What NOT to Write On Your CV

17/02/2017 16:22

Every year around now, HR departments everywhere are swamped with CVs - after all, the whole 'New Year, new you' push often includes trying to get the job of your dreams or furthering your career.

When I worked in recruitment in the City, I was drowning in job applications for the first three months of the year. To speed up the process of ploughing through them, like everyone in my industry, I had certain CV no-nos which, when spotted, would send any potential candidates straight into the bin.

Now it's my business to evaluate and rewrite CVs to give people the best chance possible of getting past the HR test, I've honed my list of no-nos even further .

So here are my top 10 tips to of what to avoid putting on your CV to make sure it doesn't end up in the shredder - but might land you that dream job instead.

1. Avoid using the word 'supported' where possible - as well as 'helped' or 'assisted'. Your CV should be about what you can do on your own - focus on your solo achievements.

2. Try not to overuse the words 'managed', 'delivered', 'developed' - I see these words all the time. In fact, any word repetition is a major turnoff. Find fresh ways of explaining what your skills are and be more dynamic and punchy in your use of language.

3. Phrases like "extensive experience, proven track record, motivated, results oriented, dynamic, team player, fast-paced, problem solver" when writing about yourself are not only clichéd, they're pretty meaningless. No one wants to see this - you should explain what your skills have achieved rather than just describe those skills. The worst CVs are those that say "my responsibilities included". I don't want to know what your responsibilities were, I want to know what value you have delivered in the past and what value you will deliver in the future. Your CV needs to say how good you are at your job, not just what your job is. "Strong work ethic" is yet another 'please believe my boast' phrase that adds nothing of value. Describing an achievement or success story that references commitment however is a great idea. Telling a recruiter that you're dedicated, committed, highly motivated, etc without evidence is not.

4. Don't waste time and space stating the obvious. People will say they enjoy working in a "fast-paced environment" when often that's a given in the job they're going for. If you work on a trading floor, of course it's going to be fast-paced. A surgeon applying for a post wouldn't state they are "good with my hands". Similarly, saying you're a 'results-oriented professional' or 'solution-focused'. Everyone who works is a professional trying to achieve results.

5. Don't use the word innovative if you're talking about yourself. You can call a process or system you've introduced innovative, but it means nothing if you're just describing you. That's English for you.

6. Writing 'Curriculum Vitae' is probably the most common and pointless CV cliché of all. It's a waste of valuable white space, too. Unless you've decided to go with an inadvisably unrecognisable CV style, it will be obvious to anyone that your CV is a CV, and no one is going to need help to work that out.

7. Saying your interests include 'reading' and 'socialising' add absolutely nothing. If you include a personal interests section, it really needs to make an impact. Reading and socialising are things everybody does, so you need to include interests that highlight some of your characteristics. If you've won a bronze medal in the Olympics, then great, that will show you are committed and driven, but there's no point in describing a generic activity and hoping it's going to win you any brownie points.

8. "Exceeded expectations" is an archaic term left over from a 70s management training manual. It doesn't add anything at all. If you met your goals, tell a story instead that illustrates how you did it, and what the outcome was. "Proven track record of success" isn't great either; how do you measure success? Instead drill down into what you have done well and then describe that in tangible ways.

9. Saying "can work individually or in teams." Er, well yes - what other options are there? There are some recruitment people out there who will tell you this one is OK, because employers want to see evidence of autonomy, or proactivity, or teamwork, or whatever. They're wrong; it's not OK. You can work into your achievements that you had sole responsibility for a project, or were an integral part of a successful team, but you need to be more specific than simply stating you can work individually or in teams.

10. Writing "References available upon request'. If you are successful and offered a post, you will be asked to provide details of referees. No need to take up space on your CV saying so.

So there we have it - my top 10 tips on what to leave off your CV. Now start editing and get that job...