How to avoid CV clichés

Are you hard working? Driven? Motivated? Of course you are. Is that interesting? Not really. When you’re writing your CV you should constantly be thinking, ‘is that relevant, and does it position me as a good fit for the job?’

Saying you want the role because you would like to learn new skills and advance your career, is irrelevant - it’s a given for someone applying for a new job.

An employer or recruiter can spend less than thirty seconds reviewing your CV before deciding whether to continue, or put it in the ‘no’ pile. This is your personal advert to an employer and just as you would get bored of seeing the same advert on television every day, a hiring manager gets tired of reading the same words on a CV too. Originality, relevance and personality are key, and under no circumstances should you lie on your CV, you will be found out.

Clichés to avoid

Unfortunately, there are some words and phrases that have been so overused, that employers have become immune to them and may dismiss your claim without substantiated evidence. Some clichéd ‘buzzwords’ to avoid are:

  • Team player
  • Motivated
  • Detail-oriented
  • Communication skills
  • People management skills
  • Results-driven
  • Dynamic
  • Entrepreneurial

The thing to remember if you’re tempted to list these skills on your CV is: would anyone else applying for the same job as you say they don’t have these skills? Probably not. There’s nothing wrong with saying you have good people management skills if it’s a ‘must have’ for the role, but don’t leave it there; briefly state a time in a previous role when using your people management skills added something to the business. Always back it up with real life evidence.

Corporate jargon

Stay away from using corporate jargon, it makes reading your CV an arduous task and your aim here is to engage the reader, not put them off. If your first job was a paper round don’t say you were a media distribution officer. It doesn’t enhance your skills and experience and in many cases it’s unclear to the hiring manager what role you’re actually describing.

Pick and choose

Keep a copy of the job specification close by, whatever skills are required for the role need to be prominent on your CV. It is also worth looking at the language used in the job ad or specification and researching the company’s values, it might give you more of an idea of what they expect from a candidate. You can also mirror their language (do not simply copy what they have said), it will show you’re in tune to what they’re looking for.

Word of warning

Without doubt, one of the biggest pitfalls is listing ‘attention to detail’ on your CV and then failing to administer a proper spell check, resulting in spelling errors or typos. Proofread as many times as you can because errors in your writing could lose you an interview.

Want more advice on what to write and what to leave out? Check out more of Michael Page’s articles on cover letters and CVs.

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