CV-Mistakes

7 harmful CV mistakes you should remove now

Andrew Fennell takes us through things to look out for when writing a CV.

If you are struggling to land job interviews, then your CV is probably letting you down.

Without an impressive CV, you will fail to capture the attention of recruiters. And ultimately you will not get shortlisted for roles.

With an average of 250 CVs being received for every vacancy; it’s easy to understand how just one mistake can ruin your chances of success.

So when writing your CV, ensure that you are not making any of these common mistakes that scare recruiters and keep your name off the shortlist for roles.

Not doing your research

One of most damaging CV mistakes you can make, actually happens before you start writing your CV; and that is failing to research the needs of your target employers. This will also be needed later on when preparing for your job interview.

Without knowing the skills and knowledge that are required for the roles you are applying for, it’s impossible to know what to include in your CV

Without proper employer research, you will be using guesswork as the foundation of your CV which will set you up to fail from the start.

Prior to writing your CV, browse through plenty of relevant job adverts and make a list of the candidate requirements that appear most frequently. When you understand exactly what employers are looking for, you will know exactly what to include in your CV.

Ensure that the most sought-after skills are made prominent in your CV, so that recruiters can instantly see that you are a suitable candidate.

Including an unprofessional email address

Your CV is a professional document and recruiters will be judging you from the very first moment they open it. For this reason, it’s a very bad idea to brand the top of your CV with an email address like “badboyz4eva@gmail.com” – it looks unprofessional and will cause readers to seriously doubt your credibility.

If you have an email address that seemed really cool when you first set it up, but now leaves you slightly embarrassed; then set up a new one for your job hunt.

Using your full name for your email address is simple and professional but avoid using nicknames.

Writing too many pages

With the average employer spending around 3 minutes reviewing each CV they receive; you just can’t expect them to read a 5 page CV.

Recruiters and hiring managers tend to be very busy people so it’s crucial to communicate your value to them quickly.

A CV of 2 pages in length is ideal to get your point across without boring readers, so try and stick to that guideline as closely as you can.

If your CV is coming in too long, there a couple of actions you can take to cut it down without losing any of it’s value:

  • Shorten older roles – If you have lots of roles dating back many years, you don’t need to provide huge amounts of detail in them. Recruiters will mainly focus on your more recent roles, so older positions can be shortened to brief summaries that provide enough information to describe your career path.
  • Remove irrelevant details – Review your CV honestly and look for details that are aren’t relevant to the roles you are applying for. Do you really need to include all of your hobbies and interests? Can you cut out some of the non-essential responsibilities from your role descriptions?

Messy formatting

If you want your CV to be taken seriously and read in full, then formatting is an important feature. If your CV looks untidy or is not structured in an easy-to-read manner, recruiters will not be impressed.

Common formatting mistakes include:

  • Big chunks of text – Huge unbroken paragraphs are a reader’s worst nightmare; they look daunting and make it difficult for recruiters to pinpoint the information they need.
  • Make the information in your CV easily digestible by writing short sharp points and using plenty of bullet points.
  • Unclear divisions – Recruiters need to be able to navigate your CV quickly to find the details they are looking for. Use large bold headings to highlight sections and maintain a professional outlook for your CV.

Poor language

When it comes to the written language of your CV, relying solely on spellcheck is not enough to avoid sloppy mistakes.

Although spellcheck has become more sophisticated in recent times, it can still miss things like typos and grammatical errors.

Spelling and grammar mistakes are huge red flags for potential employers and will almost certainly result in your CV being rejected.

So avoid any embarrassment by making sure that you triple check your CV before releasing it to the job market, or even ask a friend to proof read for you.

With your CV being a strong indicator of your written communication skills, it’s also important that your CV language is professional and persuasive throughout.

If you use overly simplistic terminology in your CV, you run the risk of appearing as an average candidate with poor communication skills.

Avoid writing sentences like this;

Helping out with different important tasks to free up time for the manager

It looks very simple and isn’t very descriptive due to the basic wording.

Instead; use more precise terminology and well-structured sentences to explain your points properly.

For example you could change the above to;

Supporting various business critical functions to relieve management of administration duties

Writing in this manner allows you to describe your duties more thoroughly and demonstrate your written communication.

Unexplained gaps in employment

Few things will worry employers more than unexplained gaps in your employment history. They will assume that you are either hiding something or just weren’t doing anything during the unaccounted period.

So make sure that you account for all of your time on your CV including activities that don’t fall into the category of paid work.

There’s nothing wrong with including travel, volunteering or personal projects on your CV; in fact some employers encourage those things.

So if you’ve taken some time out to travel the world or learn a new language, then don’t be afraid to let recruiters know.

Detailing this kind of experience provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate some skills that you may not have covered in your paid work.

For example, travelling requires organisation, planning and social skills; which can be valuable qualities in the work place.

Volunteering and personal projects will vary greatly from project managing events to building websites, so they allow you to detail more of your hard skills.

Not showing your impact

Listing your role responsibilities is all well and good when writing your CV. But, they are meaningless if you don’t show the impact your actions have on your employers.

Where possible, try to show the outcome of your duties. This will show hiring managers the value of bringing you on board.

For example, don’t just write:

Reviewing and improving processes across the business

Expand to show your impact by writing:

Reviewing and improving processes across the business to realise cost savings of over £25k annually

This sentence shows how your work impacts your employer and gives a greater indication of the value you can add.

You may not be able to do this for every sentence you write in your CV. But try to do it wherever possible.

If your CV contains any of the mistakes above then you could be seriously damaging your job prospects; try to remove them as soon as you can and you should start to land more job interviews.

About the author: Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing service StandOut CV and author of The Ultimate CV Writing Guide. He regularly contributes to publications such as Milkround and The Guardian.

  • Yvonne McQuarrie

    Thoughtful research and analysis of the needs of your target employers can seal the deal because this information is the solid ground for job hunt process on the whole. Also, I agree with the importance of resume length. However much experience and sought-after skills you have, it is better to make CV short.

  • carolyn thomas

    Very helpful. However, under ‘Not doing your research’ the ‘t’ has been missed in ‘sought-after’. And under ‘Not showing your impact’ there seems to be an unnecessary ‘When’ at the beginning of the sentence? Would anyone like to employ me as a proof reader please?

    • Laura Slingo

      Hi Carolyn. Thanks for pointing those out for us. If you’re looking for a proof-reading role, check out CV-Library for the latest vacancies.

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