CV faux pas: Phrases to avoid putting on your CV at all costs

Putting your CV together? Unsure about the kind of language you should use? You aren’t the only one. Hopefully we can help.

CVs are formal documents and they should be written as such.

But a serious, formal tone is one thing. Meaningless jargon and clumsy corporate speak is another.

So don’t confuse the two.

You’d be amazed how many CVs we see with the same tired old phrases in – phrases that prove nothing to a recruiter or employer.

Our team went to a seminar recently where we saw approximately a thousand CVs in one day.

We didn’t keep a log but from memory we reckon that give or take 999 of them were from “conscientious team players with good communication skills”. To quote just one old chestnut that keeps rearing its ugly head.

How many employers are looking for conscientious team players with good communication skills?

Pretty much all of them.

How many are going to believe you fit the bill just because you say so on your CV?

A lot fewer – and that’s putting it mildly.

Put yourself in the shoes of your audience: Imagine you are an employer or recruiter with 100 CVs on your desk and very little time to go through them.

Your CV is your chance to prove your worth as quickly and efficiently as possible. To make yourself stand out from the crowd.

You do this with powerful phraseology backed up with relevant facts and achievements in the right places. Not by regurgitating the same meaningless platitudes as the other 99 candidates.

So get rid of your old favourites like “confident communicator and versatile team player”, “conscientious hard worker with an outstanding capacity to promote efficiency” and “exceptional ability to identify opportunities and take the initiative”.

Use that exceptional ability of yours, identify this opportunity, take the initiative and write something that actually means something to the person you are trying to impress.

Prove you are what you say you are. Which leads us nicely on to…

Include plenty of skills, responsibilities and achievements on your CV

OK so fingers crossed you’ve created a bit of space. Now it’s time to fill it.

Your CV should be an appropriate mix of relevant skills, responsibilities and achievements.

Responsibilities might include running a team or controlling a budget, while achievements might be how you delivered a project in time and under that budget.

By skills, maybe you are accomplished at PRINCE2, you can speak three languages or you can beatbox the tune to Eastenders underwater.

OK – maybe keep that last one under your hat unless you really have got your heart set on a career in the somewhat limited world of subaquatic percussion.

More importantly, you need to back up these selling points with cold, hard facts. If you can do that you really are cooking on gas.

So a PRINCE2 qualification is better than PRINCE2 skills and if you were awarded employee of the month back in the Summer of ’69 then include it.

That’s not to say your CV should steer clear of strong phraseology – powerful, persuasive language can definitely help as long as it is backed up with evidence.

So fingers crossed the right blend of the above will help you make your point a lot more persuasively than the bland phraseology we see in so many other CVs.

Google the job advertisements so you know what to include

A brilliant CV for one job might be totally inappropriate for another so make sure you tailor yours for any position you apply for.

You can find that on page one line one of the CV Writer’s Handbook.

We’d recommend making a list of the 5-10 specific skills and qualities they are most looking for and making sure you’ve ticked those boxes clearly and in the relevant places so the reader doesn’t have to search high and low to find them.

Whether it’s experience using Google Analytics or purifying proteins, whether it’s management roles on wind farms or treating anxiety disorders in children – all CVs we’ve written recently – tick those specific boxes quickly and efficiently.

And back it up with facts whenever you can.

The profile section on your CV is a key area here – but relevant facts set up correctly should be a feature throughout your CV and cover letter as well.

If you need any more details then give us a call – we’d be only too happy to talk things through with you.

Either way best of luck.

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