Don’t just tell it, sell it

I published a post a while ago on words you should and shouldn’t use on your CV. Times change and CV fashions and trends certainly do. More than ever the focus is on achievements, active statements and demonstrations of what you’ve done and can do in the future.

‘Moreover’ and ‘Meticulous attention to detail’ made the list last year, along with:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Proficient in Word, Excel (etc.)
  • Team player
  • Results-driven
  • Track record
  • Strategic thinker
  • Hard worker

Would you expect to be taken seriously if you weren’t a hard worker? Do we really need to say we are proficient in Word these days? No. 

These skills and attributes are such an accepted part of our working culture now that it’s irrelevant to use them on your CV, they’ve become meaningless, empty labels.

Almost one year on, countless CVs later and the words that make my NO! list at the moment include:

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Dynamic and/or proactive
  • Managed
  • Responsible for

Why are they on the list this time around? Let me explain… (and perhaps vent a little in a gentle, coach-like, totally professional way).

Problem solving is a part of our everyday functioning, especially at work. We solve a myriad of problems all day long. Ditto decision making. If you want to express how great you are at looking at a situation, seeing the angles and possibilities and presenting solutions that make a positive impact on business growth then…good. Great. Do it. With an example.

Don’t just tell it, sell it. 

Demonstrating what you did shows what you can do in the future. That’s what recruiters and hiring managers want to see. 

Dynamic fell out of favour a few years back but I´ve noticed it creeping back into job descriptions and CVs. Proactive is a job description and CV stalwart. But what do they really mean? 

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is it obvious?
  2. Can you demonstrate it?

If you’re struggling to answer 1, then you might need a fresh perspective. If you’re struggling to answer 2, then you might need some help to articulate your achievement, or you need to move on to a strength you can demonstrate. It’s all about the evidence.

Past performance (and success) is seen as evidence of future action (and success).

Finally, ‘team player’. It’s a just a bit tame. Dull, uninteresting. Is that really one of your strengths? Or just a CV filler word you either think you have to say or haven’t thought to question?

One other tip, because it comes up time and again on CV NO! word lists, is ‘Responsible for…’. It’s so generic, it tells the reader next to nothing about what you did. It’s also very passive, like ‘Experienced in…’. Swap these out for active verbs and say what you actually did. 

In fact, here’s another tip:

Collect active verbs.

When you’re looking at job ads and reviewing role descriptions, see what active verbs have been used. My current favourite is ‘spearheaded’, but even a good old ‘led’ is better than ‘managed’ or ‘responsible for’.

Created, delivered, achieved, initiated…there’s lots to choose from.

If you’d like some help getting your CV up-to-date, why not get in touch? I can help you refocus your responsibilities into achievements and help you sell it, not just tell it.

Linkedin Louise Newton
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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