How To Avoid Those CV Clichés
- July 25, 2023
When the time comes in your career to think about a move to pastures new, the steps involved to kickstart the process are generally conventional and familiar to most.
The first step, of course, is to decide whether to go it alone and spend time researching opportunities in the market, your region, and your particular specialism and apply to vacancies advertised.
The alternative is to enlist the help of a reputable recruitment specialist who will search the market on your behalf, and present you with (often exclusive) roles that are designed to be the absolute best ‘fit’ for you and your requirements from your next employer.
Either way, there are usually a number of steps you yourself will need to take to ensure you are prepped and ready to apply for roles that pique your interest.
Designing a CV with Clout
It goes without saying that the most important document in your job-seeking armoury will be your CV – although a cover letter and possibly a video pitch may also be required depending on the role in question and the expectations of the hiring company in question.
CVs are not a new concept. Far from it.
This document has been connecting qualified candidates with their ideal roles for centuries. In fact, according to The National Careers Service, the first curriculum vitae emerged in 1482 – written by a certain Leonardo Da Vinci when he applied for a local painting job.
The nature, style, and general role of the CV has changed since then, however. Whilst connections and status were crucial components of the CVs of yesteryear, these days there is more focus on skills, relevant experience, and demonstrable results that highlight capability.
Whilst much continues to be written about the usefulness of this document, for now at least, they remain a vital platform to market yourself as the right candidate for the role.
Mastering the Basics
A hiring manager, business owner, or HR professional will often skim-read a CV before making a snap ‘go/no-go’ decision about whether to progress to the next stage. This means the basic information needs to pop and jump out of the page.
The overriding objective should be to demonstrate suitability for the role in question, and ideally, the document should flex if you’re applying to more than one at a time – ensuing each is tailored to the specifics.
There are many guides as to what to include on your CV, but in our experience (of nearly 25 years and counting), the basic elements include:
- Up-to-date contact information
- Clear, concise formatting and layout
- Accurate grammar and spelling – a non-negotiable
- Selling points – achievements, relevance, USPs, experience (if it is relevant!)
- Facts and evidence
- Personality – what are your interests, passions, values?
Putting Pen To Paper
There are no two ways about it. Crafting a well-honed CV is a skill, and whilst you may be the most qualified and relevant individual in the pile of applications, failure to ‘sell’ yourself adequately may mean you are overlooked.
The Internet is saturated with ‘how-to’ guides, layout templates, and more recently, tools that utilise AI to write your CV for you (although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of this).
But mastering the basics is only the first part of the task in hand. You need to pay careful attention to the language you use as you highlight your skills and relevance – being mindful of clichés, hyperbole, and baseless language that actually could hinder your progress in the long run.
Cut The Clichés
The copy on your CV has to work hard to sell ‘you’, your relevant skills and experience, and give an initial indication of what you are like as a person and potential employee.
It can be tempting to fall into the trap of peppering your document with well-known clichés – in fact, you may not be aware that the phrases that spring to mind are even clichés in the first place. But taking time to weed out these overused (and often baseless) phrases may get your document to the top of the pile.
Here are the top 7 overused phrases that we come across, that you may wish to rethink (and suggestions of when, how, and why they need a little more care and attention)
- Hardworking and motivated: Your CV should have detail throughout that highlights specific accomplishments, experiences, and contributions that show your dedication and work ethic. This could be successful projects you have contributed to or won for your current employer, sales figures and productivity metrics, or even additional certification and training you have undertaken to enhance your skills and knowledge.
- Excellent communication skills: Again, consider how to showcase your communication abilities through specific achievements or experiences. Have you been a keynote speaker at a firm event for example, or run an internal forum? Are you involved in pitching for new business, or act as spokesperson for your current employer with the media? All are demonstrable examples that showcase the skill in question.
- Team player: Undeniably, employers will want to hire individuals that collaborate and work well with others – but dropping this statement on with little substantiation is pretty meaningless. Again, look for ways to bring this to life with concrete instances of teamwork. Have you worked as a team on a particularly complex project? Do you undertake any CSR initiatives, or are part of a professional ‘group’ outside of the day job that involves working with others? All are great examples of how teamwork is pervasive in a professional business.
- Detail-oriented: Whatever your particular specialism, this skill is crucial across many sectors and roles as it can significantly impact the overall quality of services provided to your customer base – even if that is internal or to other stakeholders in the business. Highlighting instances where your attention to detail made a difference is key – whether that work is in creating pitch documentation, part of your accounting or audit role (where attention to detail in a pre-requisite), or in compliance or regulatory matters.
- Results-driven: This phrase is most certainly over-used (usually with no examples of said ‘results’) yet there are other variances that can also demonstrate the same point. ‘Achievement-oriented’, ‘goals focused’, and ‘outcome-driven’ are more specific and impactful. Are you able to talk about sales or marketing strategy here focused on ROI, or strategic planning utilised to get the best possible result for your customers and/or company? Examples, again, are key.
- Works well under pressure: Depending on your sector and role, high-pressure situations are common, and the ability to work effectively in such conditions is an attractive trait to a future employer. Instead of just dropping this phrase on with no explanation is a big no-no however. Instead, discuss how you handled challenging situations and tight deadlines; your involvement in high-profile projects, or how you adapted to unexpected developments and had to adjust your strategy.
- Exceptional organisational skills: Most roles in a professional business require some level of organisation, whether that’s managing your own time effectively, a team of other employees, or preparing for a presentation/pitch. By using specific examples, especially those that are relevant to the role you are applying for, you provide concrete evidence of your capabilities and enhance the effectiveness of your CV and profile.
Crafting an impressive CV requires going beyond generic statements and clichés and instead presenting a compelling narrative of your professional journey. By showcasing specific, relevant, and quantifiable evidence of your skills and accomplishments, you can create a CV that stands out and captures the attention of potential employers or clients.
If you have enlisted the help of a specialist recruiter for your job search, you will often find that your consultant will help to review your CV and role applications to ensure they stay on track, and work hard to move you further along in the process. Of course, the other benefit here is that the recruiter will further help to demonstrate your suitability verbally to those responsible for hiring – enhancing your profile far beyond a 2-3 page printed document.
And finally, even if some of the highlighted statements do creep in (even verbally as you move to interview stage) remember to always use concrete examples and measurable outcomes to demonstrate your abilities, skill, and above all, why YOU are the company’s next hire.
About Clayton Recruitment
Clayton Recruitment has been partnering with organisations across the country since 1989 and during that time has built up an excellent reputation for trust and reliability.
With specialist divisions covering Commercial, Financial, and Engineering appointments, on a permanent basis.
If you are building your existing team or looking for your next career move, we can help. And, if you are currently employed, you can be assured of complete confidentiality, professionalism, and honesty throughout the process – as standard.
Click here to speak to one of our experienced specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.