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The best (and worst) words to have on your CV

Do you consider yourself a hard worker? A real go-getter? Someone who likes to think outside of the box? Then you’re just the type of person who needs to review their CV.

Manager reviews cvA recent CareerBuilder survey found there are some words hiring managers and human resources pros just don’t want to see on your CV. And if you’ve called yourself a go-to person, a team player or a strategic thinker, you’ll need to make a few changes before you send your CV to anyone else.

The deal-breakers
Unless you want to end up on an employer’s “Do not call” list, think twice before you put any of these empty words on your CV — they won’t accomplish as much as you might hope:

1. Best of breed: 38 percent
2. Go-getter: 27 percent
3. Think outside of the box: 26 percent
4. Synergy: 22 percent
5. Go-to person: 22 percent
6. Thought leadership: 16 percent
7. Value add: 16 percent
8. Results-driven: 16 percent
9. Team player: 15 percent
10. Bottom-line: 14 percent
11. Hard worker: 13 percent
12. Strategic thinker: 12 percent
13. Dynamic: 12 percent
14. Self-motivated: 12 percent
15. Detail-oriented: 11 percent
16. Proactively: 11 percent
17. Track record: 10 percent

You don’t have much time
Given the amount of time your CV has to make an impression, it should come as no surprise that your choice of words can be exactly the reason you aren’t brought in for an interview. In fact, if you get more than a couple minutes of attention, you should consider yourself lucky.

Sixty-eight percent of hiring managers and human resources pros will spend two minutes or less reviewing each CV they receive; 17 percent will actually spend 30 seconds or less.

“Hiring managers prefer strong action words that can be used to define specific experience, skills and accomplishments,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Subjective terms and clichés are seen as negative, because they don’t convey real information. For instance, don’t say you are ‘results-driven;’ show the employer your actual results.”

The words they actually want to see
If you felt like you really had something when you called yourself “hard-working,” there’s a lot of room for improvement. (Besides, that’s something almost everyone would say.) Employers don’t simply want to know what you think about yourself; they want to see results. If you really are a hard worker, prove it by backing up that claim with some data.

Rather than focusing on your previous duties to capture your relevant experience, focus on what you’ve been able to achieve using your relevant skills. The following terms — mostly verbs — should help you refocus your CV on what truly matters. As an added bonus, hiring managers would love to see these terms:

1. Achieved: 52 percent
2. Improved: 48 percent
3. Trained/mentored: 47 percent
4. Managed: 44 percent
5. Created: 43 percent
6. Resolved: 40 percent
7. Volunteered: 35 percent
8. Influenced: 29 percent
9. Increased/decreased: 28 percent
10. Ideas: 27 percent
11. Negotiated: 25 percent
12. Launched: 24 percent
13. Revenue/profits: 23 percent
14. Under budget: 16 percent
15. Won: 13 percent

The bottom line: You can’t afford to make a bad first impression, and you don’t have a lot of time to make a good first impression. With some hiring managers, you’ll have 30 seconds to make your case, and the numbers say you probably won’t make it past two minutes.

Highlight your accomplishments and sell just how important your skills have been. If you’ve received honors or awards, make sure to find room for them. Focus on what you think will cause hiring managers to stop and take a second look at your name — you can likely find more unique things to say about yourself than “I’m a hard worker.”

Tony Valdivieso is a writer and blogger for He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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  1. Anthony Weightman | Apr 25, 2014 | Reply

    Can I assume, therefore, that there isn’t a single word that more than 52% of HR professionals would like to see on a CV?

  2. James Jordan | Apr 25, 2014 | Reply

    Slight issue with this item my CV contains the majority of “the words they actually want to see”
    and in 10 months have achieved 3 interviews.
    Two before spending £300 on a ‘pro’ rewrite with my original CV and one after. there has to be a logic leak here sorry ……………

  3. Working Girl | Apr 29, 2014 | Reply

    Having the right words on your CV means you’re already ahead of other job seekers, but depending on your industry there are still certain items employers look for. For many recruiters, it really comes down to evidence of success. Specific numbers (whether it’s revenue, sales figures, awards won, whatever is relevant to you) usually grab attention. So your frustration is definitely understandable. You might find some of these other tips helpful as you continue your search: and .”

  4. brian desmond | May 2, 2014 | Reply

    I have had a number of different Advisors so called C.V. professionals and after 4 different SO CALLED PROFESSIONAL ADVISORS had their input and opinion on the best C.V. for me I ended up with the C.V. virtually identical to the one I had done myself so was back to square one am still unemployed dispite taking it upon myself to retrain and pass my IT level 2 extra in IT user skills , the simple fact is employers want proven track records of employment period

  5. Kitty | May 2, 2014 | Reply

    Well, I’ve done up my CV & my partners, and we both have the words on this list on our CVs. The only reason I have a job is because it’s an apprenticeship. He has been applying for no experience, part time jobs and has maybe applied for around 150 in two weeks.
    and nothing.
    there was nothing before that, either, when it was 20 jobs a day.
    and there will probably BE nothing. he’s literate with computers, got good grades in school, went to college, passed, and they still don’t want to know. why? is there something they’re not telling us about jobs? I got 2 interviews in two years. in the 3rd year, I got an interview and got the job, but I just don’t understand why having no experience, and applying for jobs that give training, still means no job.

  6. Alistair Boyce | May 2, 2014 | Reply

    I feel actions speak louder than words, but understand an employer cant or wont consider that because they obviously haven,t seen you perform this is where your referencies should come into place. I know that i am very professional & particular about my performance but don,t have confidence with words written or verbal when it comes to finding employment, i find this quite frustrating.

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