Effective Phrases and Words to Use in Your CV
Written by Mike Potter, Author • Last updated on 28 February 2024

Effective Phrases and Words to Use in Your CV

The words and phrases in your CV can either put you in the running for the job, or count you out. With more companies using ATS (application tracking systems) to review CVs, it’s valuable to think carefully about the phrases and keywords to include in your application. In this article, we discuss how to include useful and impactful keywords in your CV, to maximise your chances of success.

Key Phrases for CV

Many employers now using ATS software to scan and review applications before a human even lays eyes on them, making the importance of keywords and phrases greater than ever. Keywords make it far more likely to pass through the ATS stage and have your application reviewed by an actual person.

Thankfully, there are ways to understand which keywords and phrases can help you pass the ATS stage of a job application. Employers usually include most of the keywords they want from applicants in the job description. As such, this gives you a great place to start when working out which words and phrases to include in your CV.

Take a look at the sections below to understand how to decide which keywords and phrases to include in your CV:

How to choose the right words for impact?

The main objective of your CV is to make an impact with employers and convince them to interview you. As such, you’ll want to create a positive first impression and get straight to the point. Use keywords to make your CV concise and impactful, maximising its effectiveness, while keeping your word count to a minimum.

Writing long, highly descriptive sentences in your CV won’t help it pass through an ATS stage. It probably won’t help your chances of impressing an actual employer either. Hiring managers simply don’t have time to read through long and detailed CVs. Make your sentences short and to the point, avoiding opinion or commentary wherever possible. Use bullet points to help you remain disciplined in what you include, and what you omit.

For example:

Instead of: ‘I worked for a major national recruitment consultancy and managed a team of 12 consultants, helping to position candidates in entry-level marketing roles. In my role, I successfully increased retention rates from 64% to 85%’...

…write: ‘Managed a team of 12 recruitment consultants, increasing retention rates of junior marketing placements from 64% to 85%’.

Demonstrating achievement through phrases

Quantifying your achievements is one of the keys to a successful CV. If you can show the impact you’ve made, providing evidence in the form of figures and data, you’re much more likely to convince employers that you’re right for the job. When you write about your work experience, it’s not enough to simply explain your duties and everyday responsibilities. Back up each responsibility and activity you highlight on your CV with evidence of the impact you made and the contribution to successful outcomes.

Writing phrases and bullet points that demonstrate your achievements with evidence can help to prove your skills and your worth. It’s easy to write out a list of skills and duties, but backing them up with evidence can set you apart from other candidates.

For example:

Instead of: ‘managed customer service department, helping to build positive customer relationships and resolve disputes’...

…write: ‘managed customer service department, responding to customer complaints and resolving disputes, with a 94% customer satisfaction rating (increase of 12%)’.

Action verbs to highlight accomplishments

Action verbs are a great way to emphasise your skills and achievements in your CV work experience section. Rather than simply listing your responsibilities, start each bullet point with a verb that proves a skill listed in the job description. These can help your CV to pass through ATS stages and catch the eye of recruiters and hiring managers.

Using actions verbs can also help you to foster a sense of success on your CV. Carefully select action verbs that highlight your achievements without making you appear arrogant or boastful.

Here are some action verbs that can help your CV to make a positive impression:

  • Managed
  • Led
  • Coached
  • Trained
  • Developed
  • Completed
  • Collaborated
  • Delivered
  • Achieved
  • Improved
  • Reduced
  • Established
  • Increased
  • Exceeded

How to make your CV ATS-friendly?

There are two main ways to make your CV ATS-friendly, and more likely to pass through this stage of the application process. The first way is to make the content of your CV as relevant as possible to the job description. Make yourself familiar with the job description and the skills and duties listed as ‘required’, ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’. When writing your CV, identify keywords and use language that mirrors the job description.

The second way to make your CV ATS-friendly is to take care with the layout, structure and format of the document. A CV with clear headings and sections that follow a standard structure is likely to be easier for an ATS software to scan. It’s also best to use a clear, readable font and make sure the margins and spacing of the document create plenty of space and don’t crowd the text. Save your CV as a PDF format, and if given the choice, save it in the format that optimises accessibility, rather than for printing.

Expert tip:

Carefully select keywords and action verbs for your CV, but don’t over-use them. You only need to prove each skill or experience once, so change up your keywords and phrases throughout your document. Use keywords and action verbs that are listed in the job description, as these are most likely to prove you can do the job.

Using phrases to make a CV stand out

It can be useful to think of your CV as a marketing material to help ‘sell yourself’. Adopting this approach may help you select words and phrases that will make a bigger impact on employers. Like any marketing material, you’ll want your CV to stand out from its competitors. This means that you’ll also want to find language that makes your CV persuasive, convincing and different from the rest.

The words and phrases you decide to include in your CV will differ according to the job, level and industry sector. Words that make your CV stand out from the crowd are known as ‘power words’. Their ‘power’ is that they make your achievements appear more impressive to the reader. Below you can find some examples of CV power words for various job types and sectors:

Sales marketing and customer service:

  • Delivered
  • Achieved
  • Accomplished
  • Built
  • Generated

Creative roles:

  • Collaborated
  • Created
  • Developed
  • Showcased
  • Visualised

Technical roles:

  • Devised
  • Designed
  • Engineered
  • Programmed
  • Upgraded

Project management:

  • Facilitated
  • Managed
  • Established
  • Delivered
  • Launched

Human resources:

  • Supervised
  • Administered
  • Documented
  • Processed
  • Procured

Tailoring your keywords to a job

One of the most important and effective things you can do to improve your CV is to tailor it specifically for each application. HR managers and recruiters are often inundated with applications for every vacancy. As such, most employers simply don’t have the time to read every CV they receive in depth, so it’s crucial to make an instant impact with your document.

Industry research suggests hiring managers only spend six to eight seconds, on average, reading your CV before deciding whether you make the cut. In most cases, you’ll only have the attention of the reader for a matter of seconds before they decide whether you might be good enough, or you’re definitely not good enough for the job. Because of this, it’s essential to focus on keywords when you write your CV, and make sure your document contains as many relevant phrases and keywords as possible.

The most effective keywords for your CV will depend heavily on your industry sector, experience levels and the job you’re applying for. Review the job description carefully before you write your CV to pick out the most crucial keywords for your CV. Below you can find some examples of keywords for different professions and sectors:

Business, law and finance:

  • Analysis
  • Auditing
  • Budgeting
  • Strategy
  • Forecasting
  • Reporting
  • Consulting

Customer and client services:

  • Customer-facing/client-facing
  • Supervising
  • Sales
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Customer relationships/client relationships

Media and marketing:

  • Account management
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • API
  • Networking
  • Client services
  • Content
  • CRM
  • Engagement

IT, software and web development:

  • Algorithms
  • Workflows
  • UI/UX
  • CAD
  • Programming languages
  • Architecture
  • Frameworks
  • Graphic design

Use keywords to make your CV concise and impactful, maximising its effectiveness, while keeping your word count to a minimum.

Dos and Don'ts of selecting phrases for your CV

Follow these quick tips to make sure you select the most effective keywords and phrases for your CV:


  • Choose sector-specific and skills-related keywords: tailor your keywords to reflect the skills and experience mentioned in the job description. Different sectors and job titles can require entirely different skills and experience, and your keywords and phrases should reflect this.
  • Adapt your CV to mirror the job description: if your job title is slightly different to the job title advertised, but it’s essentially the same job, adjust it so it matches the language in the job description and helps you to pass the ATS stage. For example, your title could be ‘Customer Relationship Manager’ and the job advertised may be ‘Client Relationship Manager’.
  • Save some space for unique personal qualities: while it’s essential to use keywords from the job description, try to also save some space to mention some personal skills and qualities that are unique to you. These can help differentiate you from other candidates.
  • Use a professional CV design: a clean, subtle CV design with a clear structure and layout can help your keywords and phrases to stand out. CVwizard has various CV templates to help your CV make a lasting impression.


  • Use clichés: Avoid falling back on clichés and meaningless business jargon in your CV. These can really harm your chances. Some phrases and words not to use in your CV include ‘team player’, ‘hard worker’ and ‘self-motivated’.
  • Stuff keywords: You only need to mention each keyword once in your CV, to prove you have the skill or experience required for the role. Stuffing your CV with keywords and repeating the same words and phrases can make your CV seem insincere.
  • Repeat the same action verbs multiple times: Similar to keyword stuffing, repeating the same action verbs and power words multiple times can harm your CV. Choose a different action verb each time to show a range of skills and experience.

Key Takeaways for Words and Phrases to Include in Your CV

Your CV gives you a brief window of attention from hiring managers and employers, so make it count. Using keywords and phrases from the job description can help you pass the ATS stage and get your CV reviewed by an actual decision maker. Hold the attention of the reader by making sure your CV includes all the keywords and phrases necessary to prove you can do the job. You can also make a positive impression by using a professional CV design, such as those offered by CVwizard. Sign up today to start creating your winning CV.

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Mike Potter
Mike Potter
Mike Potter is an experienced copywriter specialising in careers and professional development. He uses extensive knowledge of workplace culture to create insightful and actionable articles on CV writing and career pathways.

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