Top 10 overused words in CVs according to Adzuna data


Standing out from the crowd when you fire off your CV to future employers can be a difficult task.

Exclusive analysis of 1.1milion CVs from Adzuna for This is Money shows that there are a handful of words used with alarming frequency – including one that is in more than a quarter of resumes.

That word is ‘motivated’. It tops the list, appearing in 278,000, or 26 per cent, of CVs analysed by the job search engine.

CV buzzwords: According to analysis of 1.1m CVs by Adzuna, motivated is the most overused word

CV buzzwords: According to analysis of 1.1m CVs by Adzuna, motivated is the most overused word

CV buzzwords: According to analysis of 1.1m CVs by Adzuna, motivated is the most overused word

It is the most used buzzword seen by prospective employers and may lead them to simply gloss over it. 

Adzuna scoured through the CVs on its platform to bring to light Britain’s most common job-hunting clichés.

It reveals the number of CVs in which they appear and the number of times the words or phrases have been used in total.

Behind motivated, is ‘initiative’, featuring in 24 per cent of CVs. ‘Social’ also appears in nearly one fifth of all CVs analysed.

The word, which could refer to either social-media skills, socialising or other social skills, commonly appears more than once in CVs. The term is used 372,265 times in total, more than any other word.

Less commonly used words include ‘assertive’, found in just 8,171 CVs followed by ‘good sense of humour’ and ‘fun’ featuring in just 19,000 and 23,000 respectively.

Here is the full list:

Term Number of CVs containing term at least once % of CVs containing term at least once Total term count
Motivated 278,057 26% 312,090
Initiative 256,027 24% 297,723
Social 207,092 19.6% 372,265
Organised 175,188 16.5% 216,707
Friendly 173,978 16.4% 206,463
Leader 152,153 14.3% 226,789
Experienced 151,102 14.3% 192,575
Hardworking 140,828 13.3% 147,290
Outgoing 89,191 8.4% 102,825
Driven 71,666 6.8% 82,707

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said: ‘Job hunters have a fine balance to strike when it comes to crafting a great CV.

‘While many employers now look for keywords in applications to help refine lists of applicants, it’s important to choose your skillset and attributes wisely.

‘Moving away from recycled buzzwords like motivated and initiative could be the very factor that sets your own CV apart from someone else.’

He adds: ‘When choosing words to describe yourself and your skillset, consider the kind of skills that are really relevant for the exact industry and job role that you are applying for.

‘That way, the key things your employer is looking for will be covered and you’ll have avoided a lot of the repetitive words that can turn off a prospective employer.’

His five tips for creating a great CV:

1. Customise your CV for every role you apply for

It may seem time consuming, but ensuring your CV is tailored to every company and every role that you apply for is important as prospective employers need to be assured that you haven’t sent the same CV to 100 other companies.

To do this, you need to demonstrate that you are a good match for a company and role. 

Study the job advert or specification, and tailor your own experience to the request.

If you don’t necessarily have the experience, focus on transferable skills to provide evidence that you have the qualities they are looking for.

2. Be ruthless – ditch irrelevant information

Potential employers usually have a finite amount of time to read CVs, so don’t include any experience that isn’t relevant.

For example, if a position you held five years ago was completely irrelevant to the role you’re applying for today, don’t waste valuable space talking about responsibilities and duties you had that do nothing to improve your application (but do leave the dates in there so you don’t have unexplained absences).

3. Include hobbies and interests that suit the role you’re applying for

‘Social’ is one of the most commonly used words on CVs according to our data.

There’s clearly an increasing onus on demonstrating that your social life and personality are a good fit for the role and the company culture.

For example, if you are applying for a role as a sales person, you may wish to include hobbies that demonstrate your competitive, outgoing nature.

This is the time to mention a team sport you excel at, or your active participation in the university debating team – rather than use valuable space telling them that you quite enjoy reading.

4. Include a profile summary

This is a few sentences or bullet points (up to 200 words), right at the top of the first page, illustrating the unique selling points that make you a perfect match for the role. 

Ensuring you update this for every role ticks the ‘customised CV’ box.

Clearly outline the kind of role you are applying for and why, try to include the top three most relevant skills briefly in this section and expand further down in the CV.

5. Proof, proof and proof again (then ask a friend)

Errors, typos and spelling mistakes are a massive turn off for employers and provide an easy excuse to reject your application (and speed up their shortlisting process).

Print off your CV and proof your work slowly and meticulously. Then, once you’ve done that, ask a friend or family member to proof it for you.



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