The top 10 CV mistakes

A CV is your main selling tool, that vital ‘foot in the door’, when you’re looking for a new job. So it pays to get it right, to hone the content right down to the position of a comma. But it’s amazing just how often CVs are thrown together – and even more amazing is the shock of candidates when they aren’t selected for interview!

So to help ensure your CV gives the best possible impression to prospective employers here’s our top 10 CV mistakes to avoid:

1. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors

First and foremost you absolutely have to make sure your CV is error free. Spelling and attention to detail is something that will be used to filter through a pile of CVs. If mistakes are present employers are likely to quickly come to the conclusion that you don’t care or that your written skills are poor – when email communication is so integral to business, your writing ability is important.

If spelling and grammar isn’t your thing get someone else that you trust to read through your CV – a fresh pair of eyes really helps. Don’t rely on the spellchecker function in Word, it’s not infallible by any means. And read it out loud – this way you’ll pick up any sentences or phrases that don’t make sense.

2. Responsibilities do not demonstrate your achievements

It’s very easy to list the responsibilities of previous positions but it won’t prove that you contributed anything useful. Employers want to see what you’re capable of – being expected to develop a new sales territory is all well and good, but you could have failed. Qualifying your role by stating that you gained 50 new customers and generated £2 million in sales in 12 months says a lot more about you and will ensure any prospective employer will start to imagine what you might be able to do in their organisation.

3. Embroider the truth and risk being exposed

It’s natural to want to make your achievements sound as impressive as possible, but don’t be tempted to exaggerate. Was it 50 new customers or did you only get 20? Don’t forget it’s easy for checks to be made – and don’t think that employers won’t take the time and trouble to find out. They will. Even worse is the prospect of being found out in the interview itself.

4. One size does not fit all

It’s easy to think that you should produce a definitive version of your CV and that it will be suitable for every job you’re chasing. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Every job description will be unique and you need to tailor your CV accordingly – employers want to understand how you might fit into their organisation and your CV should take away any element of guesswork.

5. Don’t get carried away with the design

It’s very easy to play with fonts and styles, but too much formatting is likely to detract away from the actual content. The trick is to keep your CV clean and simple to read, easy to scan at a glance and salient points highlighted. White space helps – use decent margins and create a ‘visual breathing space’ between each section of your CV. Avoid lengthy paragraphs, important details can become lost – use bullet points instead.

6. Don’t go on and on (and on)!

Don’t be tempted to submit a five-page CV, no matter how essential you feel the information is. Regardless of how many years of experience, how many jobs you’ve had, CVs should generally be 2-3 pages maximum. Keep the information meaningful and relevant to the job for which you are applying. Jobs from early in your career can probably be covered more briefly than more recent positions that are more likely to be more senior and with more opportunity to distinguish yourself.

7. Mind the gaps

Thanks to the difficult economic climate in recent years candidate CVs can’t always be a seamless progression from one job to another. If you do have periods in your career history where you haven’t worked – for whatever reason – don’t just leave a gap. Gaps raise questions in employers’ heads and that can lead to doubts. So explain what you’ve done in the interim – whether it was volunteering at your local charity shop or going on a course to hone certain skills.

8. Don’t start at the beginning

Your job history should be listed in reverse chronological order i.e. most recent position goes first in the list. The experience gained in recent years is much more likely to have a bearing on your next career step than the job you got straight from school or college. If employers have to trawl through junior positions in companies – which may not even be in the sector in which you are now working – they will quickly lose interest. So you have to catch them on page one of your CV!

9. What do your hobbies say about you?

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying weekends watching back-to-back reality shows or playing games on your PlayStation. But think about how hobbies will look on your CV and what they might make employers feel about you. If in doubt it’s better to leave out hobbies – many people feel that hobbies don’t add anything to a CV in any case.

10. Get the contact details correct!

It sounds obvious but it’s easy to type a phone number incorrectly and then not notice. What could be worse than being called for interview but never getting that call? The same goes for your email address – standard details that you know in your sleep can easily end up being incorrect. Which brings us neatly back round to point 1 and the need to check your CV with a fine toothcomb!

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