Blog > Career development > How to avoid CV clichés that could cost you the job

How to avoid CV clichés that could cost you the job

Find out why "entrepreneurial and motivated team players" are missing out on interviews .

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You might think that your CV contains a lot of great information that will sell your skills to a new employer, but does it?

Are you ‘a great communicator who works well alone or as part of a team’? That’s great, but that statement is a classic example of a CV cliché and is virtually meaningless to a recruiter.

What information should you include?

When you are thinking about what information to include, the key things to ask yourself are:

• “Is it relevant to the jobs I’m going for?”

Once you have found a job, read the job description and identify the skills required. Make sure they are visible in your CV. For example, communication:

Do say: “Completed a complex project by communicating with all levels of the business and external partners.”

Don’t say: “A great communicator who loves meeting new people.”

• “Does it show off my skills and how I have used them?”

The best thing to do is show how you have used your skills and what you have achieved, thus showing what you can bring to a new company.

Do say: “Increased sales by 25% through holding one-to-one training sessions with the sales team.”

Don’t say: “Has experience training and developing staff.”

• “Could I copy and paste it onto someone else’s CV?”

If so, then you need to re-think what you have written, as you could have fallen into the CV cliché trap. The information needs to sell you as an individual. If it would fit on someone else’s CV, it probably needs to go.

Do say: “A focused Financial Controller, with over 25 years of progressive experience, managing 500 employees across three continents.”

Don’t say: “A good leader with management experience.”

How do you write the information in a compelling way?

Once you have decided what you need to include, think about how you are going to get the information across. A recruiter is looking for a reason to invite you to interview, so make it easy for them to find all the great reasons to choose you.

If you possess desirable skills, they need to be visible and should be written in a ‘result – how – why’ format within your profile and career history, to demonstrate how you have used them and what you could bring to a new job.

If you have achievements and the figures to support them (for example, increased sales by 50%), they need to be included too.

Your CV should be a personal document that accurately sums up your career history. Space is limited, so if you fill it with vague information, you are wasting opportunities to tell an employer how fantastic you are, so keep your information specific and steer clear of the CV cliché.

CV Knowhow are totaljobs’ exclusive partner for CV writing advice and reviews. Get your CV rewritten by CV Knowhow.

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(All comments have to be approved before they appear)

  1. Stuart Banks Saturday, 15 Jul, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Not everyone who contributes as a material specialist to an engineering materiel selector program for a bespoke company intranet application has the visibility of awareness to know whether they are communicating with all levels of the business and external partners to that business. Because security validation of access / editing is only permitted to valid personnel. An material engineer often and frequently trains and develops personnel, but rarely if ever are they members of a sales team with an impact on sales. A material engineer often works as a member of a small team of between 3 to 20 members of multiple discipline who have a disproportionate affect on financial control that is reliant on them working as a dedicated and integrated team rather than solely as individuals.

  2. Conor Saturday, 15 Jul, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Congratulations Katy.
    I read this short blog on CV’s as I have read many, many before. This one however stood out straight away for me. It was practical, clear and really well put together. The points were thought provoking and I really liked the ‘dos’ and don’t’ style.
    Great work

  3. Olalekan Olafiranye Saturday, 15 Jul, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you very much for your kind advice on how best to structure CV.
    I will work on the CV and believe it would land me a job.

  4. DarrenMcvey Sunday, 16 Jul, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Hi I’m a joiner/ supervisor and have done my first c.v in 10 years, feel like I need to change it to suit differnt jobs

  5. Christopher Richards Sunday, 16 Jul, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Interesting article and confirms everything that I have said to people in the past NOT to put in the CV.

    That said I am still amazed by the number of people, including both professional recruiters and those individuals who have fancy script software claiming that they write the “perfect CV”.

    Having spent much of my career on both sides of the table (so to speak), I can assure you there is no such thing as a “perfect CV”; in to days ultra-specific requirement job specifications; I have found that each CV and covering letter has to be bespoke.

    I have had my CV re-drafted by many people over the years, including Agencies, some of the people I have known for years, Job Centre Plus, supposed help operations such as Reed In Partnership, SEETEC, IXIOM and similar bodies. Upon production of my CVs (note the plural), the first thing that all of them have said is “… ah! Now I see what is wrong it is you CV ! Let’s see if I can write a better one, then go on to tell you why your CV is wrong.

    However what I often deliberately not disclose is that it was a member of staff from their firm who drafted the CV they are criticising; thus confirming my view that there is no such thing as a perfect CV. Indeed my professional body have written a CV for me, only that to he cast aside by other “professional recruiters.

    The fact is, that there are more people in the market looking for jobs than there are jobs available. Much of that is down to ever increasing computerisation and the fixation companies and businesses have developed relating to call centres. “How much can we throw at the wall, and see how much sticks”; turned in to the name of efficiency.

    Indeed it is an employer’s paradise since they have such a vast voloume of applications, they can virtually narrow down their requirements to the blood group of the application. In reality, the employer’s interest is more on the lines of the computing suites you have used than you actual knowledge whether the answer that software (whether it be XL, Word, or any of the accounting suites which are available (over 2000 off the shelf packages, and that is before you move in to the realms of bespoke); each employer expecting you to know their system immediately. Indeed look at most advertisements and they are on the lines of “… must have strong knowledge of XL (pivot tables), Word; (usually some bizarre bespoke software), specific industry type”.

    All of this totally absurd and actually comes down to the fact that employers can’t be bothered to train their staff, instead of buy of the hook as if they are going to Marks & Spencer, or TESCO. More to the point even if you have not used the system , then you are expected to learn it in 3 hours. Again, no training.

    Then you have the issue of the interviewer in fear of their own job (thank you America for the hire and fire approach to employment) where in a situation where I am in an interview with a 25-30 year old, and being 50 likely to know more about the practice of the discipline as opposed to poking buttons, the claim that: ” You are over qualified” springs in to play. The real answer of course: “I worried that you may take my job”.

    The reality is that being qualified these days is a handicap not an asset. Emloyers can’t be bothered to train, so no career progression in companies/business any more; hence the large turn over of staff. Ironically, employers still measure people on length of service, and yet in the next breath have the hire and fire approach where actually THEY have the high turn over of staff due to the employer’s attitude to its staff.

    Perhaps the contradiction and irony of all this, is that when you read the broadsheet and professional press, these senior managers and directors are the same ones complaining about staff loyalty. Pot calling saucepan tarnished !

    1. No such thing as a perfect CV- beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    2. No such things as all adaptable skills; every employer has their own skill set requirement
    3. No such thing as loyalty between employer and staff; hence the reverse has come true.
    4. It has now dawned on employers that employees can walk out of the door as easily as the employer can fire them.
    5. The life expectancy of the average company is at best 25 years; the 100 year old company is virtually dead; and those which do exist increasingly are franchises; notably McDonalds.

    In the case of 5. above, I find it bemusing that the employer sees the employees long stay in a company as something strong, as opposed to someone going through may two companies in five years having been made redundant, apparently less reliable. Again turning full circle, employers are not reliable.

    So there are as may clichés in Job Descriptions as there are CVs; so all a load of nonsense; time to stop playing psychological games and just get on with the job !

  6. simon Wednesday, 19 Jul, 2017 at 11:25 am

    More interesting than the original article, pretty much bears out my own experiences, customised CVs etc.

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