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Word cloud illustrating the prime concept of innovation and the words associated with it

Avoid cliches to shine in profiles


LinkedIn has revealed its top 10 buzzwords for 2017 – a list of the most overused words on New Zealand LinkedIn profiles – and recommends avoiding these clichéd words if you want to show originality and personality when highlighting skills.

Professional network LinkedIn analysed millions of profiles worldwide to compile the 10 worst offenders from the past 12 months. In New Zealand, the most hackneyed buzzword is strategic, followed by passionate and specialised.

So, why might these top 10 buzzwords be unimpressive or meaningless to prospective employers?

Strategic – makes you sound shrewd and clever but doesn’t actually say what you can do.

Passionate – passion is not an emotion you should associate with work. Yes, be keen and enthusiastic, but save passion for your lover, a favourite hobby or a good cause.

Specialised – you’re not so special when almost everyone these days is branding themselves as a ‘specialist’.

Leadership – anyone can be a leader but you need to make it clear whether you’re an emotionally intelligent leader or an arrogant know-it-all.

Creative – this means thinking up solutions and is a fundamental requirement of most jobs.

Experienced – every employer knows that attitude and aptitude are more important than experience.

Innovative – this means nothing to an employer unless you can show what you’ve ‘innovated’ lately.

Expert – like specialists, ‘experts’ are a dime a dozen and really, if you’re not doing your job expertly, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Successful – success is intangible and means different things to different people.

If these words do little to communicate why we’re good at our jobs, why is the world using them?

Author and biographer Christopher Sandford says there are several reasons:

Using new language and being creative with the words on our profile can be a daunting prospect and it requires effort. Opting for common buzzwords requires less thought and is often a more convenient approach.

Everyone else does

We’ve seen our peers use buzzwords and assume it’s the right thing to do – we think they sound professional without giving much thought to what the word really means.


Some of us use buzzwords as a way to illustrate and convey belonging to a certain group, or industry. It helps us to feel part of something and like we fit in.


Buzzwords are often used to seem knowledgeable when we’re not confident talking about our professional achievements.

Writing about ourselves is a challenge and using buzzwords is a way to avoid specifics.

“Too often we hide behind buzzwords which don’t mean anything, whether out of a desire to keep things simple, or because we don’t feel confident in talking about our work accomplishments.”

– Christopher Sandford

Shivar Kumar, LinkedIn head of communications Australia & New Zealand, says “LinkedIn data shows you only have five to 10 seconds to impress a potential employer online, so it’s important to stand out from the crowd.

“Using the right words and substantiating them with real examples of your work makes your profile more authentic.”

Sandford says while it may be convenient or seem smart to use buzzwords when talking about ourselves, professional achievements are better than generic buzzwords.

“The language we use says a lot about us so it’s important to choose your words carefully, especially in a professional context.

“Too often we hide behind buzzwords which don’t mean anything, whether out of a desire to keep things simple, or because we don’t feel confident in talking about our work accomplishments.

“With some relatively simple changes you can start to use language which truly conveys what makes you great.”

Sandford shares his tips on how professionals can stand out:

Make your words count: Your profile summary is one of the first things people look at, so it’s important to get it right.

You want the reader to want to know more about you, so start with something punchy. Don’t be afraid to lead with a short sentence, such as ‘Music is my first love’.

Be direct

It’s often tempting to speak in the third person when it comes to our working lives – don’t! It’s impersonal and won’t draw the reader in. Don’t shy away from adding some personality to your language – this is a great way to show your character.

Showcase your experience

Your LinkedIn profile is 12 times more likely to be viewed if you have more than one previous position listed. Tell your ‘work story’ by listing all your relevant previous roles and describe what you achieved in those roles.

Show, don’t just tell

Illustrate your unique professional story and your achievements by including evidence of your work.

Paint the picture with visuals

Whether that’s a video of you speaking at a conference, a research paper you authored, a news article that features you, or an image from a launch of a big campaign.


By Raewyn Court


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