Refreshing your C.V. when applying for a new job can be a daunting task. How do you stand out from the crowd whilst at the same time avoiding sounding too pompous or big headed? Speaking about ourselves is something us Brits are renowned for shying away from.
So it would be easy enough to simply use well-known phrases and buzzwords on your C.V. in an attempt to impress potential employers, right...wrong!
According to a report from the Guardian, phrases such as “hard working”, “results driven” and “thought leader” are among the most overused buzzwords used when applying for a new role. The problem with these words - they carry no substance, are vague and non-descriptive. Instead, it’s suggested you should use examples that actually show the employer what you could bring to their company.
So we asked our consultants here at Carrot what phrases or terms they’d suggest you avoid using to help you avoid those C.V. cliches. Here’s what they had to say:
“I can work well independently, but I also work well in a team” – You’d hope it goes without saying that you’re able to work in both situations, but if you really want to show how versatile your working ethic is use examples instead. Talk about that time you went the extra mile as part of a group project to ensure it was completed on time, or when no one else was available to meet an important client but you volunteered to go, even though it was your day off.
“Guru”- This term connotes someone who is a “teacher, guide or master” of certain knowledge, but to use it on your C.V. could see you come across as arrogant or self-absorbed. Alternatively, use a phrase such as “I know quite a bit about niche therapy areas but there’s always room to learn more”.
“&” – The ampersand should be used to abbreviate the word “and” in a select few situations, yet it is hugely overused, often as a substitute for writing out the full version of the word. Unless you are using the ampersand in a company name, where space is very limited (e.g. in a table) or as part as an academic reference make sure you are using the word in full.
Not quantifying a statement – Simply stating you managed a team is not relevant enough, as this could be anything from a team of administrators to managing one person who works only two days a week. Instead, our consultant Victoria recommends using the following as a framework to describe your own management skills: “I managed a team of six Health Economists with varying ability within technical modelling and observational research. This includes regular appraisal of work, training, developmental planning, performance reviewing with HR, and recruitment of new staff”.
“I’m a quick learner” – As jobs merge together and people are expected to have a multitude of skills this is possibly the most used phrase these days, but this needs quantifying with real examples of your biggest achievements and any projects you’re undertaken. Tailor your C.V. to the specific job explaining how you meet the criteria they are asking for.
Talking in the 3rd person – Most people would never dream of speaking in the 3rd person on their C.V. but it has been known to happen. Just as you wouldn’t use the 3rd person when speaking face-to-face with someone there’s no need to use this when applying for a job either. Just stick with 1st person tense and everyone will be happy.
Irrelevant hobbies – Make sure your hobbies are as pertinent to the role as possible, and try to avoid the usual “socialising with my friends” phrase. Other hobbies our consultants have come across include candidates stating their children are their hobby, having the ability to milk 100 cows in under an hour, and coming 3rd in a world bog diving competition (although the latter two are impressive they're not necessarily relevant!). Instead, pick hobbies that show off certain skills you have which may be applicable to the job you’re applying for.
Generic opening words – “I’m honest, hard working and conscientious” are just a handful of the most overused, meaningless words used on a C.V. Our consultant Louise suggests substituting this for phrases such as: “My ethos is focused on delivering client service excellence”, “I deliver innovative and award-winning projects for my clients”, “I use my initiative to contribute ideas to the project”, and “A collaborative and supportive leadership style suits my team-focused nature”.
“I’m a strong communicator” – Just by writing a coherent C.V. with no spelling mistakes and excellent grammar you’ll be showing that you are able to communicate, so don’t waste valuable space stating the obvious. *Speaking of space, on a side note, try to keep your C.V. to two pages long – don’t worry about getting everything down on your C.V. as it should be used for topline information which will be expanded on during the interview.
Using images – Again, the little space you have on your C.V. is highly valuable, so don’t waste it with unnecessary images. It seems to be more common on the continent to include a photo of yourself on your C.V. but this isn’t required in the UK. We’ve even had a case of someone using emojis to signify each section. Instead, keep a simple format with bolding or underlining where relevant, using the space you would have done for images to go into more detail regarding your successes.