The 10 things you should keep OFF your CV

It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned professional with an enviable track record of success, or at the start of your career looking to get your first step on the ladder, you will at some point need to produce a CV.

Your CV serves as your own personal advertisement – your personal shop window if you will, that provides a recruiter with an at-a-glance overview of who you are, what you have done and why they should add you to ‘maybe’ pile. Its aim is to win you an interview, not the job itself – that happens at the interview.

However, overuse of clichés and key words will kill your chances of job success – with this recruiter at least. Not only are they impersonal – found on literally thousands of other CVs (and we thought you were unique) – they lack any real meaning too, leaving the recruiters who read them scratching their heads and asking themselves, What has this person actually done to justify an interview?

So if you want to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons and ensure your CV doesn’t find its way to the trash quicker than you can say ‘But I’m perfect for the role’, take note of the following overused phrases and eliminate them altogether from your CV…fast!

  1. Dynamic: Really, are you? If a recruiter asked any of your current and former colleagues, would they describe you as dynamic and if so, why? Did you introduce new procedures that positively impacted patient or staff outcomes, or perhaps you helped to train or mentor your teams, which led to greater levels of staff motivation and increased retention?
  2. Team player: You’re not a reformed hermit trying to convince a recruiter that you are now ready to come out of your self-imposed state of isolation and re-enter the world of work. There are few careers whereby workers don’t have at least one other person who they work with, so don’t state the obvious.
  3. Thought leader: Do you really know what a thought leader actually is? Are you active in your sector, do you speak at industry events, do you blog, write articles on your area of expertise and are featured in the magazines that cover your sector? Do your peers describe you as a thought leader? If none of the above applies, you are not a thought leader – this is something that has to be earned.
  4. Results driven: If you hold any position from manager or above, you should be results driven! Recruiters are looking for evidence of success – what have you done in previous roles and what impact have these actions had on the organisation? Opt for words that suggest some form of metric – ‘achieved’, ‘resulted in’, ‘increased/decreased’ or ‘resolved’.
  5. Out-of-the-box thinking: This has become so over-used that few people really understand what it means anymore. How you have taken the opportunity to approach a challenge differently to how it has previously been done, for example?
  6. Think outside the box: In today’s ultra-competitive working environment the slightest hiccup can prove costly, so give an instance of when you have had to consider all the variables, your reasoning for reaching the decisions you did and the outcome of those decisions.
  7. Blue-sky thinker: Such an 80s stock phrase and yet thirty years on it is still being used by candidates; next you’ll be wearing double-breasted blazers with gold buttons or donning the finest shoulder pads you can lay your hands on and fashioning yourself on Crystal from Dynasty (we’re showing our age now). Be contemporary in your use of language – we all know what you mean but give examples of how you have used your creativity in a work setting and difference this has made.
  1. Take a helicopter view: So you can take a holistic view of a situation and view it from an outsider’s perspective – great. Then say that, give an example of how you have been called upon to negate internal conflicts between colleagues or departments. Or how your most recent interim role saw you enter a cauldron of conflict between the senior management team and the steps you took to find a universally acceptable resolution.
  1. Road mapping: Say what you mean: you had a vision (goal) and implemented your mission (how you will achieve that goal) and plotted your course accordingly, making whatever adjustments were necessary along the way to ensure you remained on course for reaching your objective.
  1. Strong interpersonal skills: Well, you would never admit to being slightly shy or the life and soul of the party would you? Recruiters will decide for themselves if you have good communication skills – your job is to provide examples of how your ability to forge business relationships has had a direct impact on the bottom line of the organisation.

Executive recruiters are not looking for a list of adjectives that you think they want to read on your CV – they’ve got the Oxford English Dictionary for that. Rather, what they are looking for is enough evidence – proof – that you have the skills and experience to effectively perform the role being recruited for. So show them how your expertise has made a difference to the organisation, don’t just tell them.