7 CV cliches you need to avoid

There are some CV cliches you really need to avoid. For one thing, they’re the exact same words that everyone else uses – they’re not helping you stand out from the crowd.

For another, they give the person judging your application nothing to go on when it comes to making the call. Could you be the right person for that shiny new engineering or IT job?

If you use these cliches, it will be difficult to tell:

Avoid these CV cliches

1) Work well independently, but also in a team

This falls under the heading of “well, I would hope so”. It’s going to be a rare position that is going to require – and an unusual successful candidate that is going to offer – only one of those things. Even if you are part of a team, you usually do at least some work independently – and vice versa.

If you really insist on writing something like this, make sure you have examples of working independently (preferably where it required going out of your way) or when a team you were on was very successful to demonstrate why you’ve brought it up.

2) Honest, hard-working and conscientious

This little triplet (and others like it) are a widely overused generic opening on too many CVs and cover letters. Consider – again – supporting what you’re saying with examples. Or why not replace them altogether?

Think about when your personal qualities delivered something special for past clients or the way your team worked.

3) A quick learner

This CV cliché is becoming more and more popular as employees are expected to have their fingers in more skill “pies” than they once did.

People recruiting for engineering and IT jobs do like fast learners (trust us). But like anything you write on your CV, it needs to be qualified by an example of an achievement, project, or situation where you’ve actually demonstrated this ability.

4) A good team player

It’s a rare CV that manages to reach the final version without this little chestnut of generality appearing somewhere in it. Again, one would expect that any candidate would be a good team player – or at least claim to be.

Link your claim to a situation where you actually showed how valuable your ability to work as part of a team empowered that team to reach a higher goal to underscore you really mean it.

5) Results driven

This is another cliché that looks great on a CV. If you can’t quantify those results though, you’re onto a loser as far as any engineering or IT recruitment specialist reading your job application goes.

It’s only worth saying you’re driven by results if you can back up how you improved results with numbers.

6) A hard worker

Another one from the “well, yes I would hope so” pile are CVs from people stating how dedicated they are to working hard. Of course, hard work is desirable. But productive work is even more so.

Imagine if you were applying for a software engineer job. You underline your ability to work hard at the problems involved. Unfortunately, this doesn’t say how successful you are at actually productively overcoming those problems.

Indicating a time when you helped a product go live before deadline (for example) might be a better indication of how you multiplied productivity.

7) Good communication skills

Finally, the gold crown of CV cliches goes to “good communication skills”. As a rule, you would expect that most candidates applying for most positions aren’t reclusive misanthropes. Or that if they were, they would at least claim not to be on their CV.

That said, if you know you do struggle to personally communicate with other people for any reason, it might even set you apart to say so and explain how you overcome that challenge on your CV. More and more organisations are realising that a more diverse team is often a more effective one.

However, in general, you aren’t really saying much when you say you have good communication skills. Unless that is, like all the other CV cliches to avoid here, you support the generic words with evidence. Or, better yet, replace them with active statements that include real, applicable examples.

Want to get your CV in front of the decision-makers you want to hire you?

Let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering and IT recruitment agency. We have access to exclusive jobs you won’t find elsewhere – and a proven, open, and honest process. Need the evidence?

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