Stop the CV Clichés !

don__t_cry_over_spilt_milk_by_jellybean009-d37rdpeOn average 427,000 CVs are posted on each week, to put that into context that would be approximately the entire population of Bermuda uploading their CV every single day. With this staggering number of CVs in circulation it is by no means a surprise that recruiters must use their time efficiently to review and short-list suitable candidates. A recent study into the recruitment industry determined experienced consultants to spend less than seven seconds viewing a new candidate’s CV, and 4.5 minutes to fully read any relevant CVs. With such critical time constraints a CV should display pertinent information in a clear visual hierarchy, without any irrelevant information or indeed clichés.

Clichéd phrases are definitely something to avoid, at the very best it can be deemed meaningless waffle and at worst, it comes across dangerously close to megalomania. With senior management describing positions with cliché terms and self-help guides stressing their importance, the use of clichés has recently developed into an epidemic. To help you avoid these disastrous phrases, I have prepared some guidance around what not to include and various recommendations to aid you in your job hunt.

  • ‘I am an excellent team-player and can work independently’ – probably the most popular phrase to be used on CVs (of course, doing little to separate you from the competition). Employers do want to see evidence that you can work collaboratively and autonomously but they will not be convinced by this simple sentence.
  • I am highly motivated’ – as opposed to what, lazy? Employers will generally assume you’re motivated, given that you are actively seeking a new job opportunity. It would be more beneficial to instead provide examples of how you’ve proven your motivation.
  • ‘Great communicational skills’ – what do you mean by this exactly, what did you communicate, who did you communicate with? An excellent skill set to possess and include on your CV, but only if you provide evidence as to how you communicate effectively.
  • ‘I have extensive knowledge/experience in …’ – if your CV is written correctly it should demonstrate effectively your level of experience and expertise, you shouldn’t have to state this.
  • ‘Proven track record’ – according to whom, based on what? There should be little need for this rather broad statement in a well written CV, as the CV itself should act as a ‘track record’.
  • ‘I’m very enthusiastic’ – quite a few years ago I asked a career advisor to review my CV, and I specifically remember him glancing at the first few sentences and saying; ‘Alex, my neighbour’s dog is rather enthusiastic’. Overstating your enthusiasm could make you sound a tad desperate, as well as focusing the CV away from your previous experience and talent, and instead towards your personal desires.
  • ‘Curriculum Vitae’ – this is probably the most common CV cliché. If you’re applying to a job, it is going to be obvious to the recipient that you’re sending them your CV. Avoid self-explanatory titles and instead utilise the title space to own your CV by putting your name as the title.
  • ‘I am solution focused’ – as opposed to what? No individual would intentionally focus on failure. Helen Stringer of Warwick University states that this phrase has the chance of sounding a little arrogant, there’s a subtle implication that where others may see obstacles, you find the solutions.
  • ‘Proficient in MS Office Suite’ – there isn’t many (if any) candidates entering the professional job market who have no knowledge of the MS Office Suite. With CVs needing to concisely cover all your experience and knowledge, the appearance of this phrase is similar to saying you know how to read. Instead, use this space to outline your knowledge of advanced software used in that industry. Nevertheless, if a key requirement in a company’s job description is proficiency in MS Office Suite, then by all means include it.
  • ‘I possess a strong work ethic’ – this phrase does nothing to separate you from the competition. Both the recruiter and manager would expect you to possess a strong work ethic, as you’re there to actually work… Instead, you could utilise this space to highlight times where you may have demonstrated a uniquely strong work ethic.

My final piece of advice would be, don’t bore the reader! Your aim is to make them sit up, pay attention and read on!

So, before you start writing or updating your CV, think about how it will be received from a 3rd party. If it sounds dumb to you it will sound dumb to them, so avoid the silly cliches and give them facts and experiences about what makes you great and how you can help their business. Position yourself as the answer to their prayers… (in a non arrogant way) and you’ll be fine.

Alex Hagan

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