Asian recruiters are deluged with CVs in Q4 and Q1 as candidates start planning new year job moves. This is not a good time to send them a CV cluttered with the same old catch-phrases as all the others.
Some resume phrases have become so overused by banking professionals in Singapore and Hong Kong that recruiters can’t stand the sight of them. Here’s what to avoid.
There’s a growing trend for candidates in Singapore to include “bilingual” on their CV when in reality they are only fluent in English. “They use this word because some banks these days are looking for fluent Cantonese, Mandarin or Japanese speakers and they believe it adds weight to their application,” says Komal Mehta, a partner at recruiters KS International. “Always mention your level of fluency in the second language – for example, mention any courses you have done – otherwise it’s misleading for recruiters and HR managers if you’re not genuinely bilingual.”
“I managed 100 staffs”
Pluralisation problems often plague English-language resumes in Hong Kong. This is one of the chief offenders: candidates who’ve managed more than one person sometimes incorrectly refer to their employees as their 'staffs'. “The word is always staff – whether it was one person you supervised, or 100,” says Tracy Tam of recruitment agency Ambition in Hong Kong.
“I’m creative and hardworking”
This phrase is so overused, especially by junior banking professionals in Asia, that it suggests a lack of creativity in the drafting of your CV. “I think candidates don’t reflect on whether these clichéd words add value or have any relevance,” says Lynne Roeder, managing director of recruiters Hays in Singapore. “Only express the factual and measurable aspects of your experience. ‘Managed 150 full-time employees across five teams, with five direct vice-president reports’ is much better than writing that you’re a ‘seasoned’ or ‘hardworking’ leader.”
“I efficiently and effectively….”
These adverbs can be applied to just about every task in the banking sector – therein lies the problem. “This phrase is too generic, especially if the candidate doesn’t back it up with some actual examples that these words describe,” says Orelia Chan, an associate director at Profile Search and Selection in Singapore. “And it doesn’t really catch the hiring manager’s attention because a lot of candidates use the same phrase without any differentiation.”
“I’m an ambitious and goal-oriented young professional”
“This is usually the first line on a CV from a job seeker who’s early on in their career search – but it’s throwaway line, it adds no value and if anything may seem a little too exuberant,” says a Singapore-based recruiter. “I'd always think that the person sending me their profile is genuinely looking to develop their career and is working towards goals – there’s no need to state it. Instead let the reader know that you’re a consistent achiever in your tasks and responsibilities and have been active in the development of your current role.”
“I was involved in…”
“This term immediately makes the reader second guess the content of the candidate’s profile,” says the recruiter. “While I can appreciate that you may not want to take ownership or credit for the overall project, opening a sentence with the word ‘involved’ casts a shadow of doubt on the achievements mentioned. My suggestion is to reference your responsibilities within the project and the achievements made from fulfilling, or overachieving your obligations.”
“I’m skilled in Microsoft Office, Word, Excel and Outlook”
Listing generic computer skills is a sure-fire way to repel a banking recruiter. “Why even bother to include such a phrase? Everyone is expected to have those skills,” says Adrian Choo, CEO of Career Agility International in Singapore. “It makes me think you have run out of ideas to put into your CV. It’s better to use that space to put in ‘special achievements’ like ‘climbed Mt Everest twice’.”
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