There are many places to find instruction and advice on how to present yourself, your organization and your product or services. Whether you are interviewing for a position or representing an organization providing tangible proven and verifiable proof always matters more than anything. Furthermore, being specific and avoiding clichés and vague descriptors goes a long way to painting a solid picture and ensuring you are communicating properly. Yet, it is commonplace to find ambiguity and cloudiness in everything from the “About Us” page on a company’s website to job descriptions on career sites.

Consider these phrases found in many job descriptions:
• We are a fast paced entrepreneurial company that is looking for a dedicated self-starter that has a roll up their sleeves work ethic.
• You will draw on your vast experience in ____________
• You will manage multiple overlapping priorities

It is likely, that whoever crafts these statements feel obligated to disclose something or is trying to manage expectations, but they clearly fall short. What does fast paced mean? What is vast? 2 years or 25? Does multiple overlapping priorities mean I have no focus, or will I simply be busy with different projects? Regardless, the words, while real words, do not provide anything real. The only thing you can say about them is the words provoke more questions and do little to provide us with a succinct understanding. In short, these words are vapour hanging out there in the atmosphere causing little to no effect.

The same thing happens in interview situations and in resumes. We constantly encounter vague and vacuous language that does little to help a candidate present an accurate and complete picture of their talents and abilities. Here are some words that we use to describe requirements in our job descriptions and, to be clear, are fine to use in the context of explaining a position’s requirements. The problem comes when our descriptors are simply parroted back to us in a resume or in an interview. Quite simply, the words alone do little to help our understanding of who is being marketed to us. For example:

Is Efficient – Okay how? And by the way we were hoping you are not inefficient.

Is Organized – Again – consider the opposite of this word

Is Professional – Aren’t we all hopefully?

The point here is to demonstrate these qualities. The key word is “how.” Citing actual work examples of how you have added value and how you demonstrate efficiency, organizational proficiency and professionalism is where value gets recognized. Instead of stating that you are a hard-working, efficient and organized professional state examples of how you have demonstrated this. In your resume (for example) describe work experiences to demonstrate an attribute. Let’s say you want to illustrate how efficient you are:

– Designed work check back process for department which resulted in eliminating errors and omissions and improving our ability to close off files by 15%
– Conducted thorough audit of Road Use Agreements and Royalties resulting in the discovery of $125,000 of additional revenue to XYZ Oil and Gas

When the statement is real and verifiable you have succeeded in clearly demonstrating your value. When things are vague few people ask questions to clarify in fact, most do not try and peel back the layer and ask deeper questions for clarity, instead they dismiss or ignore. If an employer says they work hard and play hard, you may think it is a sweat shop, when what they really mean is they genuinely provide a fun culture. If you say you are a top performer on your resume – so does everyone and that means you don’t stand out. Be clear and share a time when an achievement distinguished you as a top performer.

To be clear there is no value where there is vapour.