Top CV Clichés and Why They Should Be Avoided

Are you motivated, a team player and hard working?

Are you able to work on your own initiative?

Of course you are and so are most of the people applying for the same job as you. If you really want to make an impact with a prospective employer you need to think about avoiding CV cliches and show some originality in your approach!

Common clichés to avoid:

  • Results oriented – as opposed to what? No one intentionally sets themselves up to fail; being focused on solving problems will be expected of you no matter what job you do.
  • Highly motivated – again as opposed to lazy? Generally employers will assume that you’re motivated based on the fact that you are actively searching for your next job opportunity. It would be better to provide examples of how you’ve proven your motivation.
  • Strong work ethic – again, you are there to work – it’s expected.
  • Excellent communication skills – this needs to be proved elsewhere on your CV. What did you communicate? Who did you communicate with?
  • An excellent team-player who can also work well independently – this phrase is over-used. Employers want to see evidence that you can work collaboratively and autonomously!
  • Curriculum Vitae – if you’re applying for a job, it should be obvious to the recipient that you’re sending them your CV. Move away from using a self-explanatory title and own your CV by putting your name as the title – after all, it is all about you!

Imagine reading the same page in a book (and not a very good book) over and over again. You would start to get bored, perhaps nod off and vow never to read that page again.

The same scenario can be applied to a prospective employer who is looking over a mountain of CVs. When these clichés are used time and time again without any substance it can be hard to work out which candidates stand out. Don’t bore the reader. Your aim is to make them sit up, pay attention and read on!

Drawing attention to your CV for the right reasons:

The main purpose of your CV is to draw attention to your skills and to reinforce your employability. If you cannot get your CV noticed you will not be invited to interview.

It really is that simple.

Avoid vague or damaging clichés:

Avoid ambiguity when writing your CV. Using words such as ‘approximately’ suggests that you didn’t pay attention to how much or how many of something you achieved. Use ‘more than’ or ‘over’ to accentuate what you did and to make your achievement sound more impressive.

‘Assisted’ is another term you should be careful with. Employers want to know what you worked on that required your leadership or initiative. Use ‘cooperated with’ and go on to detail the position of responsibility that you held, who you worked with and the results that you achieved together.

Never ever say that you ‘attempted’ to do something because this suggests that you failed. An employer will not want to know about failures no matter how hard you tried to succeed. Make all achievements sound powerful and complete!

Should you tailor your CV to the job description?

Applicants are always advised to tailor their CVs to the job description but this can often be a counterproductive exercise as employers who write the job descriptions tend to use a lot of clichés! “We’re looking for a smart, ambitious and driven individual. The ideal candidate should be highly motivated and have the ability to work well independently as well as within a team…”

As such applicants should not only look to avoid vague or damaging clichés, but they should also steer clear of replicating the job description in their CV. Speak your own language and you’ll stand out against the crowd who will be indistinguishable from one another if they’ve all copied keywords from the job description. Use a thesaurus to find similar words and use examples so instead of saying “I am a highly motivated individual” you could say “I’ve proven my appetite for a career in marketing, through my engagement in a number of extracurricular activities from accomplishing a variety of successful work-based placements to producing work for live clients during my spare time”.

Putting it all together:

So, before you start to write or update your CV, think about your wording and how impressive your CV would look to somebody who doesn’t know you. Grab a thesaurus, get some input from a third party and make your CV as unique and intriguing as you can whilst sticking to the facts.

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