Problem-solving team players need not apply

According to the professional networking site LinkedIn, "extensive experience", "innovative" and "motivated" are the three most overused buzzwords found in its members' profiles. "Proven track record", "team player" and "innovative" are also among the top 10.

The only surprise is that the list doesn't include "excellent communication skills". The problem with these phrases isn't just their unoriginality. Without real, concrete examples or figures to back them up, they're meaningless padding. A CV thick with cliche but thin on detail is destined for the rubbish bin.

As a former hiring manager and a blogger on job-search strategies, I've seen a surprisingly small number of CVs that are the sales and marketing tools they should be. Many are bloated with adjectives and HR-speak.

If something sounds pompous when you say it out aloud, it's going to lack just as much credibility in writing. So if you're tempted to describe yourself as an "innovative, motivated and results-oriented problem solver", don't. To avoid sending hiring managers into a coma, take these off your CV:

Duties included / responsible for

Boring beyond belief, and almost always a waste of space. If you're applying for the same sort of job you currently have, the duties and responsibilities are going to be similar. For greater impact, give a brief description of the scope of your role, then add examples of your achievements (in context), the results (percentages or £ figures work well) and the impact on the organisation. Focus on profits made, costs cut, processes streamlined, etc.


This shouldn't need to be said. Nobody is going to hire you if they suspect you'll need constant supervision and prodding to be kept busy. If you do spend your days ferreting out problems and making the office more efficient, be specific and mention initiatives, the opportunities you spotted or projects you made your own, along with the results of your efforts.


Almost guaranteed to kill your chances. For most hiring managers, "perfectionist" translates as "slave-driving micro-manager", loathed and ridiculed in equal measure. Impossible to work with, so obsessed with every last detail that you never respect deadlines; or worse, an office zealot who imposes the same level of bureaucratic and procedural nit-picking on everyone else.


Rather like replying "In your job" when asked at interview where you want to be in five years' time, ambition is better left unsaid. In the back-stabbing, jockeying-for-position world of corporate life, a hiring manager can do without competition from you. In any case, companies are interested far less in your personal and professional goals than they are in your ability to further their profits. Your CV should clearly demonstrate what you can bring – not what you want from the job.

References available upon request

It's taken for granted that you'll supply references – but a little premature to mention this on your CV. Wait until you're in the running for the job and then provide a list of referees.

Hobbies and interests

I'd like to ban this entire section from CVs, as it's generally a cue to list the dullest and most predictable. "Socialising with friends", "reading", "film"... Occasionally you get the more unusual, my favourite being "marching bands", but you're not necessarily going to be a great accountant just because you're a dab hand on the euphonium.

Readers: your turn. If you ever hired someone, what CV writing mistakes made you throw the application in the bin? Likewise, if you are a pro at promoting your talents and listing your achievements, how do you do it?

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