The biggest CV mistakes you'll ever make

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With numerous ways to apply for jobs in today’s modern world such as LinkedIn, Twitter and more, many of us may think the CV is dead in favour of a sufficient LinkedIn profile. However, CVs are still incredibly important. You may be applying for a job differently, but the prospective employer still wants all of your work experience and skills laid out in an easy to read format before they consider hiring you. Everybody makes mistakes on their CV – but here are a few tips on how to avoid a lot of them.

retro reading

The obvious

Let’s get the most commonly made mistakes out of the way first. If your CV has terrible grammar and spelling, it’ll go straight in the bin. Be sure to re-read it over again. If you’re still not sure, leave it for a day or so and read it once more. It’s astounding how a fresh look on a document can help you see many errors.

How many pages is your CV? If it’s more than two, you need to condense it down. The rule of thumb with CVs is two pages – depending on the industry of course. If you’re struggling on what to leave out, look at what you’ve put at the bottom of the last page. If you’ve been prioritising your CV, the bits left towards the end should probably go.

Speaking of prioritising your CV, make sure you do this before anything else. A well-structured CV shows professionalism and an awareness of what your employer will want to see. For example, don’t start off your CV with your interests and hobbies, your grades at school 15 years ago and then your work experience at the bottom. After your name and your contact details employers will want to see your relevant work experience, followed by other important bits (more on this later).

This may be one of the most obvious points of all, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Make sure you have a professional email address! It shouldn’t be your current work address or university address, but a personal account with a simple name. Something like ‘lazyguy44@...’ won’t go down well.

Incorrect information is something that’s so easily missed on a CV. If you’re supplying an old email address or contact number, it shows negligence before your CV has even been fully read, and you’ll miss out on potential interview and job offers this way.

If you’re handing your CV in by hand, you want to avoid using thin, cheap paper. Alternatively you don’t want to use cardboard either! Unless you’re applying to the graphic design industry, try to find a good middle ground. If you use cheap paper, it can give the impression that you’re printing off as many CVs as possible and you’re not too bothered who gets it – i.e. quantity over quality.

Stay positive

It might seem like this point belongs in the ‘obvious’ pile, but it’s actually quite easy to inadvertently say something negative about a previous employer or yourself on your CV. If you’ve put your reason for leaving on there, don’t be negative. If it is a negative reason, don’t say your reason for leaving unless you’re asked in an interview.

As well as this, there’s a fine line between being modest and being self-deprecating. You don’t have to shout about how amazing you are, but you should highlight key achievements you’ve made for your previous and current employers. For example, if you launched a very successful campaign or increased sales by a third, mention it.

Structure is key

As previously mentioned, the structure of your CV is incredibly important. Generally, you should have your name and up to day contact details at the top, followed by your previous work history from current/newest down to oldest, any relevant work experience such as volunteering, your qualifications (such as university degree and other certifications, educational or industrial) followed by grades at school/college (if still relevant) then concluding with any hobbies or interests you have – especially ones that link in with the job you’re applying for. Try to mention key skills you have here too that might fit in with the job description. This is a very rough structural guide to a good CV, but it’s worth starting here and then making it your own after you’ve got a secure structure.

No photos or crazy fonts please

It’s tempting to try and do everything to stand out from the crowd on your CV. This includes including a portrait of what you look like or an unusual font/colour scheme. If you’re applying for a job that would encourage a different style of CV (such as graphic design) this could be acceptable. However, for the most part all the frills and pictures need to be avoided. It’s about the quality of what’s been written, not what it looks like on the page, and you don’t want to give the impression that you’re more style than substance. It also makes it easier for the recruiter to make an unbiased impression, based solely on your skills and expertise.

One size DOESN’T fit all

It’s a common misconception that you can create one amazing CV and send the same document to lots of different employers and get the same response from each of them, especially when you can apply for jobs on your phone one after the other. You should tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for, not the industry. This can be time consuming and a little tedious but it’ll pay off in the long run. Use key words from the job specification and prioritise your qualifications and skills to that particular job.

Finally, try these bite size tips:

  • Read your CV out loud to yourself. It may seem silly, but you’re most likely going to be repeating it in an interview anyway. Reading it out loud from the page will help you see if it runs smoothly.
  • Let a friend or fellow professional look over your CV. If you’re in the position where a colleague or your line manager is happy to look at it, take advantage of this. They might remember a training course you went on that you should include as well as other key achievements.
  • Update your CV as you go along. Even if you’re not job seeking, you should update your CV regularly- especially if you achieve something good. This is because it’s easy to forget facts and figures surrounding your job.
  • Examples = experience. Not duties! Don’t just list your day to day activities. If you can list various examples of your work in your CV, this is much more valuable to an employer than telling them how many emails you answer each day. Don’t be too wordy here either. Just get to the point so you don’t take up too much space.
  • Remember to attach the correct version of your CV before you send it. This is actually quite a common error. Also, make sure you name your CV something that’s easy for your employer to recognise, such as ‘firstname.secondname.CV’.
  • Do not title your CV ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’. The employer knows what they’re looking at. Have your name at the top in clear, bold writing. Keep the document simple and clean looking.

If you follow these effortless tips, you’re well on your way to creating an excellent CV. Best of luck in your job hunt! Is your CV complete? Why not have a look and see if your CV passes the 30 second test? 

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