A plague on all dynamic, self-starters
For best results, purge your CV of nonsensical LinkedIn lingo
The language of the CV has long been infected by the same mumbo jumbo that renders most corporate literature ineffectual and drab. A plague of overused platitudes that have lost all meaning and demonstrate only one thing: your hopeless mediocrity.
If you want to stand out then it is important to avoid this kind of corporatised gobbledegook. You are just telling potential employers vague banalities about yourself, and not showing them why you are the best person for the job.
Effective CVs, or LinkedIn profiles, are short, use simple language and get to the point quickly. A CV is a teaser document designed to get your foot in the door. The film trailer of your career. It is not an excuse to machinegun unimaginable numbers of buzzwords at innocent readers, in the vague hope that one of them might hit the mark.
With that in mind, here are my top CV howlers to avoid.
Dynamic: every person in business in the world today claims to be dynamic. Avoid. If your CV is good enough, your career progress will demonstrate this. It’s implicit. If someone tells me they have climbed Mount Everest, I know with the utmost clarity that this person has guts and stamina (they’re probably dynamic too). There is no need for them to tell me.
Highly motivated: Of course you are. As is every single other person who has applied for this job. Instead, show the potential employer what motivates you, and why. Fit your skills directly to those explicitly required on the job description. It’ll show you are genuinely motivated to do the job they want you to do.
Excellent interpersonal communications skills: Heinously overused. This means you can speak, excellently. So can everyone else.
Outcomes-focused: Weird back-to-fronty CV doublespeak. Again, this should be implicit in the CV. You don’t need to tell people this. Your career history will show it (or not). And who, exactly, isn’t outcomes-focussed? Deciding to get dressed in the morning makes you outcomes-focussed.
Passionate: I am always deeply suspicious of those people – and companies - who keep telling me how passionate they are. As in: “I’m passionate about delivering results in an outcome-focussed, results-driven environment.” No, you’re not. If you’ve written a decent CV then your passion will shine through in the way you’ve conducted your career.
Self-starter: Isn’t everyone? It’s called waking up and getting out of bed. Instead, show the reader via your career history how you have self-started yourself.
Leader: The vast majority of people who run businesses are not good leaders. That is because people get promoted on the back of technical ability – and politics – rather than on their ability to inspire and to lead. Don’t tell people you are a ‘leader’ unless you can show how you have genuinely led people, preferably in a tight spot.
Results driven: As opposed to being driven by failure, of course. More senseless back-to-fronty CV doublespeak. Not only is the phrase ‘results driven’ horrendously overused in unimaginative CVs, its utterly meaningless. Again, like outcomes focussed – who exactly is not results driven?
Once it has infected your CV this kind of language, like woodworm, eats away at your originality and your character. All that is left is merely dust. It is the people who speak and write concisely, plainly and with clarity of purpose that get the best jobs.
Charlie Corbett advises people in business on how to write and speak in a way that will genuinely engage audiences. A former financial journalist, he is author of The Art of Plain Speaking, winner at the 2019 Business Book Awards.