Sure, we all like to imagine we’re creative, passionate, focused, and experienced self-starters in whatever our specialized field happens to be, capable of serving both as excellent leaders and certified strategic experts as the need arises… but according to LinkedIn, your applicants might want to think of some new ways to describe their efforts.

Last week the professional social network released its annual list of the year’s most overused buzzwords, and according to its data crunchers, who analyzed more than 12 million Canadian profiles, these were 2016’s most overused descriptive terms north of the 49th parallel:

  1. Leadership (which, the company noted, was used by some 212,000 Canadian members)
  2. Specialized
  3. Passionate
  4. Strategic
  5. Focused
  6. Experienced
  7. Expert
  8. Excellent
  9. Certified
  10. Creative

It’s worth noting that globally the same exact words were overused, though in a different order – which is either good news if you admire Canucks for embracing the status quo or bad news if you wish more of us would embrace a uniquely “Canadian” identity:

  1. Specialized
  2. Leadership
  3. Passionate
  4. Strategic
  5. Experienced
  6. Focused
  7. Expert
  8. Certified
  9. Creative
  10. Excellent

LinkedIn representatives noted that “specialized,” “focused,” “expert,” “excellent,” and “certified” were new to Canada’s list this year, and though “experienced” made a repeat appearance on Canadians’ profiles, it was new to the global list.

It’s also worth highlighting that “specialized” knocked “leadership” from the top of the global perch for the first time.

“If these words do little to communicate why we’re good at our jobs, why is the world using them?” LinkedIn senior manager of member marketing and communications Blair Decembrele wrote in a Jan. 25 blog post. “While it may be convenient or seem smart to use buzzwords when talking about ourselves, your professional achievements are better than generic buzzwords.”

Citing the expertise of author, journalist, and educator Christopher Sandford, Decembrele offered four reasons applicants keep returning to the same limited pool of words:

  • Ease of use: After all, being creative – especially when it comes to word choices – requires a great deal of effort.
  • Herd mentality: The more people using a buzzword, the more professional it sounds – and the less we think about what it actually means.
  • Insider mentality: Certain buzzwords show up repeatedly in a particular field, helping its practitioners feel like they belong in their industry.
  • False intelligence: Many job seekers don’t have confidence in their professional achievements – so they use buzzwords to avoid specifics.

Meanwhile, should any job seekers have found their way to, Sandford recommends that LinkedIn users avoid these traps by creating a short, clever profile summary that uses a first person narrative voice; highlights specific, measurable achievements; describes previous jobs using everyday language; and includes links to tangible projects, reports, or presentations whenever possible.

Check out his SlideShare guide below.

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