10 Sound bites that could ruin CVs in 2013

There are myriad clichéd sound bites that can ruin even the finest CVs and scupper your chances for success in 2013.

Your CV will probably get between 15 and 30 seconds of time to impress a recruiter, so it would be a shame if it failed because it was so chock full of meaningless phrases and throwaway buzzwords that it simply doesn’t do your career history justice.

I have listed the top ten phrases we constantly see repeated in offending CVs.  If you spot any of them in your CV, don’t worry, there are some quick fixes below to help you get you back on track and a downloadable checklist at the end to ensure your CV impresses.

Let’s kick off with a classic…..

1. CVs: I have a strong work ethic

And? Why on earth do candidates think this would set them apart from the others? Avoid using this phrase all together anywhere on your CV. Instead, give an example where you have gone the extra mile; working late to meet a deadline or going out of your way to clinch that sale. I’m sure the recruiter will be smart enough to understand the inference.

2. CVs: I’m a team-player

We see this one mentioned on so many CVs with nothing to give it any substance. Demonstrate how you collaborated with colleagues to meet an objective, how you understood your role in the task and how you delivered. Again, avoid using the phrase itself if you can.

3. CVs : I always focus on the bottom line

Another cringe worthy bit of terminology that is meaningless unless you can really demonstrate how you contributed to the success of the business. Remember, this doesn’t always mean adding pounds, shillings and pence, you could illustrate how you saved the organisation time and resources which all go towards that bottom line saving.

4. CVs: I’m self-motivated

I’m never really sure what point someone is trying to get across when they stipulate this little gem on their CVs.  By self-motivated do they mean they are motivated enough to simply get out of bed every morning and do a day’s work? Avoid this phrase. If you have enough examples in your CV where you demonstrate hard work then sound bites like this can always be avoided.

5. CVs: I’m detail orientated

As opposed to what? If you state this as one of your core skills and then have a typo on your CV or covering letter don’t expect much sympathy.

6. CVs: I’m a hardworker

Really? Oh, that’s a relief. With your CV sitting on the ‘maybe’ pile of CVs, don’t expect this little bit of insight to see you move onto the ‘yes’ pile. Don’t just put it down as one of your key attributes; instead demonstrate it throughout your CV with details of why you consider yourself to be a hard working individual.

7. CVs: I have great communication skills

So do dolphins. Why have you got good communication skills? Is it motivating teams, presenting to large audiences, creating a press release or newsletter? Again, this is a piece of terminology candidates either put down on their CVs or say in an interview, without any real thought of what it means.

8. CVs: I have a proven track record

Like so many of the points above, this one is all about the detail.  Anyone can say they have a proven track record, so prove it. Give specifics, give numbers, give details – “I ran a promotion that had an ROI of 3:1, creating a footfall increase of 120%”.  Facts and numbers will be far more impressive than yet another sound bite.

9. CVs: I like a fast paced environment

In these times of recession and high unemployment, there aren’t many organisations that are over-staffed. Work load expectations have increased dramatically over the last couple of decades with even the public sector finally realising they can expect more from individuals for the same money.

This means that the phrase ‘fast paced environment’ is as good as redundant these days. All businesses should be running at an optimum speed and stating that this is how you like to operate is just a waste of space on your CV.

10. CVs: References available by request

I’m just as guilty as putting this pointless bit of info on my CV. Prospective employees will obviously be asking for references before they take you on, they won’t ponder whether they can ask! This should be deleted from all CVs.

Help is on hand to get your CV back on track.  We have put together an eGuide with a handy checklist which details all the things you should and shouldn’t include in your CV to make sure that your application is seen and noticed by hiring managers and recruiters.

Fill in the table below to download the checklist.  And if you need any further help with your CV, don’t hesitate to get in touch via our LinkedIn group here or alternatively don’t hesitate to get in touch via my Twitter link below.

[vfb id=12]

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jesse H
11 years ago

I’m an executive recruiter and agree with all of this. I’d like to add that the only reason I consider leaving “References Available Upon Request” to the end of a resume is that it does one good job – it signals precisely the end of a resume. This can be helpful in the odd time where the pages of a hard copy get mixed up.

Other than that, it’s not very useful at all!


[…] 10 key reasons a job interview could go wrong – Part 1 We’ve recently posted blogs on how to ensure that your CV hits the right mark. […]

11 years ago

Excellent. These sorts of observations are very useful and I apply a similar process. In short it’s just good to ask if there can be an opposite of the word or phrase that makes sense. Professional engineer – as compared to an unprofessional engineer? Strategic thinker – would anyone write – I am suitable for this role as I am not a strategic thinker? I also like to spot phrases such as “I have a wide focus”. But hey CV writing is difficult and you often don’t know who your reader is. So some employers might look for the phrases… Read more »