Phrases to avoid on your CV (and ones to include)

We all know that a well-written CV is the first step to getting a new job. It is often your only shot at impressing a potential employer, as you sue the cv to  demonstrate precisely how well suited you are to the role.

A lot will ride on the quality of your CV. The information you decide to include (emphasis on ‘you’) can make or break your application, so every word and phrase should be purposefully chosen. Don’t forget that hirers and recruiters see hundreds of these documents every day and to say that they can get a little repetitive might be a gross understatement.

In this article we explore some of the most common mistakes we see on CVs all the time and give you ideas of what you should really be shouting about!

‘Passionate’ and ‘enthusiastic’

We’ve all said them at some point – probably in our summary section – but passion and enthusiasm indicate little about our appropriateness for the job and are often considered nothing but lazy clichés. What exactly are you passionate about? If you are attempting to convey your genuine interest in a topic, then illustrate it with an actual situation that emphasises your point effectively. Read our article on interviewing like a STAR for tips.  If you are unable to do this then these words add nothing to your CV.

‘Team player’

To say you enjoy working in a team, even if that statement is followed by ’can equally work alone’, doesn’t tell the hirer anything. Instead, give an example of a time when you’ve supported colleagues or contributed to the achievement of a team goal. Your real-life example should sufficiently emphasise your value in a team situation without you needing to spell it out in such an over-used way.

‘Works well under pressure’

Yes, and so can dozens of other people. Just as with the previous comments, this phrase tells the recruiter little about your ability to do the role or anything about the way you work. Working well under pressure is an expectation of anyone applying for a role these days, so this phrase does little to differentiate you from the competition.

‘Curriculum Vitae’

Talk about stating the obvious! When space is at a premium (ideally, you shouldn’t go over two pages), why waste an couple of extra lines by giving your CV the title of ‘curriculum vitae’? According to the careersblog by Warwick University, this practice is one of the most commonly-seen CV clichés. Instead, use your own name as the masthead – this important document is all about you, after all.

‘Excellent communication skills’

Another popular but empty phrase, I’m afraid. If your CV and accompanying cover letter / emails read well, then it’s clear you can communicate fairly effectively. To demonstrate the point, talk about a time when you used your communication skills to good effect – perhaps your sales proposal managed to close a deal or your articles drew lots of new traffic to the company website?

If course, improving your CV isn’t simply about the words and phrases you omit; the deliberate inclusion of certain phrases could boost your job prospects significantly. Here are a few:

Words from the job advert / description

Most job-seekers will know that it’s essential to tailor your CV to the role on offer. To adequately indicate your suitability, it’s a good idea to use some of the words and phrases from the job advertisement/ description. Make it easy for the recruiter by specifying some of the essential requirements. For example, if the ad mentions ’coordinating diaries’, it makes sense to include the fact that you coordinated diaries for senior managers; if it asks for questionnaire design experience, then mention how you created that survey on customer satisfaction, etc.


It’s one thing to say you’re a team player or ‘people person’ but entirely different to state that you have mentored a colleague. Why? It shows that you are a) approachable, b) knowledgeable and c) highly respected. Not everyone is asked to act as a mentor, so it’s a big deal if you have done so and one that should take pride of place on your CV.

Industry keywords

Ordinarily, using jargon could jeopardise the understanding of a document, but as your CV has been tailored to the vacancy and aims to showcase your knowledge of the sector, then feel free to use industry terms where and when appropriate. Many companies run CVs through screening software which hunts particular keywords, so it’s worthwhile. Boost your chances by naming software programs, tools and techniques that you use in your day job. Not only does this show your relevant skills, but it means you might be considered a viable prospect who doesn’t require so much training.

Your LinkedIn profile and any other professional social media profile 

As mentioned previously, the ideal CV should be no longer than two pages of A4, hence space is a valuable commodity and there simply won’t be enough room for you to transcribe all of your achievements. That’s why it’s clever to add a link to your LinkedIn profile, as it is through this resource that recruiters can discover additional information that might help further your case for the role. Your LinkedIn profile should act as an extension to your CV, something that tells recruiters more about your employment history, your key successes and provides a little insight into your character. Even better if you can persuade a few people to write endorsements for you. Just remember to keep your profile regularly updated.

A cv is probably the most important weapon in your job-seeking armoury; it is the document that will – or won’t – sell you to a prospective employer. It is your first and sometimes only opportunity to impress, so consider your wording carefully and bear in mind the tips above if you want to create a winning CV.

by on April 7th, 2020
posted in Advice, Sector News