Five lines you never want to see in a CV

Struggling to find a CV that stands out?

Unfortunately, when you’ve worked in recruitment for a while, some candidates CVs can often end up looking like virtual replicas of one another. And much of it simply comes down to an overreliance on the same old stock phrases.

To remind you of what not to look for, here are five clichéd lines you never want to see in a CV:

  1.  ‘Although I don’t have much experience in…’

Candidates that constantly apologise are probably feeling some level of doubt in their suitability.

Not only does it show a lack of confidence in their ability to do the job at hand, it also emphasises their (supposed) shortcomings instead of focusing on what skills they actually do have.

If it’s a skill or qualification that is essential for the job they’re applying for, the last thing you’re likely to want them to do is apologise. And, if it’s not 100% necessary, is there any need for them to mention it?

Either way, even the most promising candidate is unlikely to come out in a positive light after their admission.


What they should be saying: The most successful candidates will focus on what skills and experience they have that make them a good fit, and they’ll draw attention to those instead.


  1. ‘I’m great at multi-tasking’

Let’s face it, multi-tasking is important for almost every role.

Unfortunately, this has led to a phrase which has been so overused in CVs that it’s starting to lose all meaning.

We’re not saying that the ability to multi-task isn’t a valuable attribute. However, a candidate that simply includes that they’re good at it provides very little value to your business. They actually need to back it up.

The best candidates will reference relevant examples of when they’ve put their multi-tasking skills to the test, and how they could utilise these skills for the role in question.

To put it simply, it’s all about how they say it – not just about what they say.


What they should be saying: Candidates who are doing it right will talk about the tasks they’ve done that exemplify their multitasking skills, and then use them to quantify their claims (i.e. how they managed multiple tasks to achieve a successful outcome – and what the outcome actually was).


  1. ‘I’m a team player, who also works well alone’

Chances are, almost all of your candidates will be good in a group and working individually. Most people are.

However, the real problem with this phrase isn’t the fact that it’s notoriously overused, it’s that it doesn’t really say a lot.

A candidate saying they’re ‘a team player, who also works well alone’ can often come across as a lazy attempt to cover all bases – because they feel that maybe, one of them might be a necessary requirement.

Essentially, it’s the CV equivalent of sitting on the fence.


What they should be saying: The key to making this point actually stand out comes down to a candidate’s ability to make it mean more. The best applicants will use their knowledge of the role to choose whether to place the most emphasis on team work, or on working alone. Then, they’ll either demonstrate a time where they’ve proved their success of working in a team, or talk about how they’ve completed tasks independently.


  1. ‘I’m a perfectionist’

Whether they use this phrase on its own, or couple it with its even more irritating prefix ‘my biggest weakness is…’ this point simply has no place in a CV.

Even if a candidate genuinely is a perfectionist, this over-exaggerated character-defining phrase often just translates as: ‘I’m really picky over minor details’. In reality, nothing is perfect – especially in the workplace. And a candidate with an obsession with perfection could just imply that they won’t react well when things don’t go to plan.

Alternatively, they may use this phrase to pretend they have no real weaknesses, other than their pursuit of greatness. Which, let’s face it, isn’t an attractive quality in anyone.

There aren’t a lot of positive outcomes.


What they should be saying: An honest candidate is a good candidate. If they give you enough of their skills, achievements, and experience, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on what they’re really like. And if they bring up weaknesses on their CV, they’re probably not the one…


  1. ‘I’m a people person’

Although this attribute is incredibly important attribute to have for a number of jobs (particularly customer facing ones), you still shouldn’t find it in a CV.

As with most clichéd phrases, it doesn’t have much meaning. Doesn’t everyone have the ability to speak to other humans, at least to some extent?

Not only will a candidate who includes this in their CV be using an overused line, they’ll also risk mildly irritating the person with the power to move their application further (i.e. anyone working in recruitment or HR).

Without any context or elaboration, this is essentially just a fancy use of alliteration – and one that a CV could definitely do without.


What they should be saying: The most creative candidates will still reference their ‘people skills’, but display them in a way that effectively describes their communication skills, customer service experience, and affability, all at the same time. Proven instances and examples of successful interactions and good relationships with colleagues or customers are a great way for candidates to mention their abilities without using a cliché. – 23rd February 2017


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