Brenda Bernstein challenges us to spot these overused words in our LinkedIn profiles and find other ways to describe our accomplishments
This issue, I’m waxing nostalgic. Almost every year from January 2010 to January 2018, LinkedIn would publish an annual list of the top 10 buzzwords found in LinkedIn profiles from the previous year. January 2019 came and went without a list, and January 2020 seems to have done the same. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth looking back to see which buzzwords have remained year after year. And I have high hopes there will be another list coming in the future.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the most popular buzzwords EVER and see what that means for you!
With nine years of buzzword lists, there is technically a potential for 90 different words; however, only 30 have ever shown up. Indeed, less than three dozen words have been dominating LinkedIn profiles for almost a decade.
Want to see all of the lists side-by-side? I did!
LinkedIn Buzzwords from 2010 to 2018
The Only 30 LinkedIn Buzzwords Ever Published
Here are all 30 words that have appeared in LinkedIn’s Buzzwords articles, ranked by the number of times they’ve appeared.
Seven of the same words were on the list consecutive years from 2016-2018:
These words are not so bad, really. When I saw this list, I was relieved that “extensive experience” and “track record” had dropped off the list from their places the year before. Honestly, I’m on a mission to ban those phrases from resumes and LinkedIn profiles – can you help me? (If you do, you will really be helping yourself.)
What Should We Make of the Top 10 LinkedIn Buzzwords?
Sometimes words are overused because they work. While there’s an idea out there that we should avoid these “overused” words, at some point we need to accept that some of the Top 10 LinkedIn buzzwords have longevity. They are important and might not be going away.
Let’s take a look at the seven most popular words from the most recent three years of LinkedIn buzzwords lists. Many of these are useful. Your viewers on LinkedIn want to know where you “specialize”; plus, your specialties serve as keywords with SEO value. The same can be said about “expert” – as long as you truly have significant knowledge of an area. “Experienced” might not be as valuable unless it comes with a number of years. “Leadership,” while perhaps overused, is an important skill and there aren’t a lot of other ways to say it. Hopefully you have a qualifier with “leadership” like “strategic leadership,” “team leadership,” “thought leadership,” etc. And note that “strategic leadership” scores you two buzzwords in one!
Speaking of which, “strategic” is an unavoidable and essential word for anyone in a senior role.
“Creative” is the name of a department and of a deliverable, not just a nice adjective, so it makes sense that it would be on the list repeatedly. Just make sure that if you claim “creative” as an adjective describing yourself that you back it up with evidence.
My least favorite repeating word is “passionate.” If you have stated that you are “passionate” about something, consider that you might be able to convey your passion in another way, such as through examples and a tone of excitement.
The one other word I must address is “successful,” which was a new arrival to the 2018 list. “Successful” is probably the word I most often delete from people’s resumes. If you get clear results from an action, clearly you are successful, and you don’t have to use that word to tell us so. Saying you’re successful does not convince us that you are – it’s your results that speak to your success loud and clear.
Backing Up Your Buzzwords
As illustrated by the examples above, it’s an ongoing challenge to stay grounded enough in your accomplishments that even if some buzzwords appear, they do not come across as trite or cliché. I challenge you to spot these overused words in your profile and find other ways to describe yourself and your accomplishments.
Watch out for unsupported adjectives and other sweeping claims. Whereas anyone can claim to be motivated or creative, or to have a track record, not everyone can claim that they stepped into a competitive [insert type of]market and drove an organization from #2 to #1 worldwide, or that they conducted a multi-media campaign that increased a customer base by 500k.
Whatever your achievements, get to the details and stop using the same words everyone else is using to “try” to sound good. It’s not working! Instead, use LinkedIn best practices for each section of your profile, especially your headline, job titles, special sections, skills & expertise, and recommendations. That’s how you’ll call positive attention to what you have to offer.
Using Keywords in Your Headline
Be careful not to overuse buzzwords in your headline; instead, focus on keywords that your target audience will be looking for.
If you are a job seeker, your main goal is to be found and contacted by recruiters and hiring managers. Focus on the 4-5 top keywords a recruiter would be searching for when looking for someone like you.
If you are a business owner or professional wanting to attract clients, stack your headline with the keywords your clients would be searching for. My headline reads:
Resume & LinkedIn Profile Writer, Author, Speaker ★ Executive Resumes ★ C-Level Resumes ★ Executive LinkedIn Profiles ★ College Essays ★ Law School Admissions Essays ★ MBA Admissions Essays
The result of having these keywords – NOT buzzwords – in my headline (and also in my summary, specialties and job titles) is that many people find me when they are seeking the services I provide.
Headlines that go beyond just your job title and company give spark and color to your profile; and they can help you – along with a robust network and engaged activity on LinkedIn – to appear at the top of search results.
So… which of the most popular LinkedIn buzzwords appear in your LinkedIn profile or the LinkedIn profile of your executive? Is it time to reevaluate? Do you want to keep them or toss them? Or will you withhold judgment until the next round of buzzwords comes out?