Confident, or tone-deaf?

Q: I’m a confident person, and I want that to come across on my CV. I’ve put down phrases like ‘phenomenal sales ability’ and ‘top-class management skills’. I gave my CV to a friend who said that I was laying it on way too thick and should tone it down a notch or three. Is it possible to over-sell yourself?  (MD, email). 

Liam Horan, BALLINROBE Tel: 094 95 42965

A: Yes, it is possible to over-sell yourself – though I must admit I meet few candidates with that tendency, writes Liam Horan, career coach, Sli Nua Careers.

Everyone has an opinion about a CV. One man’s over-sold CV is another’s spot-on.  

In my experience, it is a matter of tone. ‘Phenomenal’ is quite a claim. By definition, it is ‘highly extraordinary or prodigious; exceptional’- but whereas I think exceptional is acceptable when describing oneself, particularly in a specific skill or expertise, to go to ‘highly extraordinary’, ‘prodigious’ or ‘phenomenal’ feels like a leap too far.

Find language that appropriately relates your abilities– but when you over-promise, there is only way you can go. If you are as good as you say you are, it will become apparent from other elements of your CV – your successes, skills, and, in some cases, career path.

I haven’t the same problem with ‘top-class’, which has probably been somewhat discredited or downgraded over the years. It doesn’t put me off as much as phenomenal. Speaking of discredited terms, the word ‘legend’ has slipped down the ranks quite a bit, but I would still deploy it in a CV.

I’d say take it down a notch. But not three. If you come over all bashful and modest, you won’t capture their attention. Find the middle line. It can be a real downer for an interview panel when the candidate that they were looking forward to seeing turns out to be underwhelming.