Don't remove all those LinkedIn clichés just yet

December 14, 2011: 10:19 AM ET

Before you ditch the buzzwords, consider that many  hiring managers use those same words to search for candidates. How to choose the right words.

By Vickie Elmer, contributor

FORTUNE -- After LinkedIn announced this year's lists of the most overused words in its profiles yesterday morning, an array of people pulled theirs up to see whether they flaunted their "creative," "effective" "track records" a bit too much.

A few tweeted that they had none of the 10 worn-out words in their LinkedIn profiles. Many others, including LinkedIn's (LNKD) co-founder, couldn't say their profiles were clear of clichéd terms.

"Creative" was the most overused term in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.K., while in Singapore, professionals lean on "track record." LinkedIn users in India are partial to the word "effective." The U.S. list, drawn from the career site's 135 million public profiles, also included shopworn phrases like "extensive experience" and "problem solving."

While the survey may nudge some job seekers, consultants, and others to revise their profiles, before you eliminate all 10 words, it's fair to consider whether any of them are going to be used by hiring managers or recruiters who may type these same words in LinkedIn searches when they're looking for candidates.

Experts suggest checking out job listings in your industry or postings that interest you to scan for any of the overused words -- and if they do include those words, leave them in your profile.

"A little goes a long way," says Deborah James, an executive resume writer with Leading Edge Resumes in Toledo, Ohio. For executives, she packs their LinkedIn profile with key words such as contract negotiations, P&L, business development, as well as some words that are specific to the industry where they hope to land a position. Her advice: "Get straight to the point" and avoid fluffy words like "motivated," and "success," which didn't make the LinkedIn list.

"Buzzwords are words we're lazy with. They're filler words … people just skim over them," said Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's connection director. "You need to differentiate yourself…. You've got to stand out from the crowd."

Yet Williams' profile is not immune -- she uses "dynamic" once. And LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman's profile is not buzzword-barren either. His profile includes "motivated" three times.

Williams recommends that jobseekers go to their target company's website and use the exact words they include in the job description or announcement. "They're looking for the words that are true to that industry," she says. Stay simple and clear when listing job titles, too. "You're not the vice president of miracles; you're the vice president of marketing," she says.

LinkedIn's overused words list, first created last year, is culled from the summary section of LinkedIn's public profiles. The site's staff translated the words into English and dropped all the overused nouns -- especially "mobile" -- and then sorted the words by frequency, according to a methodology box on the site. Their approach this year was somewhat different from 2010, but the lists still overlap; words like innovative, motivated, extensive experience, problem solver and dynamic are all in there.

"Instead of using adjectives to describe yourself, you want to illustrate it," says Donna Schilder, a career and leadership coach who has a video series on how to use LinkedIn to give your career a boost. If you want to show you're a "team player," talk about the times you've led the team or supported the team. Use the word "we," which is a good indicator that you are collaborative.

Schilder recommends that applicants include numbers when possible to show the size of their impact. If you don't have specifics, you can often come up with a solid estimate of your impact.

One way to get to the specifics that grab a recruiter's attention, Schilder says, is to answer questions such as "What impact did I have on the customer?" or "How have I helped increase sales or retain customers?"

"People don't know their accomplishments until someone's interviewing them," she says.

So while you're purging the overused words, also pack your profile full of details of your experience and expertise. A recruiter that is looking to hire a tax professional wants to know whether the candidate has experience with multi-state returns, not if he or she is a "problem solver" or has a "dynamic personality," says Tyrone Norwood, a Birmingham, Mich.-based career strategist and recruiter. Most of LinkedIn's overused words seem like white noise to him, and don't really reveal anything. "I'm much more interested in the types of federal taxes that you've done."

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LinkedIn's 10 most overused buzzwords for U.S. profiles 2011:

1. Creative
2. Organizational
3. Effective
4. Extensive experience
5. Track record
6. Motivated
7. Innovative
8. Problem solving
9. Communication skills
10. Dynamic

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