“Successfully” – is this the most overused word in a CV?

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Recently I have noticed the prevalence of the word “Successfully” in CVs to describe an achievement.

Why do people use it? Probably because they’ve read a list of “Power Words” to use in a CV that they believe will give it more impact, but this doesn’t really work. Why not? Well it’s just too generic and without substantiation it doesn’t really mean a great deal.

A good (read poor!) example would be:

(A) “Successfully implemented a new system of quality control in widget production”

Great, but what did it do? – that’s what interests an employer.

A much better version would be:

(B) “Implemented a new system of quality control in widget production that reduced defects from 5% to 2%”

Even better would be:

(C) “Reduced manufacturing defects from 5% to 2% in widget production by implementing a new system of Quality Control”

And even better still:

(D) “Saved £50,000 per annum by reduced manufacturing defects from 5% to 2% in widget production with the implementation of a new system of Quality Control”

In that last example the word “Successfully” would actually be hard to include!

As you can see we have initially moved the focus to the outcome of the implementation by putting in the fact that a reduction from 5% to 2% was achieved in (B).

Then we change the emphasis again by putting the outcome at the beginning in (C).

Finally, we really beef it up by putting a monetary value to it in (D).

So you can see that the effect of taking out “successfully” and quantifying the outcome (in 2 ways) has taken this achievement to a whole new level.