JOB SEARCH / OCT. 08, 2013
version 5, draft 5

5 Taboos in Job Applications

Writing a CV or filling out a job application can sometimes feel like the most tedious exercise in the world but when you stop and think that a CV – much like an interview – is just a chance to talk about yourself then it could be quite enjoyable. What better thing to do than sit and talk about yourself for thirty minutes? When you fall into this comfort however there comes the possibility of becoming lazy with your application, writing those sentences that are verging on cliché. They are now taboos.

‘I am writing’

This isn’t exactly in the CV itself but more the cover letter that some people may attach to it. The first line saying ‘I am writing’ is an instant annoyance. My teacher gave me this advice. He told me ‘never write I am writing because of course you’re writing, they know you’re writing, just get right to it’. That advice I have taken to every job I have ever applied, every submission, cover letter, now I just get straight to it.

‘To whom it may concern’

Again, more a cover letter kind of thing but writing this open immediately shows you either a) haven’t put any effort into finding out who it is you’re writing to or b) have instantly made your application general. Personal touches hook the employer. When I was applying to do my Masters, I researched all of the tutors and mentioned two in my essay of why I wanted to go there. Making things personal, being less robotic, small things that go a far way.

 ‘An organised individual’

Yes, you are an individual but calling yourself one seems slightly, again, robotic. Why not use ‘I’? After all, you’re going to be an I when you get the job, you’re not going to go round introducing yourself as an ‘individual’.

‘I like spending time with my friends’

Your CV is built on your work life but there needs to be some room to show that you do have another part to you, that work isn’t your only function. What do you like doing? How do you spend your days when not working? Most people like to spend time with their friends but saying it as if it’s a hobby seems like a cop-out for other rather interesting hobbies you could be doing or want to do. In my opinion, just think broader – what else do you like to do? The answers are right there.

‘I work well in a team and on my own’

Yes, every employer wants to know that you can work with others and also be comfortable to get on with tasks on your own but this saying – ‘I work well in a team and on my own’ – littering most of the CVs today has become a cliché. There are more imaginative ways to say this phrase: ‘My work experience has allowed me to fully organise my time and work well on my own' or 'During this time, I learnt just how important it is to work in a team’. Breaking up the sentence is OK, it says the same thing and avoids the cliché.

It comes down to - and this explains the picture I've chosen - that writing a CV or a cover letter is all about looking at things from another angle, it's about talking about yourself in an interesting, inticing way. Be spectacular and, most importantly, be imaginative. 

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