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5 CV clichés you need to avoid

Posted by: Rebecca Craighill
Company News

Your CV is an essential calling card when applying for a new job. Combined with a well-crafted covering letter a great CV can be the difference between landing your dream job and falling short. But how do you stand out from the crowd? You can start by making the language in your CV unique, which is why we’re breaking down 5 clichés you always need to avoid on your CV.

1. “Works well alone and as part of a team”

When starting out in the professional world your experience is lacking, but you’ll have definitely studied alone and worked with your peers. It’s tempting to cover your bases by highlighting your ability to excel in this area – you’re essentially telling the hiring manager that you can be trusted to do the job with minimal supervision but that you’re also a people-person.

Any strong candidate will be expected to do both things every day, so unfortunately this does little to show off your skillset. Instead, you should work these skills into your CV with the use of “action” words. Instead of saying “works well independently”, say “I independently put together a presentation.” Similarly, rather than “great team player” becomes “I collaborated with my team members to…”.

This wording subtly clarifies that you’ve worked both alone and as part of a team, without seeming like that’s your most valuable skill.

2. “A hard worker”

As above, any job will expect you to work hard. Work ethic is important but it’s something that will be looked into at interview or probation stage. No-one is going to say “works hard some of the time” on their CV, so stating that you’re a hard worker won’t add much to your CV.

Instead, highlight examples of when hard work was required. Perhaps your workload doubled on a Friday afternoon meaning you had to stay an hour late to get things done. This tells the hiring manager all they need to know about your work ethic.

3. “A fast learner”

Having worked your way through education you’ve proven that you can learn. Candidates often say they’re a fast learner to cover up for a lack of skills of experience in certain areas. There’s nothing wrong with lacking skills, but refrain from saying you learn quickly. 

Instead, demonstrate a time when you utilised this skill. When you moved into a new role, did you grasp a new system or way of working quickly? Were you into the swing of things in the first week or a new job? If so, this shows that you’re fast-learner.

4. “Results driven”

Skills, experience, intentions and outlook are all well and good, but what a company really wants to see is results. Results are what drive all jobs, so this won’t make you stand out in the crowd.

Describe a time when you worked in a way which optimised results for yourself, a team or a company. What we’re looking for is evidence of results. Did you increase sales of a particular item by moving it from the back of the shop to the front? That’s a results driven action. 

5. “Strong communication skills”

This might be the most over-used wording on most CVs. Unfortunately, it’s vague and doesn’t really tell the hiring manager anything about your skillset or the type of employee you are. 

How have you communicated? What was strong about them? Talk about a time when your communication skills were vital to success. Have you worked in a large team? Taken on a phone-based role? Managed a social media platform? These all require good communication, but by phrasing it in the context of your experience, you can demonstrate the skills you want to show off.

The key to avoiding a cliché-ridden CV is to show, don’t tell. No-one has your unique skills and experience so by talking about a time when you demonstrated good teamwork, communication or time management, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.


Further Reading

6 things not to say in an interview & what to say instead
6 essential interview questions you should always ask
5 essential interview research tips
6 ways to de-stress before your interview

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