10 Common CV Mistakes—and how to avoid them!

March 1, 2018

 

Writing your CV is a complex process with a no-nonsense objective.

 

No matter what position you're applying for, if you’re serious about securing an interview and making the right first impression, your CV should take time, planning and effort.

 

More than letters of the alphabet strung together to list your experience, skill set and characteristics, your written CV needs to grab and stand out with a slick language that's tailored to target...AND so much more.

 

As the result of advertised positions or from spontaneous contact, recruiters, hiring managers and employers receive literally hundreds of CVs every week. Busy people, well versed in shortlisting CV candidates, recruiters need to make light work of the selection process with quick decisions. For you, this means that your fate is decided in a split second.

 

Ensure your CV is worth the invested time in reading it and avoid these 10 common CV mistakes.

 

1. Cut a Long Story Short

Your CV has approximately 6 seconds to make an impression. Just 6 seconds for your recruiter to scan through your CV content and decide whether to invest their valued time in actually reading it. From then on in, your CV has to grab and engage enough to keep your hiring manager reading and get you to the top of the contender class.   

 

Avoid the temptation to download a CV template and fill in the blanks—your CV isn’t standard issue. It’s as unique as you are and needs to stand out from the crowd. Instead, design your CV layout wisely and tailor your format to meet the balance of your experience and qualifications. If you have more qualifications than experience or vice versa, focus on your strengths and highlight what your skill set will bring to the reader.

 

Your CV is not an eBook and does not need to communicate chapter and verse or accentuate how a paper round in 1986 moulded you into the person you've become! Your CV should be around 1-3 pages of easy-to-read, relative text, whilst continually preempting the type of information that your reader will expect to find. Draw attention to these relevant areas and ensure you make the whole reading experience effortless.

 

Keep your work and qualification history as short as it’s significant, by using and applying the less is definitely more mantra. CV space is short, make every word count! Your interview is the time to relay the nitty-gritty.  

 

2. Goodbye Gobbledegook!

Your CV needs to be clear, concise and to the point, in a simple, yet professional language.

 

Don’t try to impress with lengthy and theatrical words. Far from adding a polished finish, the use of a complicated vocabulary is an amatuer mistake. Write as you speak and not as if you are competing with a dictionary—after all, if your recruiter cannot instantly understand the message you are trying to convey, they will dismiss you before you even began.

 

Keep your language natural and professional, relative to the position you are applying for, with a gentle use of your industry terminology. If you want to publish your CV online, research and weave your keywords and SEO phrases well, but keyword stuffing is to be avoided.

 

3. Nothing Personal

Your CV is not the place to talk about your personal circumstances, your dependants, marital status or how you once met Sir Alan Sugar. Rather, it's the place to subtly allow your professional personality to shine through your words and show how your life experience is relevant to the job for which you are applying.

 

Keep it clean with a sharp email address, specifically created for your job search and include a contact number with a professional sounding voicemail. No matter what role you are applying for, most interested recruiters will complete an online search using your name or your email address. If search engine results return images of you sipping margaritas on a school night, social media rants of yesteryear or revealing photos of your stag night, expect red faces all round. Clean up your online presence, reassess any social media profile pictures, instant messenger app profiles and revelations that may be set to public view.

 

4. Mind the Gap

The timeline of your CV needs to flow clearly and any career gaps need to be explained. If you have taken any time out of the workplace, maybe for travel, study, volunteering, redundancy or child care—it must be mentioned. Turn your time out into an advantage! Use it as a selling point by adding a positive twist on your life experience.

 

5. Keep it Real

Recruiters, employers and hiring managers are professionals who uncover untruths at every opportunity. Falsifying your job title, salary, experience or qualifications is a BIG no-no. Have the courage of your convictions and avoid significantly bending any truth that will lead to your downfall and negate genuine achievements and legitimate successes. Focus on your strengths, sell your benefits, turn your flaws into positives and work with what you have to emphasise why you're the best fit!

 

6. Go with the Flow

The sections of syntax within your CV should flow consistently without loose threads, cryptic proclamations or vague areas. Your style and tone of voice (the way you read and sound) need to remain consistent, active and strong.

 

Use short bullet points where appropriate to make your CV content easy to read. Don't leave any abrupt sentences and do make sure you bold out and italicise areas of importance. This ensures your strongest areas are easy to find and guarantees your reader will keep reading. Don't make your recruiter work to learn more.

   

7. It’s Not all about you!

By the very nature of your CV, the content is all about you. However, the secret and the art to a great CV is to magically turn your skills and qualifications into why you're a great fit for the role and how you and your skills will benefit a potential employer.

 

Before you sit down to write your CV, focus on differentiating between your benefits and features, by adopting this clever and psychological approach you will not only sell yourself, but also engage, intrigue and hook your recruiter. For example, you might be an enthusiastic individual (that’s a feature), but by conveying how your enthusiasm will better the employer, you capture the very essence of successful CV writing or writing to sell yourself. Weave your benefits into the position that you are chasing and make it clear how by applying these benefits you'll be a great fit.  

 

8. In the Interest of...

Hobbies and interests! An area of your CV designed to give an overview of activities you enjoy away from the workplace. This is your personal branding, a chance for your recruiter to read between the lines into your personality and characteristics.

 

Get creative, do your research, stand out from the crowd and introduce pastimes you enjoy that best match your employers work culture. Use this area to show how your love of team sports transfers into team leadership, how your social interests mean you communicate well and connect with others or how your volunteering work demonstrates your push for change and that you enjoy challenges.

 

Dig deeper than just listing your hobbies and interests and give precise, yet concise information to validate why you're not only a great fit, but you’re also an interesting and productive person to be around.

 

9. Schoolboy Errors

Recruiters, employers and hiring managers all agree—there is nothing worse than sloppy spelling, poor punctuation and gruesome grammar. It not only makes for difficult reading, but demonstrates that although you achieved A+ in English language, you fail to apply the skills you learned.

 

Worse, it also shows you're not an effective communicator, lack attention to detail, neglect to present the best possible image and you don't take the required time and effort over your work.

 

Whilst auto-correct and spell check programmes do troubleshoot certain grammatical discrepancies, there is room for error and it should not be relied upon 100%. Check all your spellings in a dictionary, follow a style guide to ensure accuracy regarding capitalisation, job descriptions and terminology and always come back to your CV the next day. If you're proofreading your own work, rest the piece and read and amend typography with fresh eyes before submitting to recruiters.

 

10. Get it Covered!

Never underestimate the importance of a great covering letter to accompany your CV. Your covering letter is the key to getting your CV read and it needs to persuade and stand out.

 

Ever been to an event or gathering where you’ve been introduced to someone new? From your initial conversation, you subconsciously decide whether to invest your time into finding out more about that person OR whether to make your excuses and leave! Think of your covering letter as much the same.

 

Keep it short, clear and easy to read. Use this opening communication to highlight your skills and detail a little more than you could on your CV.

 

Grab attention and instantly engage the reader enough to want to open and read your CV.

 

If possible, always address your reader directly and make sure you use appropriate endearments, titles and salutations.

 

Need help with writing your CV and covering letter? Want a second opinion on your existing CV? Contact me today to see how my words, make you shine.


 

 

 

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About Tara 

Tara is an award-winning writer, editor, freelance copywriter and the founder of Composing Copy LLP.

A former student at both The Blackford Centre and The College of Media and Publishing, Tara trained under renowned British copywriter and best-selling author, Kit Sadgrove, 

Working between her offices in Spain and London, in her spare time Tara collects stray cats, drinks too much coffee and also writes for local and international press.

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