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5 clichés to avoid on your CV

It’s not easy to sound like you know what you’re doing on your CV, and the temptation is always there to slip in some well-known phrases so that you sound like a "real business person" and that you know what you’re talking about. But unless you’re a genuine poet and you have the talent of making things sound nice without diminishing your point, you’re going to have a hard job of it. Here’s 5 of the things we think you should probably avoid if you want that finance career.

1. “I’m flexible”

Come on, this doesn’t really mean anything. You know it, I know it, employers know it. You’re not fooling anyone—this is finance. If you were applying for a job where you were going to change what you did every two days, then fine, go for it—but you’re applying for the financial industry, not a temping agency. If you want to show that you’re able to adapt to situations, use one of your previous employment examples to show how you adapted to a particular situation. The employer will be far more impressed by you showing initiative than by you telling them you’re able to.

2. “I’m good with numbers”

Well obviously—you’re applying for an accounting job. If you’re not good with numbers, I would suggest you don’t apply. Spend less time telling the employer the obvious thing and more time showing how you’ve applied your numeracy skills in your other positions. You’re going to have to take tests to prove this kind of thing anyway, so there’s no point wasting CV space on something that’s so intrinsic to the financial industry. You might as well put “I’m quite consistent at breathing” on there instead.

3. “I am a perfectionist and pay attention to detail”

One, everyone’s a perfectionist these days. In a recent survey, employers named it the number one answer to the question, “what weaknesses do you have?” Two, if you pay attention to detail, you’ll have realised that this statement means nothing without backing it up with an example. If you have to put it in, show how you paid attention to detail and got some sort of result out of it in a previous employment, and then at least it’s relevant. And by god, if you put this in, do not have any spelling or grammar mistakes on there.

4. “I’m a dedicated worker and I always give my all”

Well you’d hope so. If you’re applying for a job, the employer will be expecting at the very least that you will be a diligent and respectful worker; otherwise why on earth would they employ you? Again though, this is a statement that lacks much substance—no-one works at 100% capacity, 100% of the time—and employers know this. You’d do better to show how you performed consistently and capably in your other endeavours and how this paid off for the firms you were working for.

5. “I’m passionate about accountancy”

Again, there are so many issues with this kind of phrase that we haven’t got time to go through them all, but just avoid using terms such as "passionate". Whilst people enjoy their jobs and the work they do, I don’t know anyone who’s genuinely fervent about risk management or being an actuary in the same way as they are about their hobbies. If you weren’t interested in the field, there would be no point applying, so if you want to show your desire to be a part of a particular industry, use examples and show how you set up a Risk Management Society at university, or did a host of work experience at actuarial firms—these concrete examples are more likely to sway an employer than any amount of spiel about how avid you are about the industry. 

By Jack J Collins

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