7 pieces of corporate jargon to avoid on your CV

Management speak makes you sound smart - to other idiots. So action this results-oriented roadmap for plain speaking success going forward.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 30 Aug 2016

‘Proactive team player with a proven track record in actionable client-focused solutions.’

Thirteen words, no meaning. Corporate Jargon or management speak is much-derided, yet somehow still finds its way consistently onto the CVs and LinkedIn profiles we use to sell ourselves to prospective employers.

Imagine you’re trying to flog a microwave. If you bang on about its ‘core competencies in transitioning ready meals’ you’re unlikely to last very long.

Of course, in some instances jargon makes sense – if there’s a complex idea that all parties already understand, it saves time to use a sort of shorthand.

But that’s not why we use it in the business world. It’s really a mystery, in the classical sense. Your mastery of secret knowledge, or in this case language, shows you’re on the inside – or rather ‘in the loop’.

Presumably everyone knows management speak is nonsense in those virgin months of their careers, but it’ll become part of your day-to-day lexicon if you’re not careful.

There are two obvious problems with this. Firstly, if you’re ever required to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak jargon, you’ll sound like you’re from another planet, presumably one with lots of the lead in the water.

Secondly, if you rely on stock phrases, it limits your ability to communicate precisely what you mean even to your fellow jargoneers. ‘Going forward’, for example - does that mean ‘from now on’ or ‘in the future’? (‘I just bought a pet cobra. I need a stock of anti-venom going forward.’ That’s just ambiguous, not to mention ugly.)  

If you want to cut the crap in your CV but have forgotten how to speak plainly, here are some of the worst examples to eliminate - with extreme prejudice.

Thinking outside the box

Saying you’re creative in an exceptionally uncreative way. The same applies for ‘blue sky thinking’. Urgh.

360 degree capabilities

A jack of all trades... the problem with saying you’re good at everything is that it implies you’re not great at anything. Beware.


Similarly, does this mean you don’t know how to react to new information? That doesn’t sound very agile...


Pointless, unless you work in IT. Who’d admit to being unable to respond to market conditions?

Team player 

Let me guess, you also show initiative and have a proven track record of working independently? The devil’s in the detail – of course you work well as part of your team, otherwise you’d be fairly useless in most roles, but what kind of team player are you?

Thought leader

This is saying that you’re influential. Of course, no one who's actually influential would need to tell everyone that they are. Actions speak louder than words.

Change maker

Yes, you may have ‘spearheaded your company’s transformation’, but just yuck.

Of course you need to reveal what your strengths are quickly in your CV or LinkedIn profile, and you may not be able to cut the jargon without sacrificing brevity. But remember the details of your actions will speak far louder than the bland clichés everyone uses to summarise them.

Do you have any other management speak pet hates? Let us know the worst of them below or on Twitter.

Image credit: Tony Webster/Wikipedia


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