The Power of Words

Have you just seen your dream job advertised? Fantastic! It’s time to polish your CV to improve your chances of getting an interview. Start with your choice of words.

We prepared a list of 21 weakest and most overused words we see in CVs as recruiters and their stronger synonyms. Don’t get us wrong though – using these words doesn’t mean your CV is a ‘no’ straight away. However, substituting these will make your profile more powerful and emotive. For instance, saying ‘I work in marketing because I have a keen interest in digital’ is nowhere near as strong as ‘I have a genuine passion for all things digital – from novelties in software to disruptive startups and online marketing trends, digital is what I live and breathe.’

Your choice of vocabulary can highlight particular skills, display your enthusiasm about a role or company, or simply showcase your eloquence.  Therefore, if you want to set your CV apart, be mindful of every word you write. Creating a storytelling CV can be your make or break when applying for jobs; articulating your story well will enhance your strength as a candidate further.

Words to avoid in your CV

So, here is our list of words to avoid in your CV and their much stronger synonyms:

Words to Avoid in CV: Verbs

Succeed: excel; exceed expectations; overdeliver; accomplish; advance; outperform

Lead: direct; inspire; mentor; motivate; influence; employ; pioneer; train; empower; enlist; chair; control; coordinate; encourage; energize

Achieve: deliver; fulfil; build; attain; accomplish; complete; ensure; finalize; realize; gain; produce; activate; engineer; execute; yield results

Improve: enhance; boost; upgrade; lift; advance; raise; accelerate; bring; devise; establish; expand; expedite; innovate; pioneer; implement; introduce; integrate; reorganize; revitalize; solve; address a problem

Manage: oversee; supervise; delegate; guide; handle; administer

Learn: master; grasp; absorb; acquire; dedicate; develop; educate; graduate

Help: advise; assist; support; contribute; collaborate; facilitate

Do: act; complete; handle; produce; perform; administer; exercise; operate

Words to Avoid in CV: Nouns

Interest: passion; vocation; enthusiasm; fascination; dedication;

Ambition: drive; hunger; determination; aspiration; vigour; zeal; energy; eagerness

Result: solution; outcome; completion; effect; aftermath

Knowledge: expertise; grasp; proficiency; understanding; experience;

Management: leadership; direction; guidance; management

Ability: aptitude; capacity; forte; capability; strength; competency; flair

Idea: initiative; enthusiasm; alacrity;

Words to Avoid in CV: Adjectives

Complicated: complex; multidimensional; versatile; multifaceted; compound; elaborate; intricate

Best: leading; outstanding; chief; superior; top; first-rate

Dynamic: energetic; charismatic; powerful; active; vigorous

Thinking outside the box: creative; innovative; original; inventive

Problem-solving: investigative; analytical; systematic; diagnostic

Results-oriented: target-driven; determined; committed;

Extra Tip

It’s good to use some of the words that your potential employer uses, especially when they talk about themselves. Do they talk about being customer-centric? Or collaboration as their value? Innovation maybe? Subtly scatter their exact words in your CV – your aim is to show your values are aligned with the company. Also, it will create a sense of familiarity. Why is it important? It will create Exposure Effect – a psychological phenomenon whereby people feel a preference for people or things simply because they are familiar.


We hope this article is useful. Do you have any other suggestions of words to avoid in CVs? Let us know in the comments below. If you are looking to improve your digital or tech CV, please submit it here and we will be back in touch with expert feedback!

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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