If you are having trouble finding the right words and phrasing on your CV then you are in very good company, because a great many people, including people such as journalists, communication chiefs and senior recruiters also struggle to do just that – which is one reason why they come to us for help with their curriculum vitae.

Common Issues

One common problem is that many people forget that a CV is actually a sales and marketing document that has a purpose – namely to help you land an interview!

The best way to do this is to entice the employer to read your curriculum vitae and rouse his/her interest by including relevant information in an engaging yet concise manner. However, many job seekers struggle to include relevant information concisely, let alone in an engaging way.

At one end of the scale some people’s CVs read like dull and basic job specifications, whereas at the other end of the scale many people over complicate things; mixing, colouring and diluting their central sales message with acronyms, colloquialisms, humour, repetition and so on until the document loses any appeal, and potential effect, it may have had on the employer. This is especially true for CV written by technical people, who struggle more than most in this respect, but a great many non-technical people also have difficulty finding the right words, and the right balance on their CV too.

Notably, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it, and the choice of words is extremely important when it comes to CVs; more so than other documents, and especially when you consider that you only have a very limited amount of space to sell yourself to the optimum. You need to make each word count – because if you don’t then one or more of your competitors most probably will!

The words you use need to be positive, pertinent and proactive. It sounds obvious and is fairly common knowledge. Even so, many people struggle to send out the right positive message on paper. Having an idea of what needs to be done is quite different to actually pulling it off, and many people struggle. In fact, many candidates just send out a basic and passive message rather than a proactive and dynamic one. This is significant because each word not only needs to contribute to getting across the right message for you, in the right way, but it also needs to play a part in helping you maintain legibility and optimum CV length (one or two pages maximum).

It’s quite a balancing act, and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

The English

English is another common problem, and not just for non-native speakers. Many mother tongue English job seekers also apply for good jobs with CVs that include problems with the English. Issues don’t just include the choice of words, but also errors and saying things in writing that a typical English speaker would not say in real life. When people do this the net effect is that their CVs tend to come across as somewhat contrived or artificial.

Some people may consider this a minor point. However, it’s a reflection of your communication skills (or lack of them as the case may be), and your choice of words, even at base level can (and often is) influential in the employer’s decision-making process. Just as a few choice words can prick employer’s attention, and get him/her to sit up and take notice, a few misplaced words can have the opposite effect.


Talking of the importance of words, keywords are a case in point. In this day and age, some recruiters and employers use ATS software that looks for keywords and provides recruiters or employers with a rough guide to your suitability (or otherwise) for particular jobs.

Actually, even when recruiters/employers do not use ATS software keywords frequently play a major part in the decision making process. It is no coincidence that CVs that have been optimised using relevant keywords get better results than those CVs that don’t.

Again there is a lot more to this than meets the eye, and haphazard or indiscriminate use of keywords (or even overuse of keywords) can sometimes do you more harm than good -so beware!

Conclusion and Solutions

The way you word things on a CV is more important than most people realise. It’s not only a reflection on you and your communication skills, but it’s also central to how effective your all-important central sales message gets across (or doesn’t as the case may be).

Does your wording have an effect on how successful your CV is or isn’t, as the case may be?
Absolutely! And it’s no coincidence that CVs that speak to the employer in a proactive, relevant, natural and engaging matter tend to be more successful than those CVs that don’t.

One tip is to read your CV out aloud to yourself. Does it flow? Does it sound natural? Is it engaging? Or is it basic, artificial sounding or overcomplicated?

Reading your CV out aloud won’t fix all of these problems, but at least it can help you identify some of them.
If you want further help on improving the wording (and a lot more besides) in your CV then you should find Paul’s book, ‘The One Page CV’ helpful in this respect.

Finding the right words and weaving them naturally into a CV is not an easy task, and especially if you want to sell your skills to the maximum whilst maintaining optimum length. The value of experience and creative writing talent cannot be underestimated, which is why, going back to the opening statement, even high-ranking career and communication specialists from all around the world come to us for expert help.

We help them.

We can help you too.