• Creative Fix NZ

5 Words & Phrases You Should Never Include In Your CV

Everyone knows the key to winning Survivor is to 'Outwit', 'Outlast', and 'Outplay' the competition. Easy to remember, right? Three O's; very clever! Well here are three more easy to remember 'O's' you can apply to avoid an epic CV fail. Leave it out if it's: 'Overused', 'Outdated', or 'Opinionated.'

There are probably 100 words and phrases you could do to leave off your CV, but here are five of the worst offenders and the reasons why you should leave them off your professional document.


#faceplam Taking the cake in spot number one, we have possibly the most overused CV phrase of all. Look, we're not saying you CAN'T discuss your excellent attention to detail, but for crying out loud, let's find some more creative ways of describing your ability. This is a classic case of: you say something enough times, it loses all meaning. Even if you are a brain surgeon, where attention to detail is a vitally important part of your job, we suggest you use a phrase that people won't fall asleep while reading. Our top tip? Give some context! Where do you display this skill? How can your competence be measured? Is this actually an essential part of your job? Do you even HAVE an excellent attention to detail or have you just written it because it sounded good? Maybe you're not that great with detail and are instead a 'big-picture' person who is great at goal setting and strategy development. Taking the time to sit down and consider your true professional strengths is important. If you do this, and come to the conclusion that, yes, attention to detail is a strength of mine, here are some better (exciting, engaging, and useful) ways to describe an attention to detail:

Works methodically to ensure quality and accuracy...

Process-oriented, I work systematically to prepare thorough, highly detailed...

Taking meticulous care, I consistently achieve 100% compliance with...


Spot number two on our list has got to go to 'passionate'. Yes, this is a great word, but it isn't the right one to use on a professional document. "But I AM passionate!", We hear you say. Not doubting that, however, in addition to this word being overused, it is also your opinion and can't be proven or backed up with evidence the way a word like 'committed' can. People can see your passion, they might even describe you as passionate, and that's great! But, describing yourself as passionate on a CV falls flat and comes across as waffle. You can't prove it with adjectives, so don't even try. Instead, we suggest that you prove that you are passionate. Yes, that's right; prove it! On your CV, list any voluntary/community work you participate in and causes you champion, to highlight your passion without directly labelling it.

If you want to say you are a 'passionate designer', show it instead. How? With an awesome CV design, maybe a link to a portfolio of your work, a list of the relevant training you have completed (even if it is self-directed), and information about how design is part of your life outside of work, i.e. you volunteer to teach high school students how to use Adobe Photoshop etc..


Well, one would hope so! Unless you're self-employed and work from home, when are you not in a team? Even if you work solo in your role in accounts, you are technically still part of the wider team and the organisation as a whole. No one wants to work around someone who is terrible in a team environment, so what are you REALLY trying to say?

Maybe you could replace this phrase with something more specific such as:

A collaborative team leader, I prioritise creating a positive and encouraging workplace culture...

An approachable 'people-person', I build trust and relationships with ease and am often described by team members as supportive and engaging.


Nope. Not for your CV. If you are a laugh-a-minute, let them figure that out in the interview. Keep in mind the employer may or may not be up for a giggle, so use humour wisely.

You only have a couple of pages to sell yourself in the form of your experience, achievements, and skills, so there just isn't a place to write odd-ball phrases like this one. Save it for the dating profiles. But, how do you convey you are lighthearted and good-natured in a CV? Well, you don't/can't really, as it's just not relevant to most jobs. (A clown and comedian being two obvious exceptions). All you could do would be to mention something in your extracurricular or interests sections that might give them an idea of who you are as a person. i.e. 'Regular attendee of comedy open mic nights'.


In the same boat as 'Works well in a team' is 'honest'; it's another one of those opinion-based words that are best left of your CV. 'Honest' is a word that others might use to describe you, but it isn't something you can say about yourself because how can you prove it? Also, it isn't something you should need to mention on your CV because any hiring manager should give a potential employee the benefit of the doubt; trusting that whoever they hire is going to be an honest and trustworthy individual. Innocent until proven guilty, right?

Oh and 'honest' can be a bad thing if you think about it. Telling white lies and keeping a poker face is important in some jobs, so if employers think you will crack under pressure and spill the beans, you might not be a good fit. Conclusion? Best to focus on the skills that you can back up with real evidence and leave the empty self-assessment descriptors off your CV.

This was an intro to five of the most common CV word and phrase faux pas, but trust us when we say there are many more! If you have made one, (or all) of these oversights or you are unsure about some of the other phrases or words in your current CV, get in touch. We love to work with clients to help them identify their real skills and put together a document that uniquely sells them and sets them apart from the competition. There is only one you, so let's work together to make you shine on paper.