7 Things to Avoid Saying on your CV/Resume

Many of my career-coaching clients have never written a CV/Resume, or if they have it was many years ago. They are CV Virgins. And now they are being thrust into a world where the CV is their passport to a new role. The hiring organization or agency makes it worse by using clichéd phrases in their advertising copy, but this does not mean you should use them in your CV. Some people have looked at on-line CV sites where there are sample CVs. While many are helpful, many are not. If you want to increase the impact of your CV, here are some phrases never to use, with suggested alternatives

A professional [whatever]

No: if you are not professional then you have no business competing for the job. Everyone claims this about themselves, including people who are not ‘professional’. In any case what does this label mean?

Instead: Describe yourself by your job identity plus your years of experience, for instance, ‘Computer Software Engineer, MCSE qualified, 5 years’ experience

Liking people

Does anyone ever say on their CV that they dislike people? Of course not, even if they do. ‘Liking people’ is intended as shorthand for being warm, cosy, smiley and it sounds coy. Even worse: claiming that you have ‘high EQ’ – this is not for you to say, and is another meaningless piece of alienating jargon

Instead: say how you have specifically used your people-skills in your current or last job.

Team player

No: it would be rare for any hiring company to say that what they want is a narcissistic solo operator who cannot work with others. Some ability to work flexibly and comfortably with other people, however annoying they are, is essential for most jobs.

Instead: describe the role you typically play in a team and how this has added value for your current or last employer

Self starter

No: few companies have roles for people who need to be wound up like a mechanical toy in order to get their jobs done. Employers take it for granted that you can do this.

Instead: give examples of how you have initiated change and worked autonomously to meet the company’s objectives.

Safe pair of hands

No: it sounds so dull and suggests mediocrity. Employers do not hire for safe pairs of hands unless they are desperate and have to compromise. They hire for actual expertise and sound judgement

Instead: describe the way your expertise is special, distinguishing you from others in the same field

Strategic thinker

No: strategy is a meaningless word. It’s often code for ‘I’m higher up the hierarchy than you might think’. Few organizations are silly enough to leave all the strategic thinking to one person. Strategy emerges from a lot of people doing a lot of hard thinking in order to make hard choices.

Instead: describe how you have contributed to the above process and say what the hard choices were, describing the results

I like reading, walking, going to the cinema and seeing friends

No: so does everyone. This does nothing to differentiate you – one of the main purposes of a CV

Instead: say what kind of books you like reading, where you like walking and for how long, what kinds of films delight you.