Five Buzzwords That Are Probably Killing Your Job Search

The English language includes a wide array of adjectives, but not all come across the way you'd like.

by Maugan Dixon, January 1, 2018

Repetition has its perks; it reiterates a point, it helps with memorisation and it lingers in the mind. But when you’re trying to set yourself apart from other candidates, it just doesn’t work in the way you want.

What to avoid in your job search:

  1. I work well in teams...
  2. I was tasked with...
  3. A bright enthusiastic candidate…
  4. Proactive
  5. Attention to detail

Here are the five in more detail.

“I work well in teams…”

This says absolutely nothing about you or the team you worked in. It’s perhaps ruler of the generic phrase. Firstly, always give a case example: how big was the team? How did you work well in it? What was the thing that you did that made you a team player? In answering this, you instantly get a more appealing sentence: “I was the longest standing member of a team that grew from 5 people to 10 people in the span of 1 year.”

Then get into what assess you brought to the team – but be careful of this point and really do tailor the response for each application. For example, if you’re trying to go for a management position, you do need to make sure you have good interpersonal skills. But, at the same time, you also need to demonstrate your ability to make tough choices, especially when it’s not all smiles and roses.

“I was tasked with…”

A synonym of “tasked with” is “responsible for”. It’s a blanket statement. Everybody in a team is responsible for team tasks. There are varying degrees of responsibility, but these statements don’t even tell you that! This sentence tells a potential employer the bare minimum about what you did and makes you sound like a candidate who does the bare minimum. Be specific. What was your task and how did you carry it out?

Instead of staying “I was tasked with writing briefs” try something like: “I led a team of 7 in writing a bi-weekly brief outlining KPIs and customer feedback.” Again, give a quantity and a frequency – it eliminates doubt and makes your application read more precise.

“A bright enthusiastic candidate…”

Eww! Don't pay yourself so many compliments. What it really sounds like is “I am so egotistical I’m not even going to let you draw your own conclusions about me, I’m going to tell you – after all, I am more intelligent than you.” Take time and actually evidence this claim and lead a perspective employer to arrive at this conclusion themselves.

It’s really a game of inception: the purpose of your CV is to lead an employer into shortlisting you through your previous experiences. This should appear nowhere on you CV or application and definitely isn’t what you want to open with (even though so many people already do).


This word on a CV is as common as “the”. It holds no weight and says nothing – in essence, it’s just a filler word. Wherever you have made use of this word, think about how you would extend it into a sentence. If you mean that you are an independent worker, say that and give a case. If you mean that you have good problem-shooting skills then spell it out. Remember that the employer doesn’t know you or your working ethos, so you really do have to spell it out.

“Attention to detail”

One typo and it’s basically a lie, because if you did have attention to detail, you would have noticed that. If you had to be attentive in your area of work, then you should really say what details you had to pay attention to. For example, an engineer who works with mother boards will have payed attention to the layout of their circuit. They may have also had to work with miniscule parts that have to have a sensible layout, while overcoming other challenges – that is detail, that can’t be refuted by one error.

So avoid this humdrum sentences and remember: give quantities where possible, say what you actually mean and please please please do not use generic sentences that the employer has already heard. 

Originally published February 10, 2016