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Breathe new life into your CV - cut out the clichés

27 Jan 11 - 12:00AM  | General
By Sue Walder

Everyone knows that a CV is essential to getting a job.


With countless websites offering advice and tips on how to write your CV, by now we all know the golden rules:  tailor the content to suit the role, don’t lie, don’t exceed two pages, use active verbs, proofread it carefully before sending, etc.


But there’s a real danger of becoming snow blind to the blizzard of tired phrases that will almost certainly have crept into your CV over the years.


Late last year Linkedin revealed the 10 most overused buzzwords on people’s Linkedin profiles. They analysed more than 85 million Linkedin profiles posted worldwide to find the most clichéd phrases.  


In the USA, the 10 most overused buzzwords in 2010 were:

  1. Extensive experience
  2. Innovative
  3. Motivated
  4. Results-oriented
  5. Dynamic
  6. Proven track record
  7. Team player
  8. Fast-paced
  9. Problem solver
  10. Entrepreneurial.


Sound familiar? 


Interestingly, the same words cropped up in the Linkedin profiles of other nationalities but in a different order.

As the Linkedin blog post put it:


“While members from the USA, Canada and Australia tend to emphasize their ‘extensive experience’, Brazilians, Indians and Spaniards identify themselves as ‘dynamic’ professionals. Members in the UK call themselves more ‘motivated’ and the French, the Germans, the Italians and the Dutch see themselves as ‘innovative’”.


And how people describe themselves in their Linkedin profiles is likely to be similar to what they say in their resumes or CVs.

A quick sweep of the consultants here at pfj suggests that the most overused (and therefore ignored) words on CVs they see are:  

  • Ambitious self-starter
  • Motivated
  • Attention to detail
  • Forward thinking

However, it’s not just job hunters that succumb to clichés – pfj consultants have also been known to indulge in such terms.


So, perhaps it’s not surprising that people tend to reflect the language that crops up in recruitment ads. CVs also have to include industry-specific keywords to ensure they are ‘database friendly’.


The trouble is that stale, over-familiar terms can mask your achievements and prevent you from standing out from the crowd.

So, what’s the best way to prevent recruiters getting glazed eyes as they glance at your CV?


The best solution is to avoid vague and general statements. Be more specific with your descriptions and, best of all, try to quantify your achievements by using statistics.


For example:

·  Created and implemented a UK-wide PR campaign to support the launch of a new chocolate bar. The value of the resulting publicity was three times that of the campaign budget and helped the client exceed its sales target by 10%. 


A good CV acts as a sales tool by establishing your unique credentials and securing that all-important interview. A really good CV will help you advance your career.


You’ve got less than 30 seconds to make an impression- good luck!


You can read Sue’s blog, Having a word, here.

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1 comment
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Very true! Makes a change to see smoeone spell it out like that. :)
Posted by: Solyn, Date 13 April 2011, 04:28 AM
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