The Top Ten Words to Avoid Using in your CV

4th September 2018

Sloughing through endless CVs probably doesn’t come top of many manager’s list of things they enjoy about their job. And if you’re on the hunt for a new employee something that no doubt bugs you is seeing those well-worn words and tired old phrases that candidates wheel out time and again to describe themselves.

And if you’re the one searching for a new role you may want to take a look at your resume and see if you’re guilty of using hackneyed expressions that are more likely to have prospective employers rolling their eyes than shooting you an email. Yes CV clichés are a real thing, as analysis which aimed to uncover the most frequently used words in more than 1.1 million UK resumes, recently revealed. Words which actually have the opposite effect of making you stand out from the crowd – instead making you blend in with the rest of the ‘highly motivated individuals’.

Of course, we’re not suggesting you’re not a highly motivated individual, but if you want to increase your chances of being invited to attend an interview these are the top ten words to avoid when you’re writing or refreshing your CV.

Ten words turn prospective employers off

In at number ten is ‘driven’. 6.8% of the 1.1 million resumes used this at least once. Also in at just under 10% was ‘outgoing’ which was found in 8.4% of CVs. Meanwhile ‘hardworking’ occurred in more than 140,000 of the examples, while ‘experienced’ and ‘leader’ were used a minimum of once in 14.3% of the applications.

‘Friendly’ and ‘organised’ scored 16.4% and 16.5% respectively with ‘social’ entering the top three words you should avoid using in your CV with 19.6% and 207,000 instances. So which overused word made second place? That would be ‘initiative’ which occurred at least once in 256,000 of the 1.1 million CVs looked at, giving it a percentage of 24%. However the gold medal for number one in the list of words that rarely impress a recruiter or prospective employer goes to – you guessed it – ‘motivated’. The number of CVs that contained this word totaled 278,000, and at 26% that’s more than a quarter of them.

But what’s the issue with these words anyway? After all, they’re all positive attributes. The problem is that they’re seen as proof that the candidate hasn’t used all that much time and effort when writing their CV.

How to write a CV that stands out

While many employers look for certain keywords to help them narrow down their applicant list, you should aim for words and phrases that are not as common as the ones above to describe your skills and attributes. That means taking care to find expressions that are highly applicable to the job you’re applying for, and the company you’re applying to. Yes it will take longer, but it will impress a recruiter far more and stand you a much better chance of getting a foot in the door.   

The gold medal for number one in the list of words that rarely impress a recruiter or prospective employer goes to – you guessed it – ‘motivated’.