Resume Help/Words in my resume


Dear Dr Converse,

I have read your books and been to your workshop and you have advised people not to use phrases in their resume like "problem-solver" or "attention to detail" and other things.  I guess my question is why not?  What is wrong with those phrases?

Thank you for your assistance.

Hi Kari,

I am glad you have attended my workshop; I hope you got some help via your attendance and from my books.  Your questions are certainly understandable; perhaps I did not address my objections sufficiently in the workshop or in my writing, so let me expand on my reasons here.

Remember first of all, that your job in what you send an employer is to stand out from the rest of the applications that the employer receives.  If that employer gets 100 applications for the job you want, they have a lot to wade through so you need to set yourself apart from everyone else in some professional and meaningful way.  One of the best ways to do that is NOT do what everybody else does.  Thousands of people every day (so employers tell me) claim that they can solve the employer's problems or that they possess great attention to detail.  So, if you claim the same things, how does that set you apart?  Answer: it doesn't.  And because thousands of people make these very same claims (and many others), employers have started doing something over the last several years : they have stopped reading these kinds of things in resumes at all.

Many people include such boilerplate (as it is commonly termed) in their resumes and, since so many people do it without supporting their claims in any meaningful way, employers simply don't pay any attention to lead-off headings in resumes like "Skills" or "Objective" or "Professional Characteristics" or anything other than "Experience" and "Education."  So, don't include it because it won't be read the overwhelming majority of the time.  

If you DO pay attention to detail, list what you have actually DONE that demonstrates that skill as a bullet item beneath the employer to which it applies.  In other words, if you completed a task or assignment in a previous job (or in a class that you took) that convincingly shows that you did exemplary detail work, then include that in a brief bullet.  You may have to think back over your past experience to come up with a specific task that you completed which included detailed work, but that is the only thing that carries any weight with most employers.  If you simply make the claim, but don't provide evidence, then it is simply an idle "throw-off" without substantiation and employers will - in nearly every case - simply ignore your claim.

Remember: the resume needs to be a snapshot of WHAT you have done, WHEN you did it, and WHERE you did it.  And these things you have done need to be specific to the employer's need for that particular job.  Anything else is simply page filler.

If you would like me to take a look at your resume when you finish it, I will be glad to give you my assessment.  Just attach it to an email and send it to the address below.

Best wishes,

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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