciuosly (another subjective word!), conveys a sense of the writer’s attitude, and these subtle signals are picked up by savvy recruiters. Many of the terms convey a sense of self-confidence and pride in one’s work.

    The other reason for including some subjective words is to pique the recruiter’s curiosity. I don’t reveal everything in my LinkedIn profile – if I did, i’d have nothing new to offer at the interview! Of course, it’s a tricky balancing act and therefore, once again, subjective!! (There’s no getting away from that word, is there?)

  9. @Angela, who wrote: “. . .I had a co-worker copy all of my LinkedIn accomplishments word for word. Now I have to go in and re-do my LinkedIn information. . .”
    I would ask the person to delete. He or she may not consider how inappropriate it is to have duplicate content, and the world of Facebook and DVDs has numbed or blinded people to the ethics of plagiarism and its relationship to theft. But you can explain how it affects you personally and ask for the copied material to be removed. And if that didn’t work, I might even play hardball and threaten to see if LinkedIn would intervene. So . . am I overreacting?

  10. Some interesting dialogue on this topic. In my opinion, JT’s article hits the mark for what she was trying to accomplish. Today most recruiters and employers are primarily looking for impact when they read a resume, not just what you say you are good at doing, and you are lucky if you have 15 – 30 seconds to convey that. This is a significant change from resumes in the past when listing your job description was good enough to secure an interview. I believe her point was that if you are just indicating what you did but not how well you did it, then you are missing the mark.

    I would recommend a few things to key on. First, study job postings for positions that you would be interested in doing and make sure your keywords and examples of results match what they are looking for. Many people tend to write what they want to say about themselves and do not concentrate on what their audience needs to hear. Second, try to create a good balance between soft and hard skills. Third, think of writing in sound bites rather than lengthy paragraphs. Some of the most powerful resumes I have seen used very few words but were highly targeted. Fourth, I do agree that your LinkedIn profile should closely mirror your resume, especially since many more people will be exposed to your profile. And lastly, stop tweaking your resume and get out there and network. In many cases, resumes are no longer the leading activity that get people noticed but serve as trailing documents. It’s a whole other topic, but I have seen this site publish good guidance on the this in the past.

  11. Not a fan of this article. I think the issue I am having is that the “problem” and the “solution” are delivered as “do one and not the other.” The real solution is to use both. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “I am an effective, motivated professional.” It just works better to follow it up with a statement of why you think that is true: “I have a 10 year track-record of exceeding my employer’s performance review standards.” Each statement provides context for the other and that’s what makes them work. I don’t think the article was clear on that point. It seemed like the author was expecting you to replace the former statement with the latter.

  12. Thank you. Your article should be eye-opening to several. I have one caveat. On top of all those often used phrases and terms, I find the overuse of quantitative data, in resumes, compellingly annoying. It reminds me of my over 20 years auditing performance evaluation reports in the military – service members are way too consumed/fixated with the idea of quantitative compliments versus the total person concept. If one is not careful, this approach can prove just as ineffective.

  13. This is somewhat confusing…
    It’s great advice, and all of the subsequent posts & replies have valid points as well.
    When we are ‘told’ by ‘them’ (whomever ‘they’ are) to use these words in resumes, and LinkedIn seems to me to be an online resume’, how are we supposed to differentiate? Should we change our resume’ as well? And in doing that, we’d be adding much more verbiage, thereby increasing the length if our résumé. What employer wants to see a 4-page resume’ from someone like me, with over 20 years if experience?

  14. Hello colleagues:
    I read all of your comments and I have replied to several of them.

    Here is where Mr. T.J. O’Donnell is incorrect.
    It ISN’T THE WORDS YOU ARE USING but rather HOW YOU ARE USING THEM.
    Of course if you used these 10 traits without any justification, one may think “so what.”
    However, if you apply the S.A.R. technique in resume design and you interweave these 10 traits in it, you have presented a very compelling evidence.
    For those who may not be familiar with the SAR technique, it stands for:
    Situation-Action-Result.
    What Mr. O’Donnell should have done is the following:
    While people overuse these traits here is how you should use them.
    Well, I will do it not only for him but for everyone’s benefit.
    In the SAR approach, instead of referring to your work experience by enlisting each job you have held (I call that a backward looking resume) you state:
    Situation: When I first started with XYZ co. the inventory room was chaotic.
    Action: I applied ABC inventory method creatively, organized the entire department effectively and motivated my employees to take pride in keeping accurate inventory records.
    Result: We solved many of the problems ABC had previously in fulfilling clients’ orders, which kept our clients happy and made the company more profitable.
    As you probably noticed, I used: Creative, Organized, Effective, Motivated, and Problem Solving; Five out of his ten “most commonly overused words.”
    In conclusion, Dear Mr. O’Donnell, it is not the words you are using, but how you use them.
    A final comment: Mr. O’Donnell’s picture represents negativity, thumbs down? Why? Why would anyone try to motivate anybody negatively? Don’t we have enough negativity on the news and all around us?
    PS: You may find more on the subject I addressed above in my book “Career Success” by Professor Dr. John N. Kalaras, on Amazon.com.
    Best of luck to all of you,

    • It’s Mrs. , and J.T., right? And it’s an article, not a book, hence the shortness, probably. I liked it. I am not a Quality Guru though.

  15. I highly disagree with the suggested rewording of a profile. When I see a profile righted as suggested, that’s when I go “ooh really, says who?”. I mean, how can you claim running projects realizing $20M. Wouldn’t that be done by a team? You may have been the lame duck on the team. Also, how would I ever be able to verify that information. No past employer in his/her right mind would accept a call from a higher manager and confirm that what is claimed is actually true. I believe your profile is should contain some subjective statements.

    Selling yourself in the way suggested makes it look like you are an Amway salesperson or dealing in second hand cars. It just doesn’t ever ring true with me.

    • Gregory Krasichynsky

      Hard numbers work well – whether we like it or not, metrics have become the expedient way to compare (fairly or unfairly) qualifications or at least the ability to describe qualifications. Recruiters and HR professionals will not look more deeply into qualifications if their resume does not stand out – we just do not have the time.

      When I have hired over the years, merely reading that the applicant =knows= which KPIs matter (and why) tells me that there is a baseline of understanding to build on. Team effort or not, that understanding is more valuable to me than proportion of contribution as indicated on a pie chart.

      What I take from this article is that while it may be metrics, it might also be something else that attracts an employer – but that an applicants odds are reduced if their claimed achievements are vaguely described and completely unmeasured, and also if they overstate their value. False modesty is not required, but false bluster is certainly to be avoided.

      In the end, avoiding the use of trite, hackneyed phrases and words has been important to me – I begin to skim lightly or even just 86 the CV the moment I see the words dynamic, proactive, or creative. Their use expresses a lack of originality and creativity. They’re not poison, but if those adjectives are the heart of the content – for me, there is nothing there. (Qualifier: if the applicant is over 21. I blame business school profs for inculcating young graduates with the buzz speak of the professors’ generation.)

    • So just because you don’t believe it that means it’s not true? I was responsible for 300 M dollar fixed asset projects and yes I had a team of project managers who ran the capital projects but overall I was responsible for the budgeting and record keeping

  16. A rose by any other name is still a rose. If one has the integrity of character to claim certain attributes and as long as those claims are true, then it makes little difference to me how one would explain their talents in words. I am not a well educated man however I fail to see the point.

    No offence meant.

    Kind regards,

    Chris.

  17. As someone who has spent a lot of time browsing LinkedIn profiles as part of recruiting for open roles, I’d say that actual experience always outweighs any “filler” words (whether they are overused or not). Your past experience & skills are going to be what gets you the interview. During the interview is when I look for the less tangible qualities such as “hard working” or “responsible” and I will ask for lots of examples to determine this. I don’t think saying any of these things on your LinkedIn will necessary “hurt” you but I think it distracts from what recruiters are actually looking for, which are your tangible skills and past experiences.

    • Tangible skills and past experience! The only way to actually prove these claims would be to see them in action.
      How does one recruit a person except by what they claim they can do, or/and what they have done in the past. You can only take their word for any claims and bear out any experience with previous employers. I don’t see any other way around it. A tangible skill is something seen in action. Experience is something witnessed by the person and others. I take my hat off to you though, you have a difficult job. One I don’t believe I could effectively carry out. I would always be wondering if I sent the right person to the right job. That of course is the nature of the beast, you surely would have to go by what is written by the applicant and what they claim to have done. A few years ago I saw several men building small brick walls at a building site. The walls were inspected and then some of them were kicked over. I ask one of the onlookers what was happening and was informed that, there were two bricklaying positions available for which a dozen or so applicants turned up for. The supervisor found the two applicants he was looking for by the workmanship in one metre high walls. Now that’s tangible proof but impossible for you yourself to do for obvious various reasons. Please excuse my grammar and lack of punctuation. I went to thirteen schools and was never taught the art and I am now retired and honestly don’t want to learn. I spend my time oil painting.
      Kind regards, Chris.

      • I have just read my reply to you (again) I read it several times before posting it. Reading it now sounds arrogant, especially the last sentence. This was not my intention and I apologise unreservedly for any offence I may have caused you or others reading this post.
        Kind regards,
        Chris

        • Not a problem! Didn’t take offense. You’re right that recruiting is very subjective – all you can do is do the best you can – and learn from the times you’ve assessed wrong. Not a perfect science at all!

          • Hi, Jamie. I appreciate what you are saying and agree with you. Thank you for your kind comments.

            Kind regards,

            Chris

            P.S. I hope you and yours have a wonderful peaceful Christmas.

    • Hello Jamie:
      You are correct;
      After all what is the purpose of a resume?
      To trigger the reader’s interest to contactt the candidate.
      As you very well said, during the interview you will substantiate these traits.
      Very well said, Jamie!
      PS: As an author of a college text that’s on Amazon.com, and a university professor, I shall reply to the main article after I read some more comments. Please read below….

  18. I completely disagree with your suggestions J.T. Employers don’t buy the steak, they buy the sizzle. The phrases you are suggesting are rather generic. They would cause the resume of an otherwise qualified candidate to be overlooked. This would especially be evident in a sales oriented job. Employers want confident individuals, not robots. Please consider this before putting out another article, as I believe you should go back to the drawing board.

    Regards,

    Anthony

    • Anthony. I find your comment quite abrasive and uncalled for. This is a forum to discuss views the way we see it. By all means have your two penny’s worth but there is no need to be rude in doing so.
      The people writing here are of all ages and experience. Could you be a little more helpful. Many thanks.
      Regards,
      Chris

  19. Objective v.s. Subjective

    I totally agree with this article.

    However, with all due respects, please do not “preach” about being objective when most (if not all) of your articles are subjective (by “your” I mean “J.T. O’Donnell’s”).

    PS: once again, I totally agree with everything in this article, however if the word “stay objective” were not here, I wouldn’t have made a comment exceeding my initial statement (“I totally agree with this article”).

  20. I am with Chris, I understand that some might consider those who use them to have inflated egos, but I believe if the endorsements match up well, then it gives them more validity. I also believe that people want to work with confident people, and it doesn’t take very long to know if someone is cretive, responsible or analytical. It boils down to integrity, and if someone is willing to talk the talk, then they should be ready to walk the walk.

    My two cents,

    Ave

    • I totally agree with this comment which is worded far better than the piece that I posted.

      I was always taught that “integrity is what you do when no one is looking” I love this quote and live my life by it. If I were to claim a particular attribute then it has to be true and correct. Those that claim to be what they are not will come undone eventually. As the original writer stated ” a workmate copied exactly what I had written and had to re-write my copy” (not exact wording) the problem as far as I see it lays on the shoulders of your work mate. Personally I would have left my own copy untouched as it was the truth as you believed it to be. The person who plagerized your copy will have the eventual problem of explaining their embellishments. Kind regards Chris.

      • Chris,

        Thank you for the great quote you posted. You are absolutely right. What is done is usually brought to light. I appreciate your comments. I also agree with your question on how do we sell ourselves if all the(recommended)key words are deleted. I had a career coach tell me to add as much of these key words as possible along with your accomplishments. There is conflicting information out there on how to properly set up a LinkedIn profile. My friends and I have discussed this very topic and it comes down to what each individual believes is the right way to sell yourself.

    • As a recruiter, I don’t usually get hung up on which words are used. I look for experience(vs the requirements of the position), longevity in positions and attention to detail of the resume.

      Speaking and meeting with the candidate will either make what was stated on the resume ring true or not.

      Also with all the advice posted on the Internet(regarding job searching,etc) mediocre candidates on paper may seem like rock stars.

      Asking questions for specific examples and detailed experiences of the candidate in my opinion helps me find the right candidate.

  21. I do agree with providing accomplishments to show what you can do. The down side is I had a co-worker copy all of my LinkedIn accomplishments word for word. Now I have to go in and re-do my LinkedIn information. That is frustrating since I took the time to figure out how to word my accomplishments.

    Angela

  22. Hi. Although I agree in part with your comments it leaves me with the question. How do we sell ourselves if we delete all of your recommendations?

    Kind regards,

    Chris.

    • Objective v.s. Subjective

      Hi Chris, what is meant is you must sell yourself by showing results which implies you have those skills instead of only “claiming” you have those skills. For example (as mentioned by J.T. O’Donnell in this article): Instead of saying, “I have a track record of problem solving,” it’s recommended to say, “I have worked with over 400 customers to solve implementation issues that reduced client service calls by 50%.”

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