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How to avoid CV cliches

Think of your CV as your personal advertisement to a potential employer. Here’s how to make sure yours stands out from the pile on their desk.

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?’

The first step is to avoid vague buzzwords, like ‘hardworking’, ‘motivated’ and ‘driven’ (more listed below). Regardless of how true these may be, find an original way to represent your goals and motivations. A recruiter or hiring manager may only spend a few moments looking at your CV—so repeating phrases they’ve read a hundred times over will not put you in good stead. Relevance and personality are key.

Under no circumstances should you lie on your CV. You will be found out.

Clichés to avoid

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. Avoid these:

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

If you can’t resist including these skills on your CV, especially if they are a must-have for the role you’re applying for, do so, but always back it up with real world evidence.

There’s nothing wrong with saying you have good people management skills, for example, 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.

Corporate jargon

Stay away from using corporate jargon; it only makes reading your CV difficult. If your first job was a paper round, for example, don’t say you were a ‘media distribution officer’. It is always better to be clear and concise. Wordy descriptions don’t impress anybody.

Tailor your CV to the role

Keep a copy of the job specification close by and ensure that the specific skills required for the role are prominent on your CV. It’s also worth looking at the language used in the job ad or specification and researching the company’s values to get a better idea of what they expect from a candidate. You can also mirror their language—without simply copying what they have said, obviously—to show you’re in tune with what they’re looking for.

Check and check again

Finally, do not list “attention to detail” as a skill on your CV if it’s riddled with errors. Take extra care to ensure you’ve done a proper spell and grammar check. Proofread as many times as possible, because a poorly constructed CV might just cost you that interview.