Moving beyond the cliches

Posted 2 April 2011 11:00am

Anybody who has worked in the public service will be well aware of words and phrases which try to express important concepts. Though they seem to express sophisticated ideas, when used without a context, they can say very little at all.

While such phrases may have originally expressed important concepts, used with very imprecise meaning they are nothing more than clichés. For example,

• Negotiating outcomes
• Managing performance
• Improving effi ciency
• Client relationship management
• Build organisational responsiveness
• Facilitate cooperation

At Gillian Beaumont Legal we read thousands of resumes and responses to selection criteria every year, many of which contain these and other similarly hackneyed words and phrases. We also participate in Government appointment rounds – scrutinising resumes and interviewing candidates – and we hear otherwise very competent candidates express their contribution to the work of their Departments through a series of words and phrases that sound lofty, but do not say much at all about the contribution they have made or their capacity to add value in the longer term.

In our experience, effective claims against selection criteria are clear and concise and provide short examples that evidence knowledge and understanding. More importantly they evidence past experience and a history of success. At interview, candidates who stand out articulate their experience clearly and confidently and provide precise examples that add depth to otherwise hollow clichés.

A candidate wishing to demonstrate they understand what it means to build client relationships, for example, will illustrate their knowledge by way of evidence of prior client relationship management. They will provide actual examples of times when they built and nurtured client relationships. A mere theoretical explanation of a concept will rarely allow a candidate to stand above the pack. Applying for a job is a competitive process. To succeed, you need to convince a panel that you are better than the next person.
In our experience, those who do this the best stand out because of their compelling real world examples which give life and context to the words and phrases that can otherwise sound like management jargon.

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