Friday, 3 September 2010


Do you "weak speak" on your CV?

I've noticed a trend whereby in an effort to be completely honest about their achievements on their CV, many graduates are actually detracting from them because of the wording they are using. Use of "weak speak" language on your CV can significantly reduce its impact on a recruiter and often does not do justice to your achievements or deliverables. 

Weak speak is especially damaging when it is the first half of each of your sentences / bullets where you explain the tasks you did / responsibilities you had during your work experiences. Words or phrases to watch out for are: 
- "Assisted" - "Helped with" - "Helped out with" - "Worked with" -"Under the supervision of.." - "Supervised by"

Keep in mind that for the vast majority of your career you will probably work in teams to deliver things, and you will have a manager / supervisor / team leader. If you look at CVs from more experienced candidates, you will not see lots of "Worked in a team to…." on there.  Don’t devalue your achievements by spreading the credit for it before you've even explained what it is. Obviously I am not talking about trying to take the credit for delivering something major when you were in fact making the tea for the team, but if you were involved in delivery, then don’t down-play your involvement. If you want to call out that it was as part of a team, do it in the second half of sentence, not in the first half. The first half is the half that has the biggest impact and is the half that captures attention. 

Some examples:
Weak speak: "Worked as a summer intern in a team that looked at data output to figure out what the issues were in the system"
Stronger: "Diagnosed issues with system interfaces by examining large amounts of data for patterns and making recommendations for changes, seeking input from more experienced team members during the activity."

Weak speak: "Was a member of a team who organised a concert for 1,000 people raising £3,500 for charity." Stronger: "Organised a concert for 1,000 people in the role of Marketing Manager in a team of 5, raising £3,500 for charity."

Look to use words like developed, delivered, managed, executed, recommended, examined, devised arranged, persuaded….. These are all action verbs which have impact and suggest that you made real change.  I won't go into detail here about using action verbs as there are loads of articles already available out there. Here links to some good ones. Use to find variations on a word rather than reusing the same one repeatedly.

"Weak speak" is also something to watch out for when you get to interview stage. Overusing phrases like "I suppose…", "I guess…", "I think…." retracts from you appearing confident and decisive.
Do an analysis of your CV to see if you use too much 'weak speak'…. Small changes could make a big difference.  

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