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A study conducted by the New College of Humanities in 2015 reveals that on average, recruiters make their minds up about a CV in less than 60 seconds. While they spend on average only three minutes and 14 seconds reviewing an application. These findings come after researchers interviewed over 860 recruiters, 20% of which have admitted to discarding a CV before they finish reading it. However, don’t let this information dampen your spirits, as the main reasons for a recruiter’s lack of interest in applications, and tips on how to make your CV stand out from the crowd are discussed below.

The study found that the biggest turn-offs for employers when reviewing CVs are typos and grammatical errors. Followed in second place by the use of an overly casual tone, this includes using terms such as ‘you guys’ or signing off an email with ‘cheers’. Other turn-offs include using jargon and clichéd quotes.

The research identified the top ten most overused phrases most likely to put employers off potential employees:

  1. Can work independently
  2. Hard worker
  3. Work well under pressure
  4. Good communicator
  5. Enthusiastic
  6. Team player
  7. Good listener
  8. Excellent written communication skills
  9. Proactive
  10. Problem solver

According to Mary Lorenz from CareerBuilder, the problem with using buzzwords is that they have become so overused that they have lost all meaning, and don’t differentiate the applicant from other candidates. It is advised that job seekers should speak in terms of accomplishments, show the employer their qualities rather than just tell them. In order to stand out from the crowd, an applicant should avoid the use of overused phrases, and alternatively display examples of their achievements. Words such as ‘achieved’, ‘managed’, ‘launched’ and ‘improved’ can clearly and accurately describe what you have previously accomplished. By doing this, it will become obvious to hiring managers that you possess many of the above qualities, without you ever mentioning them!


Mark Whelan
Recruitment Consultant
Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group