13 Nov 2015

CV Buzzwords

I try not to make a habit of looking at Daily Mail Online but it does provide useful fodder for discussion.  Recently they had an article which was titled: 'How describing yourself as a hard-working team player could be hindering your career'.  So far, so Daily Mail.  As usual, it wasn't a great article but it made some useful points - not least that the most important thing on a CV is to make sure there are no typos.  Anyway, they had a list of the words that should not be on your CV....which included:

Team Player
Strategic thinker

I did a spot check of a few CVs on my desk and these words are scattered liberally across every single one of them.  The worst offender, in my view, is in the Personal profile.  The aim of the Personal profile is to give an overview of what you are and what you are looking for.  Generally, however, it ends up being a long list of words - pretty much the same as the list above.  In which case, I'm actually in accord with the Daily Mail - they should be avoided.

However, I emailed my client base to ask their opinion and I got a lot of response (seems it isn't just me who gets wound up by employees telling me how passionate they are...).  The other key point is that it's how you use these words - so as ever, context is all important.

If you are going to use a word like reliable - give an example of how you can demonstrate it. Then it's not just a meaningless word.  Results-driven?  Show an example of where you made a real difference to the bottom line.

Trying to get your CV to stand out (for the right reasons...) amongst a sea of beige, can often be challenging but you'll find that your interview conversion is maximised by spending a bit more time on your CV and ensuring that you give examples, you back-up any claims to world domination and you talk about your projects that you have managed.  Wherever possible, tailor the CV to a specific role and if a Job Description is available, tailor your CV according to this specification - imagine that the potential employer is 'marking' your CV with a red pen - and if you've liberally scattered elements of the job spec' into the CV, you're going to score highly and therefore secure an interview.

The Mail was right to say that you should avoid jargon and corporate speak - it's meaningless anyway, particularly on a CV.  No-one is interested in reading about joined up, Blue Sky thinking etc.

In fact, I tend not to get too wound up about personal profiles as I have come to a resigned acceptance that they are seldom any good.  So I often ignore them. It winds me up more when I read a long sentence of words describing what someone does in their job.  Again, just selecting a couple from CVs currently on my desk: 

"Marketing professional with experience of implementing integrated marketing communications to deliver a range of targeted campaigns."
"Brand development, delivery of direct marketing campaigns using online and offline channels, website content management, event management and developing relationships with external marketing and design agencies.

So what do you actually do? It's as clear as mud.  It's just words.  Often very strong candidates have very poor CVs - so it isn't always an indicator of quality of candidate, but it does mean you're either a bit complacent about your ability or a bit lazy (and potential employers don't like those 'qualities'.  It's essential to spend proper time on your CV, proof read it, ask a friend or colleague to critique it and if you're guilty of too much blah, do something about it!