How to write your CV, the right words to use

How to write your CV, the right words to use

Should you use more adjectives or verbs in your CV? Do you know what expressions are more likely to put HR specialists off rather than make them interested? By choosing the right words in your CV you can stand out among candidates and improve your position in the search for a new job. 

In their CVs, candidates often use words and phrases they think their employer wants to hear. Unfortunately, clichés fall on deaf ears and this effort to recite memorised sentences about yourself and your strengths will likely put the HR specialist off.

Read the following example of a person's presentation in a CV: “My name is John and I am an enthusiastic, creative and highly motivated provider of design solutions with a willingness to work on large projects and provide clients with a wealth of experience acquired in a dynamic team.”. At first glance it sounds nice, but an experienced HR professional sees similar clichés and exaggerated descriptions on a daily basis.

If you want to stand out, try demonstrating your strengths with particular examples from practice. Instead of adjectives which describe characteristics, opt for active verbs, which can much more effectively convince the reader of your capabilities.

A list of frequently used words you should avoid:

  1. Innovative – demonstrate your inventiveness using particular examples and projects and do not forget to mention your personal contribution
  2. Motivated – motivation at work is the main drive for good performance, so describe what motivates you to achieve a certain goal
  3. Creative – the word creativity is often overused nowadays, which devalues it
  4. Responsible – every employee is responsible for their job performance, so this is more a necessity than a quality
  5. Dynamic, passionate – these are just common descriptions of enthusiasm (similar to words like active, energetic, etc.)
  6. Authoritative, organisational type – better to describe where and how you have managed a group of people
  7. Analytical thinking – progressive and conscious thinking, which everyone has naturally to some extent
  8. Goal oriented – this is what every employer expects from their employees, therefore such a phrase is too vague 
  9. Teamwork oriented – an essential characteristic for achieving the common goals of the company
  10. Guru – used in the meaning of “all-knowing” expert, which may sound like boasting
  11. Unique, incredibly (+ an adjective) – we recommend leaving these exaggerated superlatives out completely

Effective words in a CV

Unlike other administrative documents, a CV should be written in a distinct style. Words with powerful meanings should always be used at the beginning of a sentence because they immediately draw attention to your professional success.
So-called ‘effective’ words are often used by HR people who insert these keywords into electronic databases when scanning or searching for candidates. This generates easy-to-find matches between the keywords entered and requirements for an employee. Therefore, in a short time, a HR professional may scan a great number of CVs that contain these words.

A selection of effective words that demonstrate the employee's qualities combined with a suitable verb:

  • Initiative – to call, create, invent, design, develop, formulate, establish, produce, devise, initiate, etc.
  • Leadership skills– to train, coordinate, delegate, direct, manage, promote, support, establish, accompany, inspire, lead, mentor, motivate, educate, arrange, organise, measure, search, etc.
  • Organisation– to organise, collect, distribute, present, check, maintain, monitor, plan, prepare, process, record, explore, program, sort out, standardise, systematise, update, validate, etc.
  • Communication– to address, transmit, call, cooperate, contact, reply, provoke, hear, influence, listen to, negate, propose, settle, speak, say, etc.
  • Help– to help, assist, care, diagnose, educate, support, enable, influence, propose, rehabilitate, strengthen, teach, volunteer, etc.
  • Problem solving – to analyse, evaluate, classify, create, criticise, propose, develop, assess, invent, separate, map, optimise, revise, solve, resolve, attempt, etc.
  • Creativity – to build, compose, create, design, direct, draw, entertain, modernise, illustrate, develop, innovate, model, establish, paint, act, develop, etc.
  • Improvement– to reduce, eliminate, improve, increase, maximise, minimise, remove, perfect, shorten, fasten, terminate, etc.

If this article helped you to create and edit your CV, you can read other interesting advice in our career zone. You will learn, for example, how to prepare for an interview or why a Linkedin profile is important when looking for a job.