Avoiding CV cliches
by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Acting as your personal advertisement, your CV enables buyers (employers) to see what you can offer and the presentation and structure of your CV is crucial. Unfortunately, too many people follow the tradition of using stock phrases and ‘key’ words that they think will help them stand out from the crowd. Due to this overuse, many recruiters have become immune to certain phrases.
Not making your CV stand out from the crowd can seriously damage your job search chances. Here are the most common cliches and some suggested alternatives.
“Team player” – as it’s unlikely that anyone would claim the opposite, statements like this become meaningless. The most effective way to get your future employers attention is to demonstrate your experience by giving a real-life example. For instance, have you worked within a team to achieve a specific goal? What was your role?
“Project management skills” – this is just a fancy way of saying that you are organised. Employers want to know what you have done in your current job that demonstrates your abilities. Have you organised an event or managed a budget? If so, tell them.
“Results orientated” – …and so you should be. After all, employers are running businesses and they want a return on their investment in you. Convey and quantify your accomplishments and your potential to solve your future employer’s problems. Did you increase sales? If so, by how much? Did you save money for your organisation? Did you achieve your targets in the face of difficult circumstances?
“People management skills” – does that mean that you were a Manager or simply that you got on well with your customers and colleagues? ‘Management’ implies that you held a position of responsibility over other staff and can confuse employers. So, opt for words such as ‘supervised’ or coordinated’ instead.
“Responsible for” – everybody is responsible for something in their job. And, just because you are responsible for something does not necessarily make you a responsible person. Did you take on duties that were not part of your job spec? Did you train staff or suggest/introduce a new initiative? Did you rescue a failing project and turn it around?
For those of us old enough to remember Max Bygraves who famously said “I want to tell you a story”, that is exactly what you need to do on your CV – tell recruiters your career story and answer the main question in their minds, ‘What can this person do for my business?’
When writing your CV, bear in mind the role that you applying and tailor it accordingly by focusing on providing evidence relevant to the position that will support your application.
By using examples of past experience you will put yourself in a stronger position and stand out from your peers. So, bin the jargon and clichés and get personal.
Writing a winning CV can be a challenge, but by putting in the mileage you will have a document that will make employers take action and invite you for an interview. Then the real selling begins!