Don’t let these words tarnish your CV.

Your CV is your main weapon for ensuring that you have the best possible chance of success when you take the next step along your career path. With that in mind, you need to make sure that you’re making a memorable impression on the reader … in the right way. The bland, empty or just plain cringe-worthy CVs might be remembered for the wrong reasons, but luckily we’ve written a handy guide to steer you through the minefield of CV vocabulary. What should you remove from your CV right now?

Repetition
Prime offenders: managed, responsible for, assisted with, handled, worked

Get creative! Saying that you ‘managed this’, ‘managed that’ and ‘managed something else’ is pretty uninspiring to read. There are hundreds of ways of avoiding this repetition: Instead of ‘managed’, consider ‘spearheaded’, ‘led’, ‘directed’, ‘oversaw’ and so on. There’s really no excuse for repeating the same old vocabulary when you can create a more engaging and compelling CV with a bit of extra thought (or with the help of your thesaurus).

Buzzwords and clichés
Prime offenders: hardworking, reliable, creative, motivated, enthusiastic, team player, results-focused, goal-oriented, passionate, proactive

This is the biggest CV no-no of all! If a recruiter has read one CV for a ‘hardworking, ‘reliable’ candidate who is a ‘team player’ with ‘excellent communication skills’, they’ve read a thousand. Remove these cheesy words from your CV right now! They are overused to the point of meaninglessness and add nothing of value. If you really do possess these skills, aim to show, rather than tell. This means that instead of saying you’re a team player and expecting the reader to believe you, provide a solid example of when you used this particular skill.

Jargon and acronyms
Prime offenders: IT terms, company-specific terms, role-specific terms

It’s important to remember that the first person reading your CV may be from the HR team or a recruitment agency. They won’t necessarily have the technical insight into the role that you have. Always spell out acronyms the first time you use them and minimise jargon. Have a friend with no knowledge of your job cast a critical eye over the CV to ensure it makes sense to a lay-person.

Trendy job titles
Prime offenders: Guru, Rock Star

Whether this is part of your official job title or just how you’ve personally chosen to describe yourself, it’s really not helping your CV at all. Both humans and applicant tracking systems look for job titles aligned with the vacancy, so using a more common job title will highlight your suitability better. Don’t leave the recruiter guessing what you do. If you’re a Business Development Manager applying for a Business Development Manager role, then describe yourself as a Business Development Manager ‒ not a BusDev Guru. You’ll improve your search rating and sound more professional.

Personal details
Prime offenders: mailing address, unnecessary social media links, date of birth, family situation

None of these details prove your suitability for the job, and in fact, most are covered by anti-discrimination legislation meaning that they should be ignored anyway. Don’t forget that if you’re uploading your CV online, excessive personal details can also present a security risk. Cut your mailing address down to your town and postcode only, give your mobile number and a sensible email address, and add only your LinkedIn URL and link to an online portfolio, if applicable for your field. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to use the space available to tell the reader about a recent work-related success rather than the fact that you’re divorced with two stroppy teenagers?

Objective statement

The objective statement is considered outdated now. Instead of wasting space telling an employer what you want from a job, you’d be better off showing them what you can bring to it. You’re employed to perform a role, not because the vacancy suits your needs. Instead, include a personal statement ‒ a short paragraph that gives a powerful overview of you as a professional by quickly describing who you are and highlighting the value you can add.

Hobbies

Prime offenders: football, socialising, films

Most of the population enjoys these hobbies. How do your interests set you apart from other candidates or prove how well you can do the job? If they don’t, there’s absolutely no need to include a personal interests section. Unless your hobbies relate to your work, you’re better off using this space for something more impactful.

Contentious issues
Prime offenders: religious affiliations, political affiliations, sporting affiliations

There are some topics that just don’t need to be brought into the workplace. If you’re active in a particular political party or a devout member of a religious congregation, it’s safe to say that, unless it directly relates to the role you’re applying for, there’s no place for this information on your CV. Even football team allegiances can prove controversial, so think carefully about what you’re including if you do decide to add a personal interests section. There’s no point alienating the reader and provoking bias for a reason completely unrelated to your suitability for the role.

First person pronouns
Prime offenders: I, me, my, mine

CVs should be written in the absent first person, not the typical first person. To clarify, instead of saying ‘I analysed data and my reports were presented to senior management’, you should say ‘Analysed data and presented reports to senior management’. This is a standard CV-writing convention, which firstly avoids the rather egocentric repetition of ‘I, I, I’ and secondly sounds much more professional.

Referees
Prime offenders: References available on request, referee contact details

If your references are required at any stage of the application process, the recruiter will ask for them, regardless of whether your CV includes ‘References available on request’. Even worse is including the contact details of your referees – they won’t appreciate your sharing their private details when you upload your CV online for the world to see, and nor will they appreciate being bombarded with reference requests for jobs that you ultimately don’t come close to getting. Try to keep this information back until you are well into your candidacy and a potential employer specifically requests it. Plus, the space you save by removing this information can be used to sell yourself further to the recruiter, thereby increasing your chances of progressing to the interview stage.

By eliminating these superfluous words from your CV, you’ll be presenting a recruiter with a much more professional CV that is more impactful and sets you apart from other candidates.

Jen David
Jen David has been writing CVs since 2010 and is the founder of CV Shed.
She has worked with clients in numerous industries and at all stages of
their careers, from students through to senior executives of global
businesses. She loves producing polished, focused CVs that appeal to both
human recruiters and applicant tracking systems, enabling her clients to
take the next step in their career.

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