Whether you are a recent graduate just starting out, or a seasoned professional, there will inevitably come a stage where you need to update your CV.

With some experts suggesting you have just under 9 seconds to impress, it becomes all the more important that your CV is to the point, relevant and not a direct replica of the A4 page the hiring manager put down 9 seconds ago!

With this in mind, what are the words you should avoid using on your CV and what SHOULD you do instead?

The Top 10 most overused words and phrases on a CV are:

  • Motivated
  • Creative
  • Passionate
  • Results Driven
  • Successful
  • Leader
  • Extensive Experience
  • Enthusiastic
  • Track Record
  • Driven

When writing your CV, it is advisable to avoid using words that have a negative antonym, this way there is no potential for your performance to slide down on a scale. 

A good rule of thumb is to take the word and flip it.  If you wouldn’t describe yourself as ‘unmotivated’, ‘unenthusiastic’ or ‘unsuccessful’, then we’d recommend that you hit delete on their positive forms too.  Instead; show, not tell.  Use examples of where you have overcome obstacles and how you did that.  Demonstrate you are motivated and enthusiastic by listing out of hours learning you have sought or extra projects you have taken on.

Likewise, replace telling your future employer that you are passionate and creative.  Show them that you are.  Include links on your CV to your work or attach a presentation you are particularly proud of.  There is no need to use tired, overused and outdated terms when your work speaks for itself.

Another hurdle of buzz words is the fact that they mean different things to different people.  Your future boss’s interpretation of ‘successful’ may be very different to yours. Here at Ignite, we have found that many employers are seeking out different qualities in their next hire. Thankfully, many of these are not open to interpretation.

Think about your soft-skills…. these are tangible qualities that have meaning. Punctuality, flexibility, reliability and being cooperative are traits that are highly prized, but rarely listed on a CV.

Beating the Buzz

Here are some alternative strategies on what you could use instead.

Passionate & Enthusiastic.

Replace saying you are these things with demonstrating that you are.  Why don’t you list some voluntary experience you have inside and outside the workplace to show that you – as an individual – care about things as a matter of course.


Maybe you could think how you could re-write this attribute…creative in itself! You could try phrases that are more compelling…like “I approach a task with resourcefulness and originality”, for example.  Another alternative is to showcase your ‘creativity’. Upload your work so others can see for themselves.

Track record

Use adjectives such as ‘reliable’ instead.  Then prove this reliability by providing some stats or tangible results of your ‘track record’.  Can you demonstrate the outcome of your work? Have results improved off the back of your work? If so, then show how.


Ask others to endorse your work.   Praise from colleagues or former clients shout far louder about your successes than a vague self-description ever will.


Use real life examples of how you have led teams, how large these were and the outcome.  Encourage your team to endorse you here too…a personal recommendation on your management or leadership skills from those you have led speaks volumes.

Extensive Experience

You can demonstrate your ‘experience’ by offering out your insight on industry relevant topics through LinkedIn groups or share your viewpoint on your LinkedIn profile. To follow and share the content of leading voices within your industry is also a good idea.  Provide your own view too, even if you have an alternative one.  Whether you agree or disagree, say so and provide an educated and articulate argument as to why.  This shows that you care about and monitor the arena as a whole. Overall though, it is important to remember that being active on your LinkedIn profile makes in 15 times more likely to be viewed online.

Beyond the Buzz.

Removing the most overused words from your CV is more than just reaching for the thesaurus.  Your CV is your opportunity to reveal a 3 dimensional version of yourself across all the areas of your life.  Generic “motivated, results driven, creative, passionate leaders with extensive experience and a proven track record” are 10 a penny.

Instead, think tangible and non-discretionary.  Show not tell, and the buzz words will take care of themselves.

If you need help finding your next tech, digital or data role, then get in touch with the team today.  For more helpful hints, tips and advise on updating you CV, our blog is a great place to start. We have some great articles to get you going.  








About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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