Avoid these resume-writing cliches

Avoid these resume-writing cliches.

Be less 'motivated' and 'effective' and craft a winning CV.

In a competitive job market, using clichés in a resume could send your application straight to the circular file. Employing overused or generic terms such as “motivated”, “effective” and “innovative” don’t do much to make an application stand out.

According to a survey by LinkedIn, the most overused clichés found on the site’s profiles are:

  • Extensive experience
  • Results-oriented

  • Dynamic

  • Proven track record

“Clichés are boring and can put recruiters off because it looks like people haven’t bothered to think for themselves,” says Aaron Dodd, owner of Mindset Group, a recruitment agency with offices in Melbourne and Sydney.

So how do you work around cliches? We asked three experts to share the best ways to craft original, winning CVs.

Avoid baseless phrases

Phrases such as “accomplished leader”, “dedicated results driven”, “excellent communicator” and “bottom-line focused” should be left off a resume.

Dodd says these phrases are better used to describe a colleague rather than yourself, as they don’t give a hirer enough information about a candidate’s skills.

“A recruiter might have three or four CVs in front of them for a role, and they might only want to interview two people, so in the end they are going to call the candidates who have got their interest,” Dodd says.

Be less enthusiastic

When updating a resume, it’s a good idea to avoid clichés that can be misinterpreted by a potential employer, such as “enthusiastic” and “motivated”. 

“These might seem like excellent personality traits but unless they are supported by tangible achievements, they position you as someone who tries really hard and achieves very little,” says Gub McNicoll, Director of the Melbourne-based professional writing business, Wordsmith Consultants.

McNicoll suggests candidates instead use keywords that are specific to the job, such as “financial control systems”, “change management” or “workforce development”.

Be specific

Recruiters agree that the key to writing a good resume is to be as detailed as possible about what you have achieved in a previous position.

Dodd says when doing this it’s a good idea to avoid generic terms such as “contributed to the business plan”, as these types of phrases don’t give recruiters enough information about your role and could suggest “the candidate made cups of tea, while others worked on the project.”

Instead, McNicoll advises “candidates should focus on specific, tangible responsibilities and achievements from their career: strategies developed, projects delivered, commercial value added, personnel or budgets managed.”

Substantiate

According to Tim Roche, a career management practice leader at Melbourne-based Right Management, it’s not so much the cliché that is the problem. Rather, it’s that people don’t substantiate the claim a cliché makes.

Roche says if a candidate wants to use a cliché in their resume they should also provide specific work examples.

“When I am reviewing resumes and I read a cliché, I say ‘so what?’ because it’s a hollow, baseless claim. They need to demonstrate the outcomes they have delivered in a working environment.”

At some point in the job application process, you may be asked to substantiate one or more of your resume claims so why not do it upfront? A good way to substantiate is through the use of numbers. Did you improve attendance at an event or increase sales year-on-year? Don’t just say it: prove it by providing specific, concrete numbers.  

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