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Best and Worst Words on Your CV

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What You Need to Know

  1. It’s important to use positive language on your CV. You should aim to include the key words that recruiters look for (listed down the article) throughout the document.
  2. Negative words such as “hate” have an off putting impact, even if used in a positive context e.g. “I hate to be idle and always look for things to do…”
  3. You should try and replace negative phrases, with positive ones, whatever the context. For example a “mistake” could be a “valuable lesson.”
  4. Use your personal statement to put down your past achievements and future objectives. This will give you plenty of scope for using those key words.
  5. Back up your positive impression by being concise. Always avoid going over 2 pages.

Millions of people change jobs in the UK every year and a well written CV can make or break your chances of landing that job.

Using the right words

According to the University of Hertfordshire’s Psychology Department, there are ten “feel good” words or phrases that it is vital to use on your application form. ‘Achievement’, ‘evidence’ and ‘experience’ are just three.

The others that strike the right note with recruiters, personnel departments and admissions officers are: ‘active’, ‘developed’, ‘impact’, ‘individual’, ‘involved’, ‘planning’ and ‘transferable skills’.

Words to avoid

The researchers also found that there were several words that you should avoid using. Employers are turned off, the study suggests, by applicants who use ‘always’ and ‘never’ in context of their skills and experience as both of these words suggest exaggeration. ”Negative” words such as ‘awful’, ‘bad’, ‘fault’, ‘hate’, ‘mistake’, ‘nothing’, ‘panic’ and ‘problem’ should also all be avoided.

For example, you can avoid using the word ‘mistake’ by substituting it with the far more positive phrase ‘valuable lesson’ - one that you learned in the course of your employment. Claiming that someone was ‘at fault’ should be replaced with an admission that you and a colleague shared ‘differences’ of opinion or approach, which were overcome.

Use your personal statement

Ian Douglas, the head of education liaison at the University of Hertfordshire, compiled his word list using his experience working with potential students. He added that job hunters and university applicants alike should use the personal statement section of application forms to put across their aims and objectives.

He said: “Giving evidence of academic ability and life skills will help bring any personal statement to life, and makes it easier for admissions tutors and recruiters to realise what applicants have already achieved and what they want to achieve in the future”.

Karen Pine, a development psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire added: “Every recruiter will have to assess hundreds if not thousands of personal statements from hopeful applicants and will make their decisions based on what they can see on paper. Choosing the right words is therefore vitally important if your application is to stand out from the rest.”

CV presentation

While it is important that your words stand out, you also want your CV’s design to mark you out as a professional person. There are several golden rules when it comes to presenting your CV. Choose good quality white paper and an equally tasteful envelope your. Keep your CV short; if it covers more than two pages, you are not editing your experiences and achievements thoroughly enough.

Too many CVs look over-designed, with colour and graphics. Unless you’re applying for a design job, leave the creative flourishes alone. Don’t include photographs unless it is specifically asked for in the application. A clear, simple layout and, most importantly, well-written text will let your words shine through.

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