Updating your CV? Here are the buzzwords to avoid

By Robert Half on 15th December 2021

New year, new job? January and February are always busy because people look for a fresh start to match the new year.

In a recent LinkedIn poll, nearly three in five (57%) people told us that they were planning to update their CV in the downtime over the festive period – but what does a good CV look like?

It can be difficult to tell whether you are getting it right or not, so we wanted to highlight some key tips and tricks to help you on your way to success. We caught up with Conor McCabe, one of our associate directors, on buzzwords to avoid and what to say instead when it comes to rewriting your CV.

In the wake of the global pandemic, there has been an appetite for real connections with real people in the corporate world – and being more human is a true asset. Employers want to see authenticity and simplicity from candidates – a new hire they could work with rather than a list of attributes and skills.

We’re often told to polish our CVs, and it can be tempting to use longer words or lots of adjectives to try and set yourself apart from the crowd. If your CV reads like you have swallowed a thesaurus it can often feel a little try-hard or even like a ‘copy and paste’. 

These are the top 10 words and phrases to avoid:

  1. Hard-working
  2. Career-oriented
  3. Ambitious
  4. Aspirational
  5. Driven
  6. Commercial
  7. Business-minded
  8. Problem-solver
  9. Unique
  10. ‘Not your typical…’

Describing who you are in a distinctive and exciting way is hard - we’ve all been there, but using overused words and phrases like these will not help you stand out from the crowd.

Many potential employers and recruiters will see straight through flowery language, instead try these three tips for engendering authenticity in your CV:

  1. Read everything you have written back to yourself. If you think ‘that doesn’t sound like me’ then it is not authentic. It helps to imagine a scenario where you’re meeting someone for coffee – how would you describe your background and experience face-to-face? Think more facts, and fewer adjectives.
     
  2. Instead of labelling yourself as a problem solver or commercial thinker, think about how you can demonstrate those traits. Adding an achievements section to your CV is an excellent way to showcase your skills as it demonstrates a clear history of desirable skills and behaviours.
     
  3. Stating that you are unique doesn’t set you apart – everyone is. However, your story is yours and yours alone. Why do you really want the role? What are your drivers? These are questions you should ask yourself as you write your CV. Employers want to work with real, authentic people, so use storytelling to take them on your journey.

Making small changes like these will make a huge difference to the way your CV looks and sounds, but our consultants are here to help you get it right. Whatever you’re looking for in the new year, we wish you the very best of luck.
 

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