When you receive as many CVs as we do, it’ll come as no surprise that we see our fair share of CV howlers; from the careless and easily avoidable, to the completely bizarre and sometimes amusing (albeit for the wrong reasons).
It therefore goes without saying that avoiding these faux pas, will greatly enhance your chances of creating a good first impression. So here it is; our list of the worst CV mistakes.
1. Spelling & Grammar
Quite frankly, there really is no excuse for typos – spelling or otherwise – to be in your CV. Over the years, we’ve had numerous very capable candidates rejected for having errors in their CV.
For example, if you’re listing ‘detail oreinted’ as a key strength, do make sure you are detail oriented. We’ve even seen Curriculum Vitae spelt wrong. Seriously. Make sure you spell check and sense check everything and if possible, have someone else to look through it for you.
2. Re-hashing your job spec
While it should be common sense, your CV should never, ever, simply be a re-hashed (or worse, cut & paste) version of your job spec. It’s boring, but more importantly it’s lazy - not a good trait to promote to a prospective employer.
Your CV is your opportunity to demonstrate your achievements. Failure to do this will have a direct impact on your ability to secure a new role.
3. Writing your CV in the 3rd person
It’s perhaps the most immediately off putting thing a recruiter can see in a CV. You’re writing about your skills and achievements after all, so why would you write in the third person? Frankly, it just sounds odd.
4. (Inappropriate) photos
Unless you’re looking for a career in modelling, or perhaps theatre, including a photo on your CV is completely unnecessary. In some cases it can even have a negative impact. After all, the last thing you want to do is to give a prospective employer a reason to prejudge you based on your appearance. Photos also take up space on a CV that could be better used with other information.
Some people take photos to another level altogether. A professional headshot is one thing, however, a picture of you down the pub, on the beach or draped over the bonnet of a car (the candidate in question obviously didn’t understand the PR job they were applying for), isn’t going to do your job search any favours.
5. A ‘quirky’ email address
It might have been funny when you were at university, but an email address along the lines of firstname.lastname@example.org (trust us, we’ve seen far worse) isn’t going to do portray you in the best light. It takes a couple of minutes to set up a professional sounding address so there’s no excuse not to.
“I’m a real team player, a self-starter with excellent communication skills, comfortable working on my own and as part of a team.” Good for you. Join the rest of the applicants who all say exactly the same thing. It may sound a little harsh, but recruiters read statements like this so often, they make absolutely no impact.
7. Too much information
It’s generally accepted that your CV will get about 20-30 seconds of an employers attention, you you need to grab it while you can. By including lots of superfluous information, the most important details could well be overlooked.
You don’t need to list every single job you’ve ever had, especially if they’re not relevant to your career aspirations. Communicating the key achievements in your most recent roles is far more important than the minutiae of irrelevant roles you enjoyed aged 18.
8. Too little information
The exact reverse of the previous point. Your CV is your shop window, your chance to showcase your talents to an employer. Use the two or three pages available to you to really stand out.
It’s an extreme example, but one particularly memorable CV we received simply stated “Six years experience selling electrical things”. That was it, nothing else.
9. Irrelevant information
This point could almost be a blog in itself, given the amount of things we’ve seen...
Personal information is often shoe-horned in and is often completely unnecessary. You’re applying for a job, not a date, so age, marital status, height, weight, religion, sexuality, number of children (and their names) are all superfluous.
Other types of information to avoid are things like “good time keeping and attendance record” – this should be a given in any candidate, so just makes the reader think you haven’t got any notable achievements to list.
Equally ego-driven information should be an obvious no no, but it’s surprising how many times we see it: “once met Tony Blair”, “gold card holder” and the like are to be avoided, no matter how proud you are of them.
10. Inaccurate dates
Make sure dates in your CV are accurate. Not only have we seen people make obvious mistakes about dates they’ve worked for employers (you can’t have two full-time jobs at competing businesses at the same time), we’ve also seen CVs and LinkedIn profiles that have completely different dates. This sends out a major warning flag to employers.
11. Links to online blogs/work
In the marketing and creative sector this is increasingly common. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, providing you link to sites that genuinely showcase your skills and enhance your chances of securing an interview.
For example as a designer, make sure the online portfolio site you’re linking to includes your best and most recent work.
Or if you’re a PR/blogger/content writer, make sure the blog you’re linking to is professional and doesn’t have any offensive posts, isn’t littered with bad language or controversial statements. Trust us, we’ve seen it.
This may sound obvious, but make sure your CV is formatted so that it’s easy to read on all machines and different word processors. Tables can look slick, but often become jumbled on other machines, which risks your CV not having the impact you intended. Our advice is to stick to simple formatting and bullet points.
Whilst we’re on the subject of formatting, make sure you use professional, easy to read fonts. Don’t reduce them to a tiny size so you can squeeze more on to the page and try to resist the temptation of using lots of different colours (even in headings). You’d be surprised how the smallest things can be off putting for certain employers.