Posted by: Bill Griffin | July 17, 2009

Getting Romantical with the Semantical

redcross_volunteer Have you ever poked a hole through someone’s argument and then tore it open on a technicality?

  I remember my first semester in college I had a social science professor claim; (referring to social economic status and politics)–to become President of the United States one would really have to go to an Ivy League school. In my eagerness to look smarter than I actually was, I chimed up. “Ronald Reagan didn’t go to any Ivy League school (Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932). Carter (Georgia Tech) and Ford were Navy men. Richard Nixon went to Ronald Reagan thumbs-upWhittier. Johnson went to Southwest Texas State Teachers’ College, now Texas State University-San Marcos. A fine school I’m sure, but not Ivy League. Harry Truman was a haberdasher and never even got a college degree.” My Professor said I was getting romantical with the semantical and missing the point. That phrase has stuck with me ever since.

  Sister McNamara in the second grade scolded me on my semantics and said that I was being too cute by one half, which of course I took as a compliment. Old habits are hard to break, I suppose. Looking at some of the job search phrases I still find myself doing it today. I don’t consider myself a literal person or wordsmith but some phrases just bother me. One glaring example is time management. Even if you donate generously to your local quantum physics office, time management is an impossibility.                                           

  In most resumes and job descriptions you’ll find the phrase multi-tasking. I happen to know most people can do more than two things at once, but are they tasks? And are they doing them exactly at the same time, like a computer or a machine can? Strong communication skills is another bigstockphotoResumeInABottleWhite320134-main_Fullodd subjective term. Suppose you don’t have strong communication skills and respond accordingly. That response in it self is communicative. Another term I’m having a problem with is self motivator/self starter. “Well, Ms. Jones I believe I’ll be perfect for this position because I’m a self-motivated person. When I wake up, I get up on my own without having to be told. If memory serves me correctly I’ve been feeding myself before starvation kicks in for some time now.”

  The only reason these words and phrases bother me so much is because there supposed to be so important. Career advisers say take out the old haggard resume clichés and write something unique and pleasurable for the hiring manager to read. The hiring manager doesn’t read the resumes he or she just scans them because there are too many. The’re looking for the right terminology which I’ve been told not to put in. HR retrieves resumes filtered through computer software that plucks out relevant key words which may or may not be multi-tasking, strong communication skills or team player. The non-key worded resumes are floating in the ozone somewhere.

 Take Human Resources for example. I could never assimulate human-beings as a resource like oil, gas or a volume of encyclopedias. Maybe I am being too cute by one half or splitting hairs. But if a document such as a resume can ignite the flame of a new career which in turn will pay the mortgage, send children to college and help stimulate the economy, shouldn’t we all be on the same page?

Have you ever been romantical with the semantical? Does anyone else have the same questions about resumes?














  1. I hear what you’re saying about multi-tasking. You make some excellent points — thanks for the great post

    • Thanks for reading Davis,

      You have a great post your self.

  2. Hi Bill,
    Nice post. I have to laugh…you must have caused some trouble:) in school. As long as your resume reflects how you fit my job as a recruiter I’m going to speak with you. It doesn’t matter how self-motivated you are, how much a people pleaser or how very effectively you communicate.
    What those phrases do however is fog the mind and sight of everyone that looks at your resume for your real skills and how you differentiate yourself. Those trite phrases are like a smoke screen. Recruiters and Hiring Managers want to know how the candidate fits and is different from competitors; not how the candidate is the same. As someone who knows you I think you do a good job of differentiating yourself.
    If I can help you at all feel free to see me after class:).

    • Thanks Dorothy,

      LOL, I was trying to differentiate my-self in school as well. They misunderstood it for rabblerousing. I would love to know your thoughts on resumes, because I’ve gotten VAST opinions on my own. Some people after reading it want $40 to cure all my resume ills, then I go from semantics to sarcastic. Thanks for the offer, I need it.

  3. Another great blog Bill. Relevant topics!

    • Thanks Michele 🙂

  4. Billy,

    You’re doing quite well at this whole “blogging” thing! Hey, I don’t think Dorothy is anything like Sister McNamara so I believe it’ll be safe to stay after school!

  5. Thank you Jim,

    You’re right Dorothy dosn’t resemble Sister McNamara in the slightest. Hopefully her advice will better then shut-up and get back in that corner.

  6. Billy –

    Another wonderful post. I am starting to think you missed your calling and should be writing full time. Your posts are always insightful and thought provoking, and this one did not disappoint.

    I think most of us have recently read the article listing the top ten phrases to NOT have in your resume. Yet you will see some of these same phrases, or derivatives of them, listed in job postings as “required’. Phrases like “team player” and “good communicator” come to mind.

    I also recently read what a fallacy “multi-tasking” is. Since we are not computers we can’t multi-task. We don’t even task-switch well. It used to drive me crazy when I would be deep in thought on a project at work and someone would interrupt me. Not only did I lose the length of the interruption, but it could take me 5-15 minutes to mentally get back to where I had been. Multi-tasking is nothing more than self imposed interruption. It ruins our efficiency and our effectiveness, and everyone loses.

    Conflicting advice is all around us. In the end we all must follow our hearts and instincts. Then our individuality will show.

    • Thank you Chris,

      The definition of Multi-tasking derives from computers. I wonder who makes up these buzz-words?

      “Conflicting advice is all around us. In the end we all must follow our hearts and instincts. Then our individuality will show.”

      –Great advice, I think you have the writing chops my friend. This should be in sign form in every “HR” office.

      You writing this to me proves you have good communication skills, and you are a Team Player for sharing this information with every-one. You must be a great multi-tasker because you wrote this while thinking and navigating the wordpress comment format. See, that’s how easy it is to rationalize bunk wording. Congratulations Chris you are now qualified for 95% of the jobs out there.

      As I said in my post, shouldn’t we all be on the same page?

  7. I am a multi tasking, self motivated closer with strong communication skills who thinks your prof was not expecting a critical thinker in his class. His romance with semantics is of the “wham bam thank you ma’am” variety.
    Nice blog Mr G.

    • Thanks Don,

      “Critical thinker” –I like that. Besides the class its self was made for discource, not a quid pro quo with higher education and a political bastion. Hypocrisy abounds us Don.

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