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Buzzwords to avoid on your job application

Maybe it’s been a while since your last job hunt, or you’re totally stumped and full of clichés. Don’t worry if your job application is reading like a corny sales pitch and you’ve written the term ‘team player’ at least four times.

We have the answer to your woes; our comprehensive list of buzzwords to avoid, and their much more acceptable counterparts. Use and avoid these in your job application and your interview to stand out from the crowd and land your dream career.



  • Go-getter

This phrase should be reserved for the sidelines of junior soccer pitches. Going and getting what? What you’re trying to say is that you’re a high achiever. Replace this phrase with a real life of example of your tenacious attitude.

  • Results driven

This is kind of a dead phrase. If you aren’t getting results or aren’t driven to perform, you’re probably not looking for a new job out of choice, right? Again, use a real example: tripled the company’s profits on a particular service/product, increased our bottom line by 10%, out sold our biggest competitor within 3 months of launch etc.

  • Hard worker

Isn’t everyone? This is a bit of a no brainer that the recruiters will assume about you, so no need to reiterate unless asked.


  • Self-motivated

Another no brainer. Use terms such as ‘proficient manager’, ‘influenced’ or ‘volunteered for’. You can show that you’re able to use your initiative without sounding cheesy.

  • Outside the box

“If you could actually think ‘outside the box,’ you’d be able to phrase it less blandly,” Scherwin says. Use verbs like ‘created’ to describe something unusual that you’ve implemented or suggested in your previous roles.

  • Responsible

‘I was responsible for…’ doesn’t actually give that much detail about the processes involved your role. Did you direct? Manage? Deliver? Action verbs that describe the type of action you took, are much more valuable. 

  • Expert, specialist or experienced?

Do these words accurately describe you or do you think they sound good? For example, if you have PHD in exotic fish and you work in a lab that analyses what exotic fish eat, then you’re probably an expert. If you’ve worked in brick colouring for 38 years, then you’re definitely a specialist. If you’re a graduate with 3 years’ experience as an account manager for a telecoms company, you’re not exactly an specialist or expert, but you are experienced. 

  • Dynamic

This outdated word essential insinuates an energetic person. Why not allow this to come across in the writing of your application? Be creative, use lots of action verbs and present your application visually.

  • Detail oriented

On which details specifically? ‘Highly focused on… improving customer experience/developing marketing strategies/increasing online sales’. Be specific, that’s what a detail oriented person would do.


Better words to use

  • Communication

Instead of ‘team player’, ‘communication’ indicates a level of approachability and an ability to effectively instruct or manage others. As well as using this word, ensure that your writing is informative and concise to prove just how effectively you can communicate.

  • Interpersonal skills

Another great replacement for ‘team player’. This is a particularly valuable buzzword for those who might be heading up or shaking up teams. HR roles and customer facing positions also require great interpersonal skills.

  • Critical thinker and Problem solver

In analytical or high level roles, being able to perform under pressure is paramount. Describing yourself as a problem solver doesn’t go hand in hand with a creative role, so use wisely. 

  • Transferable skills

If you’re applying for a role that’s different from your previous roles, highlighting your skills as ‘transferable’ could stand you in good stead. Transferable skills are things like: team management, public speaking, good written and spoken communication, listening skills and natural collaborator. Use these to bolster your application and particularly remember them in your interview.

Interview tips

Perhaps more stressful than the application, is the interview for your dream job. Try not to stress and take in these quick and easy tips:

  • What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll turn you down. That’s it. Although that’s not what you want, it’s not life threatening. Keep some perspective.
  • Know your own CV. We’ve all seen The Apprentice when those poor sods get their CVs torn apart. Don’t be that guy, know your own CV and don’t lie.
  • Hold onto 4 buzzwords. Think about the job role and pick 4 action verbs or buzzwords that you want to use in the interview. Consistency between your CV, application and interview will impress.
  • Try your best not to be late, but if you are, let them know.

Stressing about your buzzwords? Sweating over your skillset? Our students have exclusive access to our expert team at CV detox to guide their application and interview processes. Applying for a new job is always pulse raising, but a great CV will get you one step closer to that interview.