Wednesday 10 July 2019 10:29 am

Purge your CV of these nonsense words and phrases

The language of the CV has long been infected by the same mumbo jumbo that renders most corporate literature ineffectual and drab. 

More often than not, CVs are plagued with overused platitudes that have lost all meaning and demonstrate only one thing: your hopeless mediocrity.

If you want to stand out, it is important to avoid this kind of corporate gobbledegook. Otherwise, you are merely telling potential employers lots of vague banalities about yourself, and not showing them why you are the best person for the job. 

Effective CVs or LinkedIn profiles are short, use simple language, and get to the point quickly. A CV is a teaser document designed to get your foot in the door. It’s the film trailer of your career. It is not an excuse to machine-gun unimaginable numbers of buzzwords at innocent readers, in the vague hope that one of them might hit the mark.

With that in mind, here are my top CV howlers to avoid.


Every person in business in the world today claims to be dynamic. Avoid. 

If your CV is good enough, your career progress will demonstrate this. It’s implicit. If someone tells me that they have climbed Mount Everest, I know with the utmost clarity that this person has guts and stamina (they’re probably dynamic too). There is no need for them to tell me.

Highly motivated

Of course you are. As is every single other person who has applied for this job. Instead, show the potential employer what motivates you, and why. 

Fit your skills directly to those explicitly required on the job description. It’ll show that you are genuinely motivated to do the job they want you to do.

Communication skills

Heinously overused. This means that you can speak, excellently. So can everyone else.


Weird back-to-fronty CV doublespeak. Again, this should be implicit in the CV. You don’t need to tell people this. Your career history will show it (or not). And who, exactly, isn’t outcomes-focused? Deciding to get dressed in the morning makes you outcomes-focused.


I am always deeply suspicious of those people – and companies – who keep telling me how passionate they are. 

As in: “I’m passionate about delivering results in an outcome-focused, results-driven environment.” No, you’re not. If you’ve written a decent CV then your passion will shine through in the way you’ve conducted your career.


Isn’t everyone? It’s called waking up and getting out of bed. Instead, show the reader through your career history how you have really “self-started”.


The vast majority of people who run businesses are not good leaders. That is because people get promoted on the back of technical ability – and politics – rather than on their ability to inspire and to lead. 

Don’t tell people that you are a leader unless you can show how you have genuinely led people, preferably in a tight spot.


Ah yes, as opposed to being driven by failure, of course. Results-driven is more senseless back-to-fronty CV doublespeak. 

Not only is the phrase horrendously overused in unimaginative CVs, it is utterly meaningless. It’s like outcomes-focused – I mean, who exactly isn’t results-driven?

And the trouble is, once you have infected your CV with this kind of language, all it succeeds in doing is eating away at your originality and your character. 

It is the people who speak and write concisely, plainly, and with clarity of purpose who get the best job.