CV Buzzwords – The most and least effective according to research

CV buzzwords and general word choice, and selection is important when it comes to drafting your CV, not just to ensure that your CV is reviewed positively by software and applicant tracking systems (ATS), but also because you want to impress recruiters and hiring managers with your skills, competencies and relevant credentials.

The words used show what level the candidates is at in their career,” says Susan Joyce, owner and operator of Job-Hunt.org, the guide for a smarter, safer job search. “If I picked up a CV for a senior candidate who chose vague descriptives, they would immediately be discredited. Some might think a candidate’s experience outweighs the actual text of a CV, but this is often not the case. If a hiring manager doesn’t see key indicators a candidate is qualified by appropriate word choice or diction at first glance, chances are, the CV will be eliminated before they are even considered.”

It’s important to use power words in your CV and cover letters when applying for jobs. Using these words helps demonstrate your strengths and highlights why you are right for the job. Power words also jazz up your job descriptions and make them seem alive, as opposed to flat. 

What do CV buzzwords accomplish?

CV buzzwords are used for several reasons. First, many hiring managers quickly skim through resumes and cover letters due to the high volume they receive. These power words jump off the page, quickly showing the hiring manager you have the skills and qualifications to get the job done.

Also, most resume language is repetitive and boring. If your language is the same as everyone else’s, it will be hard for you to stand out.

To help land your CV at the top of the pile, we’ve analysed all the CVs written by the CV Buzz coaches across 2020 and up to September 2021, all 1200+ of them! “What are the words you like to see on a CV?” Here’s what the result had to say. Bookmark this article ASAP!

Redesigned

Seen in 54% of CVs relating to senior management, executive and process-driven roles as well as creatives and engineers.

Action verbs are a must on any CV. But not just any action verbs. We advise clients to include verbs that show leadership and transformation. “‘Redesign’ demonstrates problem-solving skills as well as the ability to think big picture and reduce process inefficiencies.”

Launched

Seen in 37% of CVs relating to technical, analytical, and data-driven roles as well people-related roles.

If cliches are a no-no, simple yet powerful words are your go-tos, according to Glassdoor columnist Anish Majumdar. “Simple, practical words that denote responsibility have the most impact. Launched, solved, transformed, and optimised are all examples of action verbs that make you look good without resorting to cliches.”

Modernised

Seen in 29% of CVs relating to management roles, engineering roles and design roles. According to master CV writer Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, this word along with “conceived and metamorphosed” are, “like a switch, powering up the candidate’s story, showing how they’ve improved, envisioned and transformed their work environments, and therefore, gained revenue, customer growth, reputation, etc. traction for their company. They empower and advance the candidate’s story!”

Valuable

Seen in 34% of CVs board level roles, directors, executives and financial related roles

These words show that the candidate is thinking about their own activities in terms of how they’ll improve the business. Terms like ‘hard-working’ don’t do this because working hard doesn’t necessarily produce better results. But focusing on being productive, adding value, and making progress show that the person is tuned in to improving the company, which almost always resonates with hiring managers.

Orchestrated

Anyone can say they “led” a team. Instead, use verbs that really explain what happened in that specific task. Consider the verb ‘orchestrated’ and how it shows, versus just telling, the hiring manager what was accomplished. Orchestrated, by definition, means to arrange and direct. The key is to make a CV better than any great piece of fiction by embracing the storytelling aspect and showing readers your true qualifications.”

Cv Buzzwords

Spearheaded

A CV and the job search, in general— is not the time to be shy. Use strong words that emphasise your level of involvement. This isn’t the time to minimise yourself or your contributions. If you were instrumental in a project, replace the word “helped” with the word “spearheaded. Spearheaded, created, and initiated all show that you took the lead and were not merely a participant in a project.

Committed

Show that you’re dedicated to your work, start to finish. This word does just that. If you disregard diction and word choice and think that they don’t carry any weight you’re wrong.  Managers can gauge aptitude, readiness and even your leadership skills from paper.

What to avoid

At CV Buzz, we regularly see a whole plethora of over-used (or abused) cv buzzwords that get included in a personal profile. Our guess is that people have heard of them or read them and therefore think they’re good to drop into their CV… but they have much less impact than you would hope.

Personal profiles should, ideally, be no longer than a couple of punchy paragraphs which gives the reader a quick insight into who the job seeker is.

These will be specific, measurable statements that clearly outline what skills, strengths and performance indicators an individual would bring with them to the job; and really, you want to avoid using these rather fluffy and ambiguous phrases:

  • Ambitious
  • Team-spirited
  • Collaborative
  • Hard-working
  • Honest
  • Innovative
  • Autonomous
  • Passionate
  • Outgoing
  • Proactive
  • Creative
  • Motivated
  • Determined
  • Versatile
  • Goal Orientated
  • Results Focused
  • Reliable
  • Problem Solving
  • Well Organised

This list of CV buzzwords always makes us as recruiters smile when we read them because just about everyone uses them in their description of themselves. For instance, “honest”; since when are you going to admit to being dishonest on a CV?  So why put honest?

An employer will assume everyone is honest, so don’t waste your time writing it into your CV! You have to use a little common sense about what is and what is not appropriate.

Of course CV buzzwords only account for the fraction of effort and dedication that goes into a high performing CV document. Proof reading should always be encouraged, achievements should be clear and backed up, and particular focus should be given towards the first few sentences of the profile section.

Feel free to check out our ultimate guide to writing your CV in 2021 here.

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