The CV cliches to avoid at all costs

Author: Nick Deligiannis, MD, Hays Australia & New Zealand

I’ve spoken before about the language you use on your CV and how it can have a huge bearing on whether or not you make the interview shortlist. For example, using action verbs to communicate your successes is one of the simplest ways to help your CV stand out.

But it’s also important that the language you use isn’t too clichéd. If it is, you may run the risk of diluting or downplaying the unique skills and experience you have to offer. I understand how certain phrases will naturally spring to mind when trying to portray your skills and experience on paper. For instance, if you are a team leader, you may automatically feel the need to include “Excellent leadership skills” on your CV.

However, if you want to create a winning CV, one which makes the shortlist of interviewees, you need to provide evidence of your achievements, and avoid the below CV clichés at all costs:

“Works well independently”

It’s very common to see “can work well independently” on a CV. But will this really set you apart? Any strong candidate will be expected to be able to do this; therefore this doesn’t really add any value to your application.

Instead, if working independently is a genuine strength of yours and is of prime importance to the job you are applying for, then give an example of a time you showcased this strength and the results. For instance, rather than simply stating, “I work well independently”, try “I independently designed and implemented a new strategy that increased customer engagement by X percent”

“A great team player”

Team spiritedness is an important trait to have, but when every candidate claims to be “a great team player”, this CV cliché can become a little meaningless. Stand out from the competition by providing evidence that you can work well with colleagues to reach a common goal. For instance, “I worked with our international and local marketing teams to implement a global rebrand across 12 countries.” Examples like this demonstrate that you’re a great team player, without actually having to use this tired phrase.

“Results driven”

Don’t be mistaken, one of the most important points to include on your CV is the impact you have made to your current employer. Which is why, instead of simply stating you are results driven, you should support this claim with facts. Ensure that you give quantifiable evidence of your results, such as “I increased sales by 25 percent”. Including this information will demonstrate that you focus on and track the results of your work, which in itself implies that you are results driven.

“A hard worker”

Whilst a strong work ethic is important, a hard worker isn’t necessarily a productive one. When reading your CV, the hiring manager or recruiter will be looking for signs that you can effectively and productively manage your time. Therefore, emphasise your productivity and time management skills, and give an example of these in action, for example creating a successful product launch in a short time frame or never missing a deadline in two years in your last role.

“Good communication skills”

Not only is this phrase overused, but it’s also vague and demands context. Be more specific by giving examples of situations in which your communication skills have really shone through. For instance, a presentation or sales pitch you gave which won a new client for your business.

“A fast learner”

I can see why it would be tempting to include this on your CV, especially if you are lacking in a certain skill and want to emphasise how you would be able to upskill quickly if offered the role. However, if you want to really demonstrate your aptitude, you need to put your money where your mouth is. Describe a time you grasped a new concept quickly, for instance when starting a new role or teaching yourself a new skill to prove that you would learn quickly on the job.

“Strong attention to detail”

Attention to detail is important in most roles. Remember that the first impression the reader will get of your level of competence in this area will be upon reading your CV. So make sure you proofread thoroughly and that it is error free.

Don’t run the risk of a recruiter or hiring manager being put off by your CV simply because of the language you have used. Replace any overused clichés with real life examples of your skills in action to create a more impressive CV and heighten your chances of getting through to the interview round.

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