Five lines that are killing your CV

Struggling to set your CV apart?

With a number of jobs seemingly requiring similar skillsets, CVs can often end up looking like virtual replicas of one another, making the hiring process more difficult (and more irritating) for recruiters. And much of it simply comes down to an overreliance on the same old stock phrases.

To help you ditch the clichés, here are five lines you should steer clear of when you’re writing your CV:


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

Hiring managers aren’t immediately attracted to candidates that constantly apologise.

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

If it’s a skill or qualification that is essential for the job you’re applying for, apologising isn’t going to persuade the employer to consider you, and if it’s not 100% necessary, why mention it?

Either way, you’re unlikely to ever come out in a positive light after your admission. In fact, if you doubt yourself, the employer will probably doubt you too.

Remember: think about what you can offer in a role, not what you can’t.


What you should do: Focus on what skills and experience you have that make you a good fit, and draw attention to those instead. Be positive, confident, and sure of your abilities – and recruiters will be too.


 2. ‘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 probably lost all meaning to employers.

We’re not saying that the ability to multi-task isn’t a valuable attribute. However, simply including that you’re good at it provides very little value to recruiters. You actually need to back it up.

Think of relevant examples of when you’ve put your multi-tasking skills to the test, and how they’ve been employed to benefit the business.

It’s all about how you say it – not just about what you say.


What you should do: Talk about any tasks you’ve done that exemplify your multitasking skills, and use them to quantify your claims (i.e. how you managed multiple tasks to achieve a successful outcome – and what the outcome actually was). This way, you’re avoiding the clichéd phrase that almost everyone has in their CV, and replacing it with a tangible example that makes your CV unique.


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

Chances are, you’ll 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.

To an employer, saying you’re ‘a team player, who also works well alone’ just looks like a slightly lazy way of trying to cover all bases, because you feel that maybe, one of them might be a necessary requirement. Essentially, it’s the CV equivalent of sitting on the fence.

So, instead of including both, why not focus on the one the role requires the most? If you’re going to be working in a team, then focus on that. And if it involves working independently, utilise those skills instead.



What you should do: To avoid recruiters skimming over this point, make it mean more. Demonstrate a time where you’ve proved your success of working in a team, or how you’ve completed tasks independently. It’ll sound much better than the generic wording, not to mention represent your skills more accurately.


4. ‘I’m a perfectionist’

Whether you 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 your CV.

Even if you genuinely are a perfectionist, this over-exaggerated character-defining phrase often translates as: ‘I’m really picky over minor details’.

In reality, nothing is perfect – especially in the workplace. If an employer reads about your obsession with perfection in your CV, they may be left wondering how you’d really react when things don’t go to plan.

Either that, or you’re trying to pretend you have no real weaknesses, other than your pursuit of greatness. Which, unfortunately, is something recruiters can spot a mile off.

There aren’t a lot of positive outcomes.


What you should do: Be honest. If you give recruiters enough of your skills, achievements, and experience, they’ll be able to make an informed decision on what you’re really like. And never, ever bring up weaknesses on your CV. Save that for the interview…


 5. ‘I’m a people person’

Although this attribute is incredibly important for a number of jobs (particularly customer facing ones), it’s a bad idea to include it in your 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?

Additionally, it’s likely that your CV will be sent to someone in HR, and members of this industry notoriously dislike this phrase – so not only will you be using an overused line, you’ll also risk mildly irritating the person with the power to move your application further.

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


What you should do: Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your ‘people skills’, but display them in a way that effectively describes your 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 will always work in your favour.

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To find out how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, buy James Reed’s new book: The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview.



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8 comments on “Five lines that are killing your CV

  1. Andrew Middleton - May 22, 2016 at 13:55

    Ironically, employers use exactly these phrases in their blandly worded adverts. Probably because they don’t know what they’re looking for.

    1. Marcus - July 24, 2016 at 20:27

      Bang on the money there!

    2. Tim Latham - August 9, 2016 at 09:22

      Well said

    3. The Word Department - November 4, 2016 at 12:33

      You’re right – many employers don’t know how to write a recruitment ad. They tend to be written without much humanity, and sometimes they lack any information on what’s actually in it for the potential employee. The problem usually stems from using too much management speak and not enough real, natural language. The result is a formulaic, ineffective ad that doesn’t do employer brands any favours at all – no wonder they’re getting the same language reflected back at them in CVs.

  2. Amber Eliot - November 8, 2016 at 21:31

    Please can we have more of these? I have recently re-jigged my CV and used some of this advice, which is really useful, thanks! I think I need more guidance though and I don’t know what to do, where to go or who to ask!

  3. Stuart Banks - July 26, 2017 at 14:45

    One of the most dreaded and hated types of job description that provides me with no real information on what the job offers to a potential employee, apart from a shopping list of skill sets that someone who did the job successfully had previously are all these so-called, smart ways of analyzing raw data sets using vogue business, logical reasoning exercises of statistics all wrapped up into buzz word acronyms. When any really good and competent, material specialist is already aware of the current design weakening affect on the material selected in terms of the operating condition changes during every type of operating schedule under 360 degree load stressing in terms of Ultimate Tensile, Compression and Laminar Shear Strength to destruction. So why is there such an emphasis on using these logical reasoning statistical treatments to analyze raw data sets for quality and product assurance when the physical and mechanical properties of the material are more definable in terms of cause and effect, giving a clearer and truer picture of root cause analysis in terms of singular and contributory, multiple modes of failure ?

  4. Chris Valentine - August 12, 2017 at 18:57

    I never reply to ad’s which do not give a pay scale. Employers are just fishing for the cheapest person they can find. If you have gone to the trouble of writing your CV then they can give you the curtsey of telling you what you are applying for and how much they are willing to pay. Telling you ‘Market rates’ is not good enough.

  5. Murtada Ariki - November 12, 2017 at 18:15

    I’m really facing a big trouble with writing my CV. And I hope that I can rewrite my CV which will stand out correctly.