Words to avoid using on your CV

Over-used phrases and cliches in a CV can be a massive turn-off for potential employers when they’re perusing your professional profile.  workingmums.co.uk looks at the type of wording which would make your CV stand out positively among dozens of other candidates – and what words to avoid using.

CV Tips


Top 10 list of UK professional profile cliches

LinkedIn – the world’s largest professional network with more than 85 million members worldwide – has revealed the top 10 most commonly used words and phrases in professional profiles for members based in the UK (2018).

  1. Specialised
  2. Experienced
  3. Leadership
  4. Skilled
  5. Passionate
  6. Expert
  7. Motivated
  8. Creative
  9. Strategic
  10. Successful

”Phrases like ‘extensive experience’ and ‘proven track record’ can appear empty to a potential employer and may do more harm than good when you include them in your profile or resume,” said Katie Ledger, communications consultant and author of And What Do You Do? 10 steps to creating a portfolio career .

”If you’re using any of these 10 terms, wipe them out. Instead, note that you have eight to 10 years experience or that you increased sales by 300%. Include meaningful phrases that apply specifically to highlights you’ve achieved in your career.

Remember, potential employers and collaborators care more about what you have actually done than what may appear on your business card.”

What words to avoid

”Words such as go-getter are over-used words,” says Ledger, ”so the best way of putting yourself forward in a CV, particularly if you are a mum who is returning to work, is to describe what you have actually done.

If you had a job before, think about what you actually did and ask yourself ‘what skills did I use to do it?’. Think of your tangible practical skills.”

Don’t think you’re at a disadvantage if you’ve been out of the workforce for a number of years. You can still flag up any events or voluntary work you have done in your private life.

”It might not have been in the corporate arena, ” says Ledger, ”it could have been organising a village fete, a raffle, or an event of some sort, but you need to think of what skills you used and present them to a potential employer.”

What are employers looking for?

”Employers are looking much more for attitude and flexibility,” says Ledger.  ”They want flexibility not in terms of dates and times, but of the mind – an adaptive mind.”

Women tend to underplay their skills and talents, she warned. ”We don’t like to blow our own trumpets, but we need to outline our key skills and key strengths.  A number of studies have shown how women have failed to go up the corporate ladder because they’re not good at showing what they have delivered and what they have created.”

But don’t just think about what the employer wants from you – consider what you want too.  ”Ask yourself two questions,” advises Ledger. ”Find some examples work-wise and ask ‘When did I feel I was really in the flow?’ and ‘When did I feel at ease with what I was doing?’ That will tell you what you enjoy doing.”

It doesn’t have to be full-time

You don’t have to necessarily take on a full-time role. You can tell a potential employer you are available for project work. Offer to go in to the office to work for a day or two, so they can get to know you.

”If you prove what you can do, and people like you they can create a job around you,” says Ledger.  ”Or you can use this as part of your network for finding out where there is the possibility of more work – you never know what it’s going to lead to.  Make yourself valuable.”

Top tip:

Don’t be a driller, be a filler. A filler is a person who can make a difference with new ideas and perspective who projects the right attitude. A driller is often somebody who has been in the same workplace for a long time and is incapable of seeing new possibilities and ideas.

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