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Avoid generic language on your resume

Consider your resume. Does it include unsupported claims such as "highly-motivated engineering student," "possess excellent communication skills" or "strong leadership ability"? If so, your resume is likely to be seen as generic or unconvincing to employers.

ANYONE can make these types of empty claims on a resume. Candidates that provide specific examples and quantifiable data to support their claims on the resume make a positive impression and are more successful in the job search process. Think: what would happen if you turned in a lab assignment that simply stated "achieved the desired results" without any evidence to support your conclusion? You would probably fail the assignment. The same principle applies to your resume: You must support your assertions!

Here are some examples of how ECS advisors have helped engineering students make their skills and experiences stand out, without using generic language:

A mechanical engineering student was able to replace the claim "possess excellent communication skills" with specific examples that demonstrate how he developed this skill and how he has put it to work in his co-op experience:

  • "Developed strong written communication skills by taking the lead on project documentation in the FEH Robot project. Awarded outstanding documentation in the annual robot competition."

  • "Presented the results of CAD project to the senior engineering team during co-op experience. Received excellent remarks for the quality of the work and technical presentation skills."

Another student's unsupported statement "strong leadership ability" was replaced with examples of her leadership skills in action:

  • "President of Alpha Zeta sorority, Spring 2010-2011"; "Corresponding Secretary of the Omega chapter of an Engineering Honorary, 2007-2009"; "Achieved Dean's List every quarter, 2009-present."

She was also able to describe ways in which her leadership improved her organizations:

  • "Increased membership in the Engineers for Public Service group from 10 to 35 members through a comprehensive outreach strategy"; "Developed a website for the Omega chapter of Engineering Honorary in 2008, resulting in increased membership and interaction with engineering employers for professional development opportunities."

Finally, one chemical engineering student replaced "highly-motivated engineering student" with evidence that will convey this fact to an employer:

  • He highlighted his strong GPA by including his overall AND his major GPA (which was significantly higher than the overall, thereby emphasizing his strengths in his field of study).

"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
-Lewis Cass

Authored by Rachel Ligman.