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Ten words that should never appear on a banking CV

You’re applying for jobs in financial services and you’re trying to assemble the perfect resume. The definition of perfection will vary depending upon the job you’re applying to: the best résumés are usually tailored to particular job descriptions.

However, there are also some universal rules of CV writing –  and there are some words that should never, ever, inveigle their way in. When you’re writing a CV, professional CV writers strongly advise against adding anything from the following list:

1. ‘Unemployed’ 

On no account should your CV mention the words, ‘unemployed’, ‘unemployment’, ‘redundancy,’ or ‘layoff’.

They are all too negative. Instead, you should use positive and empowered phrases like, ‘career break,’ advised Jeremy I’Anson, a career coach and author who works with investment bankers.

2. ‘Dynamic’

Professional résumé writers warn against using clichéd words and phrases which appear on almost every CV.

“There are words which are used so much that they’re meaningless,” said Victoria Maclean at City CV in London. Maclean said these include: ‘dynamic’, ‘proven track record’, ‘team player’, ‘succeed in a fast paced environment’ and ‘innovative.’ “You see ‘innovative’ written on 90 percent of CVs,” she added.

I’Anson warned against saying you’re ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘motivated’ for the same reason.

“Everyone says they’re ‘outstanding’,” said Linda Jackson co-founder and managing director of London-based career management firm 10Eighty “It’s a big yawn and is meaningless.”

Janet Moran, founder of CV writing company The CV House said recruiters usually hate the word, ‘passion’ on CVs. Again, it’s too overused.

3. ‘Assisted’ 

Never say, ‘assisted,’ or ‘helped,’ said Maclean.

She said both words imply that you were unable to achieve a goal on your own and are therefore too weak to use on a CV. Instead, Maclean said résumés should contain words like, ‘executed’ or ”directed.’

4. ‘Motherhood’

It is considered inadvisable to mention motherhood, or parenthood on a CV.  The fact that you have taken time out can be presented more positively. “If you are a mother and you have taken two years out of work, you need to present it as another career break,” said I’Anson. “Mention some of the things you’ve done during that period – like being a school governor or on the committee of a charity.”

Similarly, don’t say that you’re ‘happily married with two teenage children,’ said I’Anson: “It’s not really relevant.”

5. ‘Reading’

Avoid mentioning passive interests on your CV, said Maclean. Don’t write that you like, ‘reading,’ ‘socializing’ or, ‘going to movies.’

If you must mention a passive interest, try to give it some depth, she advised: “Rather than saying that you like reading, it’s much better to say you like Spanish literature from the 19th century.”

6. ‘Sky diving’ 

If passive interests are best avoided, so too are sports which suggest you’re an adrenaline junkie. Jackson says too much mention of pastimes like sky diving and mountain climbing can be a turn-off for trading jobs. “Anything that smacks of being an adrenaline addict can cause worries that you’re a thrill seeker and excessive risk taker,” she said.

7. ‘Commercial’ 

Moran said people need to avoid meaningless business jargon. “A lot of finance directors or financial services professionals will say that they are commercial,” she said. “But it’s an opinion-based word and doesn’t mean anything. Rather than making empty claims about yourself, you need to provide evidence of your ability to think commercially.”

8. ‘Disagreement’

Whether you’re writing a CV or attending an interview, you should never allude to differences of understanding with former colleagues, said Jackson. This is an absolute no-no. If there ‘disagreements’ or ‘misunderstandings’ or ‘differences of opinion’, don’t refer to them as such, agreed Maclean. Instead, simply say that the company adopted a new strategy.

9. ‘Victim’

Never write that you have been a ‘victim’ of anything. People will often write that they have been the ‘victim of restructuring’, said Jackson. Don’t. Try to use less emotive and negative words. For example: “Left company following restructuring.”

10. ‘Bankrupt’

Bankruptcy is not a good leading indicator for the aptitude of financial services professionals. In the City of London, the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) will take an individual’s financial situation into account when considering whether he/she is fit to do the job. In the US, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) will not prevent broker dealers from operating if they have a history of bankruptcy, but will expect the bankruptcy to be disclosed. The résumé is not the place to do this, however.  The US company transfer form, ‘“Form U4,″ is.

Comments (14)

  1. How about “Almost physically excited”?

  2. This is really useful information that anyone preparing a cv should consider!


  3. this is indeed a good piece …. can u get some more on how to work on career change .. it will be a good help …

  4. re: #2, those terms wouldn’t be used hardly so much if they weren’t in the job ads in the first place! How many times have I seen ‘fast paced environment’, ‘meritocracy’, ‘candidate must have proven track record’ in the job ad anyway??

    dynamicmotivated Reply
  5. Substanrive

  6. Alright, what about writing “I’m very happy, very glad to work for food and bed”?

  7. What about the G-word…G-O-L-D?
    Banks hate it because it puts the lie to thier ponzi scheme. Don’t mention gold unless you hate it, your short it and you believe you can help them continue suppressing it with your super human prowess utilizing HFT to paint the market lower day in day out.

  8. I recently had my CV re-done by professionals and everyone of these no-no words appears at least once.

  9. As a professional CV writer and career coach alll of this advice fits into the golden rule of CV writing….. never include anything in your CV that someone, somewhere might take negatively.
    Be a politician and keep your CV neutral… Interviews are the time for personaility…. but you’ve got to get there first!! http://www.execboardinasia.com

  10. What about 3 Ls appearing in title “alll”? are spelling mistakes tolerable, even by “professional CV writer and career coach”?!


  11. Jeremy L’Anson’s advice in point number 4 on “Motherhood” is outdated rubbish. If he had looked at any press on the subject in the last year he would have read that banks are actively recruiting individuals who have taken career breaks to care for family (e.g. Goldman Sach’s Returnship). And with good reason… women are leaving in their droves in their thirties and they have no senior women to promote to board level should quotas be enforced. They don’t expect you to have scaled the himalayas during that period…you had a full time job raising children!!

  12. Other than all the great talk and I -am – the – Best – in the world attitude of these investment bankers I do not see them doing anything worthwhile for the world, humanity, countries or society! All that these “smarties” have done so far has been ruining the world financial system, bankrupting countries and creating poverty around the world!! They have successfully used their brain power to pocket wealth and a grand lifestyle by pushing countries into a whirlpool and even wiping out many from the financial map!!!
    And yet alas! the website of many of the titans of our financial services industry claim that they recruit the best brains, and train them! For what? I wonder! Creating “smarties” to bankrupt every country on this planet?

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