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Singapore and Hong Kong recruiters warn bankers against these terrible CV cliches

As banks in Hong Kong and Singapore slow down their hiring amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s becoming more important that your resume stands out if you are still applying for jobs right now. Too many candidates in the two cities, though, are littering their CVs with self-promoting phrases that fall into the category of cliche, say recruiters.

However appealing cliches may sound when you write your resume, recruiters tend to loath them. We asked recruiters about the phrases they hate seeing on banking resumes. Avoid the following.

Quick learner

“I hate this one as we’re all quick learners when we do the same job day after day. Plus, everyone puts it on their resumes, so you really don’t stand out by using it,” says Kyle Blockley, managing director at Phoenix Global Search in Singapore.

Innovative employee

“As an adjective on a CV, ‘innovative’ is fairly meaningless. If you have been genuinely innovative during your career, this should be highlighted as an achievement. ‘Introduced a new forecasting process which increased accuracy by 25%’, for example,” says Lucy Allcard, a senior consultant at recruiters Black Swan Group.

Passionate about…

“This is something that you see on CVs these days, and in most cases it's a waste of space,” says Allcard. “Phrases such as ‘passionate about compliance’ should be obvious if you're in that field. Save your 'passion' for interviews.”

Strategic thinker

“I don’t know any hiring manager or recruiter who would look for this phrase in a CV, but it’s often there,” says a Hong Kong-based recruiter.

Hard worker

“Putting a lot of energy into your career is admirable, but this phrase doesn’t clearly explain what you actually do with that energy,” says Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, managing director of recruiters Robert Half in Singapore. “Describe a situation when you helped the bank by going beyond your job description.”

Problem solver

Candidates far too often throw this phrase into their CV without examples to back it up. “It’s much better to clearly illustrate a time when you applied critical thinking to help your team or bank overcome a challenge,” says Imbert-Bouchard.

Flexible professional

Flexible in what? In your working hours? In the tasks you perform? This word is far too generic to add any substance to your CV when it’s just used as a description. “Flexibility is only a selling point if you provide more details. For example, perhaps you picked up new duties when a team member left,” says Imbert-Bouchard.

Attentive to detail

Most candidates don’t relate this phrase to a specific aspect of the CV, rendering it worthless. “And whenever I see it I also seem to find spelling mistakes in the resume,” says Christina Ng, executive director at LMA Recruitment in Singapore.

Trained accountant

“It’s much better to point out that you have a CPA, ACA etc and are familiar with financial reporting standards such as IFRS, US GAAP etc,” says Ng. “Be specific and technical as a professional; don’t be generic.”

Team player who can work independently

“This sentence doesn’t mean anything,” says banking recruiter Orelia Chan. “You’re better off stating which projects you worked on as a team and outline your contribution. And a better way of saying that you’re independent is by giving an example of when you worked without constant supervision.”

Highly numerate

“Oddly, I do see this a lot when I recruit chartered accountants,” says the Hong Kong recruiter. “I take numeracy as a given; I don’t need to see it on your CV.”

Confident, ambitious and tenacious

This (and similar triple-word horrors) remain popular on resumes, but should be avoided. “This is not the 1990s when hiring was focused on buzz words and cheesy phrases,” says the recruiter. “Recruiters will assess such personality traits not from CVs but by asking behavioural questions at interviews.”

Highly accomplished

Among the most common yet most futile of any CV self-description – you shouldn’t bother applying for a new job unless you’re accomplished in your field. “It’s a pointless phrase – let your CV speak for itself,” adds the Hong Kong recruiter.

Image credit: Steve Johnson, Unsplash

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: or Telegram: @simonmortlock. You can also follow me on LinkedIn.

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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