If you describe yourself as “creative,” “organizational” or “effective” in your LinkedIn profile, you may want to rethink the words you use.
According to new research from LinkedIn, those three labels are among this year’s most overused–and consequently ineffective–buzzwords that its U.S. members use.
“In this tight economy, you really need to stand out from the crowd to catch a hiring manager’s eye,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s connection director. “If you’re using the same words that everyone else on LinkedIn is using, you’re blending in. Buzzwords are really just blank words. No one is really paying attention to them.”
Instead, Williams recommends taking some time to reassess how you portray yourself through your profile and examine the language you use. Here are five tips to get you started on a successful year.
1. Show, Don’t Tell
Because competition is so fierce, Williams says it’s especially important to avoid the thesaurus and focus on showing people your qualifications and successes instead of telling people about them.
“Just because one word is a buzzword doesn’t mean you should look up a new word to replace it with. Instead, ask yourself how you can demonstrate what you’ve done,” she says. “Instead of describing yourself as ‘creative,’ give an example that shows how you’ve been creative–like how you developed a successful campaign that produced great results.”
2. Strike All “Throw-Away” Words
Williams says the word “motivated,” which came in as buzzword No. 6, is a prime example of a “throw-away” word–or a word that adds no value to your LinkedIn profile.
“You don’t have a lot of space to make an impression. No hiring manager is looking for someone who describes themselves as motivated because they’re already assuming that’s something you are,” she says.
Williams recommends combing your profile for these types of words and replacing them with more concrete examples. The easiest way to spot them, she says, is to ask yourself if the opposite of that word is ever something you’d ever be–such as “unmotivated.”
3. Showcase Your Skills
Rather than relying on the buzzwords you thought you should be using, add relevant LinkedIn Skills to your profile to increase the odds that you appear in search results when other professionals need someone like you for a project, Williams recommends.
LinkedIn’s Skills section lets you search specific skill sets to determine their popularity, peruse featured professionals and locations associated with that skill, find related jobs and groups, discover whether a particular skill is trending up or down, and showcase the ones you’re proficient in on your profile.
4. Request Recommendations
Williams suggests requesting recommendations from former managers and clients to give others who view your profile a more well-rounded sense of who you are as a professional.
When you request a recommendation from someone, be sure to hint at why you’re asking for it, whether it’s to get more clients or because you’re on the hunt for a new job, she says.
One example of phrasing your request to get what you want: “Brad, I’d really appreciate it if you could give me a recommendation regarding the ABC project that I worked on that resulted in us increasing our sales by 120 percent,” she says.
5. When in Doubt, Visit the Company’s Website
Because you have a small space to make a big impact, Williams says to turn to a potential employer’s website to fill the gaps in your profile left by the buzzwords you removed.
“If you’re looking for a job and are at a loss for words, go to the website of the company you’re interested in to see what words they use to describe their employees and their culture,” she says. “Just remember to be concrete and give examples.”
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org