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Get RID of Those Resume Cliches!

Jack Mulcahy -- How do you keep your resume from looking like everyone else's? First, you need to understand what doesn't work. Then, create a marketing document that successfully tells the story of you.

While perusing the Web, I came across the following example of a profile by a resume "expert." My comments are in parentheses.

Talented professional (so he says) with a solid academic foundation and cross-functional training in business and marine management. Demonstrated analytical, research, quantitative, and problem-solving skills (I don't see him demonstrating these qualities). Excellent communications (if he has to say this, he doesn't have them!), detail/follow-through, (by doing what?) and organizational skills (when and where and how?); excel in fast-paced, demanding environments (again, so he says). Customer service- and team-oriented (clichés). Recognized (by whom?) for productivity and dependability (by doing what?). Advanced computer skills (he shows me these skills in a separate heading, so why mention them here?); adept in quickly learning new technology and applications (again, he doesn't have anything to back this up; it's only a claim).

What I see in this resume are a number of items that could have come from anyone else's resume. There's nothing here that distinguishes this job-seeker from any of the thousands of others seeking a position. There's nobody home in this resume. This profile is a lot of air.

And yet, there could be so much more here. All of the items I've pointed out could (and should) be quantified by stories. There's a wonderful book entitled Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career by Katharine Hansen, which you can pick up at any bookstore, that shows you any number of ways your resume can be improved by storytelling. Show, don't tell is one of the first rules of writing. When you or I read something, regardless what it is, we want to be told a story. We don't want a lot of dry, lifeless adjectives and adverbs.

But some "experts" still keep painting the example above as "the" way to write a profile. So there must be an awful lot of look-alike resumes out there. Are they suggesting to these individuals that they should look and sound like everyone else? And if so, why? Does Star-Kist tuna market itself like Chicken of the Sea, after all? Does Sears brand itself like Macy's?

Don't let your resume look like everyone else's. Remember that your resume is a marketing document, and the "product" is YOU. Write your resume to show the IMPACT you've had wherever you've worked. Demonstrate your accomplishments, not your duties, and make sure the resume is about the future, not the past.

Jack Mulcahy, founder of, has over 40 years professional writing experience. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, books, and online blogs. Accolades include the ACRW and CARW, two of the highest and most exclusive certifications awarded to résumé writers. As a professional résumé writer, Jack's work has generated interviews for thousands of clients. In addition, his career includes employment in the business, non-profit, entrepreneurial, and government sectors. For more information, visit

© 2015 Jack Mulcahy

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