Whether you’re out of work or looking for a new job in the New Year, the competition has never been stiffer. But it seems most CVs, like their owners after the holidays, need to get into shape. The UK’s largest business language consultancy, The Writer, conducted a poll with over 500 members of the public* and found that CVs are failing to impress:
Ã‚Â· 57% of respondents voted ‘team player’ as the most dull phrase to use on your CV
Ã‚Â· 43% didn’t like ‘dynamic’
Ã‚Â· 40% felt ‘passionate’ left them cold
Ã‚Â· 50% thought that other people’s CVs were ‘not at all’ or ‘barely’ effective
Ã‚Â· in contrast, 80% said that their own CVs were ‘very’ or ‘impressively’ effective.
Neil Taylor, creative director at The Writer, says: ‘People fill their CVs with buzzwords to impress but it actually has the opposite effect. The people who get to the very top don’t use them; people who can cut through the waffle will stand out. So if you trained a load of people, say that. Don’t say you “upskilled a functional unit of direct reports”.
‘It’s also telling that so many people think their own CV is impressive despite their low opinion of the ones they read. It’s probably worth taking a hard look at your own CV again – is it really that impressive or different? Quite often it’s when people try to describe their traits that they start repeating the same old tired adjectives. Try telling a story instead that shows off your qualities. The most persuasive writing shows rather than tells. And remember, your application doesn’t have to get you the job – it has to get you an interview. So you need to sound interesting enough to meet.’
Here are a few tips from The Writer to get your CV and cover letter doing the hard work for you:
Write more like you speak.
Everyone tells you to write CVs in the third person. Rubbish. Try ‘I’; it’ll make your writing feel much more natural, and more engaging.
The tip above will make your writing really easy to read. But you can go further, and make your writing really memorable, or engaging, or distinctive. So nick some tricks from that day’s newspaper headlines (journalists have to make boring stuff interesting every day). Watch an Obama speech. Try writing a poem. Turn your introduction into a story in six words. Because if you enjoy your writing more, so will your reader.
Think about your personal brand.
Great brands stand for something. They have opinions, and attitude. And so do you. So if your hobby is the conservation of rare toads, drop that in. If you think the way your industry works is completely unsustainable, say so. Anything that will intrigue your reader into a conversation will pay dividends.
Few people get to the top without making a few mistakes. Be honest about them. Say what you’ve learnt. A few business bruises show you’ve been there, done that.
No pink paper or paper aeroplanes; they’re for the kids. At this level, you stand or fall on the strength of your ideas, personality and experience.