Ten words and phrases to avoid on your CV

Job hunting can be difficult: it can be tiring and demoralising and downright upsetting when all those CVs you send out are returning a big fat load of diddly squat.

So it seems somewhat obvious that the very first thing that needs to be absolutely perfect is your CV. After all, it’s the first impression a prospective employer gets – the information in that document is you, at least until it gets your foot through the door and they get to meet the real version. So it's vitally important to make sure that your CV shows as much of that ‘real you’ as it possibly can.

One easy way to do this is to avoid using the buzzwords and phrases that have been cropping up on CVs since the 70s, and which many recruiters simply gloss over nowadays - that is, if they don't actively find them irritating. 

Our top words and phrases to avoid on your CV

So, to help you avoid those annoying words and phrases, we put the question to our consultants: what are the words you just cannot bear to see on a CV? The responses appeared pretty rapidly, with a variety of personal bugbears, irritants and pet hates:

“I think ’can-do attitude’ is so overused.”

“’Can-do attitude’ annoys me too – it’s not actually a skill, nor is it measurable.”

“I come across the phrase ’a fun, energetic person looking for a new challenge’ way too often.”


“Referring to oneself in the third person is really irritating.”

“’Hard-working’ is a pointless thing to put in your CV – it goes without saying if you’re trying to get hired!”

“Thinking outside of the box.”

“’Reach out’ annoys me – it’s too American. ‘Attention to detail’ always makes me want to hunt for errors. ‘Charismatic’ and ‘expert’ shouldn’t be there either – I’ll be the judge of that!”

“This one’s a bit unrelated, but my pet hate at the moment is people who respond to my LinkedIn posts with just the word ‘interested’ – even when it’s not a job advert!”

“I can’t stand people saying ‘touch base’. It makes me want to cry.”

So what should you put on your CV?

Of course, avoiding these terms isn’t everything, so here’s a last-minute checklist for making sure your CV is in the best shape it can be:

  • Make sure you tailor your CV or cover letter to the company you’re applying for: it takes a little more time than simply firing off the same CV to a hundred companies a day, but it’s worth it – you’re far more likely to see a response from a company or recruiter who can see you’ve taken the time to find out a little about them. The internet is an incredible resource: use it! Google the company, check them out on LinkedIn or Facebook; find out about their culture, their mission, and if possible make your CV/cover letter appeal to that culture or mission.
  • Check it for spelling and grammar. Check it again. Get a friend or your mum to check it. Then check it again. Spelling and grammar mistakes are high on most recruiters’ lists of things that make them put a CV down. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t take long, but its ROI is immeasurable.
  • Read it out-loud to yourself – or a friend – to ensure it makes sense. Sometimes things that look fine on paper sound really strange once you read them aloud. Worth the thirty seconds it’ll take you to do.
  • Make sure you’ve sprinkled a few relevant keywords into your CV – if you’re posting it online, recruiters will use those keywords to find you. Without them, you’re just a name floating in the ether.
  • Use the ‘personal’ section to full effect. So many job-hunters just fling a few quick hobbies in and leave it at that. ‘Hiking, reading and cooking’ show up on countless CVs and really tell a recruiter little-to-nothing about you. Use this section to give a little snapshot into your life – you are more than a few qualifications, your past jobs and a couple of ‘aesthetic’[1] hobbies, so show it! If you can manage it, talk about hobbies that relate to the job you’re trying to get, or that show particular qualities: for example, skydiving or potholing shows an adventurous personality, while learning Mandarin shows a desire to be intellectually stretched.

Our Head of Internal Recruitment here at CBSbutler, Vicky Marsh, has a few extra pointers for your CV:

“Keep it short and to the point. Use bullets where possible – it makes it much easier to identify pertinent information.

List your employment experience in reverse chronological order: most recent first, and make sure to include specific achievements for relevant jobs to highlight your performance. Keep irrelevant jobs short, otherwise they’re just taking up space, but do include them to avoid gaps in your employment history.

Focus on your key skills – the ones that are relevant to the role you’re applying for – and explain how you used those to achieve results in past roles.”

Are you looking for a new role? Send internal recruitment enquiries to Vicky at, or take a look at our available external roles here.

[1] I call them ‘aesthetic’ hobbies because they’re just for appearance. You haven’t really been hiking since 2004 and you only cook because you have to eat. Talk about things you really care about, and then if you’re asked about them you’ll be able to show some real passion, and a little life.

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