10 CV buzzwords to avoid – and what to replace them with!

Summer’s almost over and you might be thinking about polishing up your CV. If you’re like most of the human race, your CV will not be as good as it could be. Or at least you know it could be better – it could always be better.

One easy way to put your application closer to the top of the pile is to reduce the amount of precious space taken up with words and phrases that sound fancy, but don’t actually mean anything useful. Using recycled buzzwords just show that you know the latest buzzwords, they don’t show what you know.

As the head of a leading European content and communications recruitment firm, I see candidates resorting to these meaningless phrases over and over again and it makes my eyes – and my humour – cross.

So here are 10 buzzwords to ditch if you want to have a serious chance of getting the job you’re applying for – with some advice on what to write to communicate your real value to an employer.

1.”Curriculum Vitae”

I mean, really. Do you see “book” written on the cover of books? You don’t have a lot of room to work with here, don’t waste it on that.

2. “Objective”

You’re better off working this section into a  ‘summary of (relevant) skills’ section or a ‘summary of skills and achievements’ relevant to the job you’re applying for. It makes it infinitely easier for the hirer to see right at a glance if your skills meet the requirements of the job and you’ll see off any competition who are applying using a one-size fits-all CV. Not adapting your CV to a specific job is just lazy and is unlikely to get you past the first post.

3. “Hard worker”

Wow. So you’re a hard worker? Does that mean you got out of bed to do something when you would rather have been sleeping? Or does it mean you created a documentation department from scratch to productivity in 12 months? Some detail please. Trust me, anyone who writes a CV thinks they’re a hard worker – so leave this one off – it doesn’t say a thing.

4. “Salary negotiable”

Do you think your potential employer hasn’t thought through how much they’re willing to spend in hiring for this position? Did you think they would leave it to you? If your salary is not negotiable, that would be more interesting – but still, don’t put that on your CV. Get my point?

5.  “References available on request”

Why? If the employer wants them, they’re going to ask for them. That’s the way it works. So why take up valuable space in which you could be selling yourself more persuasively? You know, just getting those extra few lines in with the numbers on how much you increased productivityin your last department…

6. “Experience  in…”

This is pretty passive when you have so many action verbs available these days. The most constructive thing you can do is list your achievements in terms of how they benefited your employer – think like your enemy, so to speak. They want to know what you can do for them; no more, no less.

7. “Detail-oriented”

This buzzword has achieved such levels of emptiness that it might win the prize for meaning absolutely nothing. Plus, you’re leaving yourself wide open for ridicule (and job-application binning) if you ever make a typo or mistake with any detail anywhere in your application (or on the Internet).

8.  “Team player”

There are very few jobs that don’t involve working with someone else (even lone recruiters on the tundra talk to people all day over the wire).

If you have especially strong team-player skills – and you’re looking for a position working in a team –  the key to success (and credibility) is to show instead of tell.  Give concrete and quantifiable examples of how your collaboration strengthend the *team’s* success. Describe the kind of teams you worked on and recognition the team received. And remember to make your examples relevant to the prospective employer’s needs. See why this can be tricky?

9. “Proactive”

Another completely useless buzzword. Everyone’s definition of proactive is individual: just getting out of bed in the morning can be a big accomplishment by some people’s standards. Give me examples to show me what you mean, then the hirer can decide.

And finally, my personal favourite:

10. “Objection”

I actually see this on CVs from time to time. It sits in the space where the objective section should be. How ironic!

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