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Avoid CV clichés

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We take a look at some of the biggest clichés that regularly appear on CVs – and how best to avoid them.

There are a host of words and phrases that have been greatly overused on trainee CVs in recent years, so much so that employers are now immune to them and may even dismiss an application without seeing substantial evidence to back these words up.

Some clichéd ‘buzzwords’ to avoid are: team player, motivated, communication skills, people management and attention to detail.

Nicholas Kirk, regional managing director at Page Personnel Finance, says: ‘There’s nothing wrong with saying you have some of these specific skills if they are a requirement for the role, but always back them up by briefly stating a time in a previous role when you’ve used the specific skill and how it has added something to the business.’

Without question the worst CV clichés are the ones that crop up in practically every application. So, for example, an applicant describing themselves as ‘hard-working’ won’t stand out any more because everybody uses these descriptions in their applications – and so they have long since begun to lose any real meaning.


Joss Collins, senior manager within financial services at Venn Group, says: ‘I would urge professionals to try and stand out from the crowd by being a bit more imaginative when it comes to the terminology they use in their applications. And certainly avoid the worst of the lot – writing in the third person – this is a definite no, no from me and will ensure your CV goes straight to the bottom of the pile!’

Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are absolutely unforgiveable too. Some hiring managers say they will discount a CV even if just one spelling mistake is made, as it shows a lack of attention to detail. If application materials are sloppy, then there will immediately be concerns that the work will be too.

Likewise, poorly written and irrelevant personal statements are to be avoided at all costs. It is important that the personal statement or objective is completely relevant to the role, preferably highlighting specific skills that match the job description.

Often candidates apply for multiple jobs or roles to which they are not qualified, so making this area specific and meaningful is key. Likewise, make sure you tailor your CV to the job you applying for – don’t be tempted to send the same version for many different roles as recruiters and employers will spot this instantly.

Nicholas Kirk, regional managing director at Page Personnel Finance, adds: ‘Ensure you have a proper spell check of your CV before sending it to an employer. One of the biggest pitfalls is listing "attention to detail" on your CV and then failing to spell check it thoroughly. Proof read as many times as you can, then get someone else to check over it too – errors in your writing could lose you an interview.’


Other common faux pas include stating reasons for leaving past jobs. This information can always be addressed during the interview process and should be avoided on a CV due to the sensitive or sometimes unflattering nature of the discussion.

Likewise, your salary expectations should never appear on a CV. While not only inappropriate, adding in this information may also eliminate you from consideration if expectations are too high or prevent you from securing a higher wage if expectations are too low.

It should also go without saying that lying on a CV – while not a new phenomenon – is still prevalent, according to a number of employers.

While candidates who lie on their CV are generally found out during the reference process, sometimes they will slip through the net and find themselves in a job for which they are not qualified. This may later result in dismissal if they are found out, making it even more difficult to secure a role later on.

Also, bear in mind that what is considered a lie varies from an over inflated degree mark all the way through to a completely fabricated role to fill a gap.

However, while it is essential not to lie to cover up any gaps, you should also avoid lengthy ones on your CV as this may give the hiring manager the wrong impression. If you have taken a career break, or been travelling, make sure you include this so the reader doesn’t disregard your application.


Conversely Phil Sheridan, senior managing director at Robert Half, says the best examples of a CV include several factors, such as understanding the wider issues and demonstrating previous recognition.

He says: ‘Employers are looking for candidates who can not only do their job but who have an understanding of and the ability to contribute to the larger business mandate. Focusing on specific examples where you improved efficiencies, saved money or sourced a new revenue stream will demonstrate your return on investment (ROI) to the potential employer.

‘Likewise, recognition earned through professional associations, annual reviews or employee programmes should be highlighted and tied into the requirements for the role applied for.’  

Whether you are looking for your first accountancy role, or seeking a big step up in your career, a good CV is an absolute must. After all, a great one may not guarantee you a job, but a bad one will certainly prevent you from getting one.


In an era where recruiters and hiring managers receive multiple CVs for each position and have the job of quickly whittling these down to just a few, yours needs to create an impact almost instantly.

Ellis King, manager in accountancy and finance at Morgan McKinley, says: ‘Your CV should be as clear and simple as possible – using bullet points and short, sharp paragraphs.

‘Your work experience and qualifications should both be in reverse chronological order, including all results. A useful tip here is to pick out the three key points which you want the reader to take from the CV, and ensure these are clearly set out in the first section.

‘Lastly, seek the help of an experienced recruiter who can not only guide you through the process of creating a standout CV, but who can also carry out a final spot check – including checking for clarity, typos and spelling or grammatical mistakes – on your behalf.’

Clichés on your CV can point towards the fact that a trainee doesn’t have anything original to say. Think about the CV clichés you’re tempted to use and then consider the way an employer will react to them.


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