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Words Not to Use on Your CV if you really want that job
Over the top vocab and cringe buzzwords can put a hopeful employee off.
Career 28 May 2024

When looking for a job in the art world you will never get a second chance to make a first impression. Which in job hunting terms is most relevant when it comes to how you write your CV. The language and content of a CV is your first port of call to woo an employee to land your dream job. This piece of A4 paper needs to be eye-catching in a glance, so you must be wise about the words you use. According to the U.S. News & World Report it takes 20 seconds for a possible employee to make a decision about you based on your CV. They need to scan your CV and find the important information they need in record time, so they can move on to the next CV. Therefore filling the limited space you have with over the top vocab and cringe buzzwords can put a hopeful employee off. So, we have complied a list of words and phrases that should be banned from your CV. Time to get out the red marker pen and hit the delete button.

  • Unemployed
    Hiring managers will know whether you have been unemployed by looking at the dates of your employment. No need to highlight it.
  • Accomplished
    Instead of using the word, show it! Name drop the accomplishment then explain how you achieved it. Also leave out the words ‘responsible for’. Superfluous words like these unnessarily complicate and hide your actual experience.
  • ‘ I know Photoshop…..’
    When it comes to skills be honest about what you actually feel comfortable with and know well. Skills account for the most common lies on a CV. On the same theme Microsoft Office does not need to be listed within your skills. Command of of Microsoft Office is not a skill, it is a given.
  • Unnecessary personal information
    Date of birth, personal gaps in your cv etc. should be avoided. This kind of personal information does not show your accomplishments and could cause an employee to discriminate.
  • Can’t or Won’t
    Your CV should not include any negative words full stop, so leave them out.
  • Expert
    Steer clear from this word unless you are one. Equally stay away from the words ‘highly qualified’ or ‘extensive experience’. Instead list the skills, accomplishments and credentials you can bring to the role.
  • On time
    Being on time is not an accomplishment, nore should it be a skill. It is a standard expectation with every job, so leave it off your CV.
  • Talking in the first or third person
    Using I, she, he, him her ….just sounds really weird, like someone wrote your CV for you. Just state facts instead.
  • Synergy
    This word has no place in any context – period.
  • Misspelt words
    Misspelt words should never be included on your CV. Use spell checker, read it several times and ask a pal to check it again.
  • Hardworking
    Again this is not a real skill or an accomplishment. It should be a given. Here are a few additional examples of phrases possible employer’s expect without needed to see them  on your CV.
    Self-motivated, team player, strategic thinker, best of breed ( please please leave this out) think outside the box, results driven, detail-orientated and proactive.
  • Go-getter or Go-to-person
    Think more creatively. These words and phrases do not sound professional at all. If this is a critical asset in the position you are applying for, try using an action statement that shows how you work with others.
  • People-person
    Nearly every job requires you to with other people, so unless you have a specific example that shows you are exceptionally skilled in this area, it’s not worth including.
  • Phone number
    Just say ‘number’ and opt for email rather than email address. Don’t fill up that precious space with unnessary words.
  • Learning
    This word gives employers the impression that you are inexperienced and require a great deal of training.
  • Seasoned
    Not only does this word conjure up images of fried goods, it also is a code word for being much older.
  • References available upon request
    If you progress through the interviewing process, you will be asked for your personal and professional references anyways so leave it out.
  • Interfaced
    Words like this make you sound like a robot. I know we are living in a era of AI but most employers still want to hire a human being. Keep your verbs simple and streamlined.
  • Lit
    Avoid slang or causal texting language. A CV is a formal document, therefore only business language allowed. This also implies to your interview too if you get to that stage.
  • Influencer
    This may mean you are savvy with digital marketing, but many ‘influencers’ are not that influential. Show stats instead of using the cringe-worthy word.

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Curator – Public Programmes
Whitechapel Gallery - London, UK
Research Associate, Krasner & Pollock Exhibition
The Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, USA
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Art Works Gallery & Advisory - Singapore
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Karimah Ashadu - Germany