CV Writing Tips - Language

It can be difficult to find the words for your CV and cover letter while trying to promote yourself. To avoid a negative CV and repeating yourself and the words you use, take a look at our tips for the kind of language you should and should not use when applying for a job.

Aim

Use positive and active language (‘Developed’, ‘organised’, ‘achieved’), this demonstrates how you're an active employee and a ‘doer’.

Always break up large chunks of text into easily digestible sentences. As mentioned in our CV writing tips, you should avoid large amounts of combined text in your CV and should look for it to be as easy to read as possible. Grammarly and Hemingway Editor can help ensure your text is easy to read.

When describing your responsibilities try to show your impact. Explaining your responsibilites and duties along with the result you delivered demonstrates the impact you have.

Ensure you are using professional language - no slang words or phrases.

Aim to include facts and figures (‘Managed a budget of x amount’, ‘Increased revenue by 5%’, ‘Worked across 5 locations’), readers find numbers easier to digest and facts help persuade the reader of your impact.

Try to begin sentences with action verbs - Managed, demonstrated, designed, achieved, trained, updated, supported.

Consider leaving out the words ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’ to make your sentences shorter and faster to absorb. For example ‘Negotiated the introduction of several large key changes’ is slightly slower to read than ‘Negotiated introduction of several large key changes’. Although its only a one word change, the reader can absorb your history a lot faster.

When describing your duties and impact in a role, attempt to go from general to specific. For example - ‘Responsible for all restock and customer-related activities on the counter. Supervised training of new employees. Answer customer complaints and queries’.

Consider the use of the following keywords and phrases when thinking about the language in your CV. Don’t try to squeeze them in unnecessarily, but consider their use when conveying the skills and abilities you possess.

For more words to consider when writing your CV, take a look at ‘action verbs’. There are large lists of action verbs across the internet that you can use when you start to repeat the same words in your CV.

Avoid

Generic cliches. Such as ‘Hard working’, ‘Team player’ and ‘out-of-the-box thinker’. These provide very little factual information about you. If you feel a need to use these words because they are in the job description, then provide examples.

The first person pronoun, as you're only talking about yourself and so don't need to keep referring to yourself in the first person. ‘I am an organised and adaptable professional with...’, can simply be ‘An organised and adaptable professional with…’.

Bulky phrases. This is easier to spot when rereading your CV as we tend to try to increase our word count while writing. For example ‘Engaged in the operation of…’ is worse to read than simply ‘Operated…’.

Typos. Always proofread what you have written. It’s also worth asking somebody else to proofread your work as we can all miss simple errors, even if we think our grasp of english is great. Remember that spell checkers can miss things, so it’s always worth proofreading your writing.

Below is a small sample of words and phrases to avoid. As mentioned previously, consider using a word or phrase on this list if it is in the job description, however provide examples.

You may wonder why some of these words and phrases are in this list when they are skills that just about every job requires. They are to be avoided because they dont allow you to provide examples in a clear way, they are simply trying to state facts that provide no useful information about you.

For example ‘Good communicator’ portrays nothing to the reader, while ‘I use communication skills regularly to ensure customers are getting everything they want’. Although a little wordy in this case, this sentence provides an example, demonstrating to the reader why you are a good communicator with evidence.