The Five Mistakes I See On CVs
Because skilled candidates are in demand in the current market, some candidates are falling into the trap of becoming complacent and submitting CVs with silly errors on them. Yet recruiters and hiring managers will draw conclusions about your work ethic and attention to detail from your CV, so it’s vital to get it right.
Here are the 5 craziest mistakes my team and I see every week and how to avoid them.
1. It’s too long. The rule of thumb is one page of CV for every 10 years of experience. And don’t go back too far- your school grades from 1995 really aren’t relevant anymore, and including them actually weakens your CV. Remember, a CV is just there to get you in the door to the interview, so make it short, relevant, and powerful.
2. You’ve used generic attributes. EVERYBODY says they’re hardworking, dedicated, and professional on their CV. These words mean literally nothing to the savvy recruiter or hiring manager– they’re just filler words. (I’m yet to see someone say they’re unprofessional on their CV). You need to prove your experience and attributes with actual results: targets you’ve reached, projects you’ve managed, teams you’ve led to success. Don’t just use waffly descriptive words talking about how great you are; search for your unique selling point—one that is true, and meaningful, and memorable. Also, personalise the CV carefully to the job you’re applying for- don’t use one generic CV!
3.Typos and grammar mistakes. There is always time to proofread your CV one last time before sending. When you’ve read a document numerous times (particularly one that you wrote), it becomes very difficult to spot mistakes- your eyes don’t even recognise them! Your brain will fill in blanks where you’ve missed out a crucial ‘of’, used ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its’, or missed a comma. Professional proofreaders advise that you read your CV backwards. Once you’ve done this, get someone else to read it. And then someone else.
4. You’ve ‘stretched’ the truth. Perhaps the company you worked for closed down or the manager you fell out with moved on, so that you think it’s safe to extend your working period by a year or two, omit the fact that you got fired, or say that you had responsibilities that you didn’t. Some candidates stretch the truth on every single CV they ever submit, and then just cross their fingers they won’t get caught out. Please believe us: this is a mistake.
Recruiters read literally hundreds of CVs a week, and are very good at weeding out the fact from the fiction. They do call your references and have a long chat. If you manage to get through that stage, you’ve still got the interview to navigate. And if you get the job, your lack of actual experience will immediately show, and the client has every right to dismiss you – you’ve misled them, after all!
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that ‘everyone lies on their CV’. They don’t. And you certainly shouldn’t. Rely on your actual skills to get the job, and be upfront about what experience you don’t have– but are keen to learn.
5. Poor formatting. If you can’t be bothered aligning the margins on your CV or if there’s leftover formatting from a CV template you found on the internet, you are practically begging the recruiter to discard your CV.
When your CV isn’t clearly formatted, we can only infer that your work might be a bit sloppy, that your reports will be hard to read, and that you don’t seem to care about the job that much. What? Nothing could be further from the truth? Well show that, with a crisp and clear CV that shows you off in professional fashion.
- Use a minimum of 10 point font and a maximum of 12 point.
- Put your name, email, and phone number on every page, and number the pages.
- Make sure the email account you send it from has a professional ring to it (not ‘firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Order your jobs chronologically, most recent first.
- Check it on Word and Google docs, and convert it into a PDF. Email it to yourself as an attachment to see how it opens.
- Check all hyperlinks, email addresses, and phone numbers are active.
Writing a winning CV takes real thought and care – but believe me, this kind of preparation opens doors.