Although words aren’t the only ingredient you’ll use to create your CV, let’s face it, without them it is just a blank sheet of paper. Words are pretty important in this context and your choice of words plays a huge role in making your CV either weak or wow.

What’s more, there’s quite a quantity of words you’ll need to select and string together to create a compelling career document. The word count of last three CVs I have written has ranged between 878 and 1027 words. That’s a whole heap of choices.

I admit, it’s not an easy task to choose the right words, ones that can carry forward your career aspirations until you have the opportunity to speak them in person. This week’s blog outlines some groups of words you should either treat with caution or give a wide berth.

#1 Slang

I love to hear the latest word on the street, whether I learn it from my 12-year-old, witness it online, or furtively clarify a term I’ve come across in the urban dictionary. Personally, I think it’s great that the English language is constantly evolving to accommodate and describe the changing world around us. In the last year, words like ‘tekkers’, ‘bae’, and ‘clean eating’ have crept into our household vocabulary, and they make me smile, but that doesn’t mean they should ever appear in a professional communication like a CV.

Slang can confuse the reader, and may be misinterpreted. Make sure your CV is ‘on fleek’ by using clear, appropriate, and professional language. Your words should be instantly recognisable, appropriate in context, and easily understandable to anyone reading your CV.

#2 Clichés

Using clichés on your CV is lazy, and does nothing to differentiate you from other applicants. It’s boring for the recruiter to read the same trite lines over and over, and it’s a missed opportunity to build your personal brand. Instead of saying you’re a hard-working team player, think about what really stands you apart, and express that in your CV profile. Outlining your unique strengths will make your CV more appealing than stringing together overused buzzwords. Jennifer Holloway recently wrote an excellent article about the difference between strengths and skills, you can check it out here.

#3 Negative or bland wording

Your CV is your opportunity to convey your prowess, passion, and potential to your target employer. It needs to carry forward your career hopes and dreams before you can make a more interactive face-to-face or verbal impression on the hiring manager. There is absolutely no place for negative or bland language on your CV.

You may feel compelled to explain a negative situation on your CV, but lengthy explanations of adverse circumstances can talk you out of an interview before you’ve even begun. Keep your CV positive, keep any explanations short and simple, and instead use your CV as it should be used – to showcase your positive traits and experience.

A lack of career confidence can sometimes seep onto a CV, resulting in a shy, restrained, and unassuming presentation that is unlikely to inspire or interest anyone reading it. Fear of bragging can also inhibit CV language choices. The results make an uninspiring read.

A negative or bland CV is not worth the paper it’s written on. This is your career, you’ve worked it, you’ve achieved it, now you need to use it to move forward. Be confident and own your history and achievements, and narrate your message in an assured and buoyant way.

#4 Words you don’t understand

When writing your CV, it can be tempting to up-level your language. It’s a bit like using your ‘telephone voice’ when answering your business line, your intention is to make a positive first impression. However, tread with caution. You don’t want to use words that you don’t fully understand, or ones that actually weaken your authenticity. Keep it real by using words you are comfortable speaking as well as writing.

#5 Words the reader won’t understand

It may seem natural to select words from your verbal vocabulary, but do check that your language is commonly recognised before hitting the send button. You may not give a second thought to including words you use in everyday speech, but are they real words and do they mean what you think they mean? Now’s the time to check. In speech, people often use words out of context, so it’s worth taking the time to check their legitimacy, relevance, and accepted meaning.

Enlist the help of several reviewers to check that your words make total sense. If your review panel questions one of your words, consider switching it for a more common term.

Acronyms fall under this category. Acronyms can easily become part of your day-to-day language at work, and it’s easy to assume that others outside your current circle will understand their meaning. If you really need to use acronyms on your CV, take time to explain them first, e.g. Management Information (MI), then you can confidently abbreviate all subsequent mentions.

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire is a professional CV writer at Giraffe CVs. She has 15 years of experience gained delivering interview-winning CVs and cover letters for professionals at all levels, helping individuals to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive job market.
Lis McGuire
Lis McGuire
Lis McGuire

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