Contractors, is your CV/LinkedIn profile full of clichés?

There have been some interesting job-hunting articles online of late about buzzwords and clichés on CVs and other self-marketing forms. The gist was the buzzwords kill your chances.

Let’s look at it from a contractor’s perspective, writes Matt Craven of the CV & Interview Advisors, by posing the question -- does your LinkedIn Profile and CV ‘fit the bill’ and are they ‘just the ticket’ -- i.e. are they full of clichés?

To help you answer honestly, I would recommend that you look at this issue from two different angles. Simply put, and in a nod to clichés’ most famous critic George Orwell, ‘Clichés Bad, Keywords Good.’

Clichés are statements that are so overused that they have become clichéd and as a consequence, largely ignored. Words such as ‘motivated’, ‘organised’ and ‘driven’ are the classic ones on CVs. Similarly, phrases such as ‘I am able to work well in a team as well as on my own’ or ‘I am a dynamic self-starter’ are cliched behavioural statements and, I suggest, have no place in a contractor’s CV or LinkedIn profile. Actually, I’d go further than that -- these cliched behavioural statement have no place in any CV or LinkedIn profile unless perhaps you are an 18-year-old school-leaver.

Keywords on the other hand are words that recruiters and hiring managers will be searching for e.g. ‘stakeholder management’, ‘project management’ or a qualification such as ‘PRINCE2.’

The difference is really obvious -- avoid behavioural traits and focus on role-based skills.

The Key Mistakes

Many contractors fall into two traps:

  1. Seeing the Key Competencies section on a job description / contract spec and feeling the need to add these skills to their CV. I suggest that the Key Competencies are behavioural skills that are typically assessed through competency-based questions in an interview.

There’s a whole separate discussion around the appropriateness of testing contractors on their behavioural skills, but that’s for another day.

  1. Some individuals want their personality to be conveyed in their CV and LinkedIn profile. While I conceptually agree that marketing content should portray an individual’s or a company’s personality, philosophy and ethos; it’s long been the thinking that CVs are not the vehicle for this kind of message.

I would recommend focusing your CV on your professional capabilities and reserving the more personality-based content for interviews.

I would however endorse adding information about your professional philosophy / ethos to your LinkedIn profile, but still avoiding cliched personality traits. Think about what you are passionate about and let that be your guide.

The Importance of Keywords

Keywords are important for optimising your CV for ATS / recruitment software and optimising your LinkedIn profile for LinkedIn and internet searches. Recruiters will also cross-refence your Key Skills section with the job requirements, so make sure you analyse the functional and technical skills listed in the job description and include these in your CV.

It is also worth noting that keyword/phrase statements should be written in passive voice whereas the rest of your CV should be written in active voice. Active voice would be ‘managing stakeholders’ and passive voice would be ‘stakeholder management’. It is a simple fact that we use the passive voice when typing in search terms.

Is Repetition Bad?

I hear people talk about repetition as if it is a bad thing. Now don’t get me wrong, needless repetition and clunky sentences are not good, but in marketing terms, repetition is reinforcement of a message. Reinforcing that you have certain skills is not a bad thing!

LinkedIn Quick-Wins

Your LinkedIn Profile is as important as your CV in the current contractor market. Many contractors struggle with what to write and therefore resort to the clichés that we have discussed in this article. As an alternative, here are two key points to implement.

  1. Incorporate a value proposition statement in your Professional Headline; either ask a question that your target audience cannot say ‘no’ to or explain how you help people.
  1. In the Summary, focus on the three Ws; ‘what’ you do, ‘who’ you do it for and ‘why’ they should engage you. The ‘why’ should focus on the outcomes that you drive for them i.e. the business benefits you can help them achieve.

For more information you can get a Free CV & LinkedIn review here. 

ContractorUK has partnered with the UK's leading authority on contractor CVs to provide a FREE review of your CV and LinkedIn profile. Contact The CV & Interview Advisors and one of their team will get back to you to discuss if your CV and LinkedIn profile matches up with industry best practice.

Friday 22nd Mar 2019
Profile picture for user Matt Craven

Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Incredibly Linked. He is considered to be a thought-leader in Personal Branding and is regularly engaged as a public speaker to deliver advice and guidance to global audiences on all things related to CV authoring, career advancement, LinkedIn, personal branding and thought leadership.
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