Can being an “out-of-the-box thinker” hurt your chances at employment? Employers say yes! Find out why.

shutterstock_82606063How could it be a problem to say that you can “always find solutions to problems” or that you’re an “out of the box thinker”? Everyone says it on their resumes and cover letters right? Well, that’s the problem. These cliché phrases can be a major red flag to employers. But, why?

Well, first off, let’s talk a little about the difference between resumes and cover letters. The Tampa Bay Times wrote an article and defined them as following:

Cover letters: These should be no longer than a few paragraphs. The first should highlight why you are applying and show a direct correlation between your skills and the hiring manager’s needs. Next give specifics as to why you’re a great fit for the job and end with the fact that you are looking forward to hearing from the hiring manager. If you are sending supplementary material with your letter and resume, also indicate that.

Resumes: A resume is a quick look (usually no longer than a page and a half) that “sells” you. It includes your contact information, education, your most recent experience and accomplishments that show how well you are suited for the job, including specifics like money saved for the company, additional customers, or additional revenues. Potential employers are looking for stories that tell who you are and how you can meet their needs.

So why would a clichéd phrase ruin your chances of getting your next job?

  • They show you’re dated.
  • You’re a leader, not a follower.
  • You’re not creative.

What can you do to avoid these clichés? The Tampa Bay Times stresses the art of story-telling. They say that telling a short story (1 – 2 sentences) where you can highlight a major accomplishment in a previous experience will highlight your creativity and leadership abilities in a personal way. Telling a story about saving your company a lot of money or retaining a big client account is something any employer wants to hear about!

To read more about the effects of trite sayings, please read this article by Marie R. Stempinski:

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