In my last article, I gave some ideas for structuring a CV and for some of the things which should be included. It is also worth looking at some of the things which should be avoided or taken out if you have them. Your CV may be your first introduction, your first chance to make a good impression, to show off your strengths and to get the attention of the recruiter or the employer. Therefore, careful consideration of the contents is called for, in considerable detail.

Although there are various possible formats, from a brief one-page, highly specific and targeted summary of relevant experience and qualifications to a fully detailed resumé, many CVs end up looking more less the same, with a similar layout and structure. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it can help recruiters and employers find the information they are looking for and thus quickly make a decision about the applicant. However, this makes it all the more important that the content of your CV is of the highest possible quality and as close a match as possible to the applicant profile that the employer is looking for. Many CVs even contain standard phrases, especially when they are not written in the applicants native language. The temptation is to find examples elsewhere and to copy them, especially the bits that ’sound good’. This temptation should be avoided. In short, this is a sales proposal and you are the product. You need to show yourself at your best. Don't be shy, but don't be boastful. Remember a standard CV for all applications is unlikely to be good enough. Some alterations are probably going to be necessary for each individual application.

So, here is my list of some of the things to be careful with in your CV:

  1. I am an expert in……
    It is probably better if you allow other people to describe you as an expert at which point you can give humble thanks for the compliment. The moment we describe ourselves as experts, somebody else who knows more about the topic or who has more experience invariably appears on the scene. It is better to quantify your credentials, whether that means experience in years, recognised qualifications or papers, articles and books you have written.
  2. I am creative.
    Once again, let other’s judge your creativity. Write about what you created and the circumstances around that. We all have different tastes and views about creativity. If you are a designer then, by all means, include some examples of your work. If you believe you came up with a creative solution to a problem and that this counts as one of your major achievements, then briefly describe them both and tell your story. It is the story that will be interesting to the employer rather than your opinion about your creativity. Remember to save some details for the interview - this is a CV, not a book.
  3. I am a good team worker and I also work well on my own.
    So many books have been written on teams. What makes a good team, the various roles in a team, how many people should be in the team, etc. Simply saying you are a good team worker could indicate a lack of understanding of teamwork. If you have worked in a team briefly describe your role and how you were successful. If you don't like working in a team then focus on your strengths as an individual.
  4. I am highly motivated/ driven/ determined/ results focused.
    More overused clichés I'm afraid. Once again, tell your story, give examples, say what motivates and drives you forward and write about the results you have already achieved in previous roles.
  5. I am visionary.
    This is a bit like being creative. If you have a vision of how things should be in future which you believe is important then, by all means, share it, but don't expect everybody to agree with you.
  6. Lists of responsibilities and duties.
    Simply listing what you have done in a previous job does not give any indication of your degree of success. Lists are boring. A short story is more interesting, especially if it quantifies responsibilities, duties and, of course, successes.
  7. Unexplained short contracts
    Short periods of employment can look bad on a CV, especially if there is a series of them. Of course, there may be a perfectly good reason for these short contracts. For example, interim management positions, troubleshooting projects, successfully executed short-term projects, etc. However, if left unexplained they can make you look like a job-hopper, moving from one situation to another without settling in properly, costing employers a lot of money by having to repeat the recruiting process.

Once again, I think it is worth reiterating that if a job is worthy of your application then it is also worth investing some time and effort in getting your CV right for that application. Then you can start preparing for the interview!