We all like potential employers to be aware of our intelligence and education, especially in scientific, technical, and academic fields. However, a resume is not and should not be a vocabulary test. Your goal as a job applicant is to communicate clearly and succinctly. That goal can be undermined by using four and five syllable words inappropriately or by loading the resume with multi-syllable words that are not actually necessary.
Here are a few examples of large words gone wrong:
- A new college graduate interested in a marketing career explained how she “edited a large, poorly written document and made it comprehensive.” Probably, she meant “comprehensible,” not “comprehensive.”
- A Human Resources manager wrote about “maximizing interdepartmental cooperation, communication and employee disengagement.” No one wants to hire an HR manager who maximizes disengagement. The correct phrase had to be “maximizing interdepartmental cooperation, communication and employee engagement.”
- A psychologist wrote about experience with “associative disorder” when clearly “dissociative disorder” was meant. This mistake might have been due to a reliance on electronic spellchecking.
Whether a mistake is caused by confusion over similar words, inattention or poor proofreading, the effect is the same and it is not positive. If you are going to use four and five syllable words, whether or not they are technical, scientific or academic, make sure that they are necessary, that you understand what they mean and that you have proofread the context carefully.
In the first instance, the college student could have written that she “edited a large document to make it more readable, consistent, and accurate.” With simpler language and just two more words, she would have achieved a more powerful and much clearer statement. The HR manager might have caught the “disengagement/engagement” mistake if she had used “improving” instead of “maximizing” earlier in the sentence. The psychologist needed to read his resume or call in a proofreader, not rely on a spellchecker.
My goal here is not to dumb down your language or make it impossible to use technical or scientific terms. My goal is to show that embarrassing mistakes and a lack of clarity may result when four and five syllable words invade a resume, even if they are completely necessary.
If you are concerned about whether your technical, scientific or academic language is accurate, appropriate and easily understood by hiring managers and recruiters, please contact me. Clear communication is a top priority at Robin’s Resumes®.