Three Basic CV Mistakes You’re Making

CV Mistakes

A good CV is paramount to getting a good job, but we spend so little time learning how to write them well. Even if you get a template, or read a guide, there are small mistakes that can give off the wrong impression.

Here’s a quick and simple check list of three things you have probably overlooked in your CV. You’d be surprised how many people make this mistakes!

The file name

When I edit CVs for people, the first thing I look at is the file name. Here are examples of bad file names:

CV 2018

Charlotte Steggall July 2018

Charlotte CV Version 3

Why? Because they all look like you’ve been applying for jobs for a while. Add a date and you look like this whole applying for jobs thing is a common occurrence and that this job that you’re applying for isn’t that special. My advice is to keep it short and snappy. Charlotte Steggall CV. Boom. Done.

OH while we’re here – keep your CV in Word format. If you put it in pdf then it’s harder to scan. Many recruiters add your CV (with your permission) to a database and then search for CVs when jobs come up. If you put it in pdf format, it makes it much harder to search.

Giving unnecessary info

Here are some things that have ZERO relation to whether you can do a job or not:

Your marital status, your gender, your nationality, your sexuality.

Therefore, keep this info off of your application form. It may seem obvious, but actually I see so many CVs that list the person as “British, married”. If you have a disability, then you do not have to disclose this either. If you know you can do that job, then your challenges should not come into the equation.

Please note, however, that the employer IS allowed to ask if you have the right to work in the UK, which is a different question to asking you your nationality.

Rushing the interests section

Interests. Nice, finally something easy to write! You list some vaguely vanilla things you enjoy:

Travelling

Reading

Being with family.

Right? WRONG.

Knowing how this section is used makes it easier to write. In an interview, if the conversation needs a kick start, they may call on something here to get the ball rolling. Or, one of your interviewers may have a hobby in common with you which could be a huge plus for you. Making those connections in the interview is key to getting you the job. After all, they want to know that you’re a real human being who likes doing stuff.

What that in mind, write out a short paragraph, and try to make it casual:

In my spare time I love reading horror fiction, but due to my busy family life I seem to only get reading time when we’re on holiday! I enjoy cooking and am trying to get my kids to be on board with the things I cook, but sometimes I just can’t win over chicken nuggets and chips.

Three simple CV mistakes to make. How many have you done? Let me know in the comments!

Comments

  1. As someone who spends most of my working life reviewing CVs, I agree with all of the above, especially the comment about pdfs vs word documents.

    In some sectors like architecture where people have portfolios, pdfs are a given, however our systems choke on pdf CVs most of the time resulting in a garbled mess or a CV that needs to be retyped if emailed over directly. Exporting to a Word Doc from non-Word applications can mess with the formatting too, however most recruiters will reformat a CV anyway. So long as the content is readable a Word version is better than a pdf any day.

    The comment about personal interests is a good one – and I’m guilty of that myself – but remember it can also be an ice breaker for a recruiter too and helps reveal a little about your personality.

    I’d also add a few suggestions of my own:

    1) Use bullet points properly

    Bullet points are wonderful. They really are. They make it much easier to skim a CV (and recruiters do skim!) than a wall of text. BUT don’t use bullet points at the expense of content. Short generic bullet points about your duties under each role comes across as lazy and confirms nothing about what you actually do. Similarly waffling walls of text about your entire life history aren’t much help either.

    When talking about your experience recruiters want to see: what projects/account you worked on, what stakeholders you dealt with and crucially what your personal involvement was/what were you accountable for. Include the specific tasks you carried out but be specific about their value/impact on the business and any industry software you used (e.g. Salesforce)

    It’s perfectly fine to have paragraphs of text or bullet points or both, but make sure the content explains what you did in the context of your team/business clearly. Also, the maxim of keeping your CV to two pages is old fashioned, especially in the Consultancy sector. So long as your CV flows logically, can be understood at a glance, and the content is relevant, recruiters will persevere.

    2) Explain any gaps

    There’s nothing worse than unexplained gaps between roles other than ‘more jobs than takeaway dinners’ (unless you’ve been temping or working on projects that ended – again, explain this) as this begs the immediate questions re. why you left these roles and what have you been doing. Employers want to see commitment in your past career.

    Sometimes, like with temping, it’s obvious: a student doing an Undergraduate degree will have the odd job here and there. Put your degree near the top of your CV and most recruiters will understand why there are gaps in the history that follows.

    For gaps between roles however explain these away. Volunteering counts as does travelling, relocating, caring for a relative, and the old favourite ‘actively seeking work’*

    (*which will only get you so far: a year is hard to explain away with this and if your CV looks like you’ve done absolutely nothing – no mention of temping, work experience, studying, travelling etc – recruiters will switch off)

    3) Write a covering letter

    Or at least paragraph at the top of your CV explaining what you’re about, where you’re at in your career, and why you’re applying for the role you’ve applied for.

    While a CV without a cover letter will still be reviewed, it demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to tailor your application to that position and company, and it’s your chance to highlight the most relevant parts of your experience for this particular role.

    Throwing your CV against every role under the sun with an organisation does you no favours as recruiters can see all these applications (and clearly where you’ve applied to numerous roles that have nothing in common you’re simply trying to ‘see what sticks’!)

    The gotcha with a cover letter of course is make sure it’s actually for the job you applied for! If the opening sentence says you’re applying for a completely different job then you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. You may get a compassionate recruiter (we do exist, honest) who reads on but many will just as soon move onto the next application. Job hunting is soul-destroying, I agree, but a little extra care can go a long way.

    Also remember to spell check AND proof read your CV please😉

  2. As someone who spends most of my working life reviewing CVs, I agree with all of the above, especially the comment about pdfs vs word documents.

    In some sectors like architecture where people have portfolios, pdfs are a given, however our systems choke on pdf CVs most of the time resulting in a garbled mess or a CV that needs to be retyped if emailed over directly. Exporting to a Word Doc from non-Word applications can mess with the formatting too, however most recruiters will reformat a CV anyway. So long as the content is readable a Word version is better than a pdf any day.

    The comment about personal interests is a good one – and I’m guilty of that myself – but remember it can also be an ice breaker for a recruiter too and helps reveal a little about your personality.

    I’d also add a few suggestions of my own:

    1) Use bullet points appropriately

    Bullet points are wonderful. They really are. They make it much easier to skim a CV (and recruiters do skim!) than a wall of text. BUT don’t use bullet points at the expense of content. Short generic bullet points about your duties under each role comes across as lazy and confirms nothing about what you actually do. Similarly waffling walls of text about your entire life history aren’t much help either.

    When talking about your experience recruiters want to see: what projects/account you worked on, what stakeholders you dealt with and crucially what your personal involvement was/what were you accountable for. Include the specific tasks you carried out but be specific about their value/impact on the business and any industry software you used (e.g. Salesforce)

    It’s perfectly fine to have paragraphs of text or bullet points or both, but make sure the content explains what you did in the context of your team/business clearly. Also, the maxim of keeping your CV to two pages is old fashioned, especially in the Consultancy sector. So long as your CV flows logically, can be understood at a glance, and the content is relevant, recruiters will persevere.

    2) Explain any gaps

    There’s nothing worse than unexplained gaps between roles other than ‘more jobs than takeaway dinners’ (unless you’ve been temping or working on projects that ended – again, explain this) as this begs the immediate questions re. why you left these roles and what have you been doing. Employers want to see commitment in your past career.

    Sometimes, like with temping, it’s obvious: a student doing an Undergraduate degree will have the odd job here and there. Put your degree near the top of your CV and most recruiters will understand why there are gaps in the history that follows.

    For gaps between roles however explain these away. Volunteering counts as does travelling, relocating, caring for a relative, and the old favourite ‘actively seeking work’*

    (*which will only get you so far: a year is hard to explain away with this and if your CV looks like you’ve done absolutely nothing – no mention of temping, work experience, studying, travelling etc – recruiters will switch off)

    3) Write a covering letter

    Or at least paragraph at the top of your CV explaining what you’re about, where you’re at in your career, and why you’re applying for the role you’ve applied for.

    While a CV without a cover letter will still be reviewed, it demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to tailor your application to that position and company, and it’s your chance to highlight the most relevant parts of your experience for this particular role.

    Throwing your CV against every role under the sun with an organisation does you no favours as recruiters can see all these applications (and clearly where you’ve applied to numerous roles that have nothing in common you’re simply trying to ‘see what sticks’!)

    The gotcha with a cover letter of course is make sure it’s actually for the job you applied for! If the opening sentence says you’re applying for a completely different job then you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. You may get a compassionate recruiter (we do exist, honest) who reads on but many will just as soon move onto the next application. Job hunting is soul-destroying, I agree, but a little extra care can go a long way.

    Also remember to spell check AND proof read your CV please😉

    • Charlotte says:

      Absolutely with all of this! And I was totally under the impression of keeping CVs to 2 pages – I edited a 6 pager the other day, down to 4 pages. Would you say as a recruiter you’d even be reading page 3?

      • I think 6 pages is pushing it but we regularly see CVs 3/4 pages long. It does also depend on the industry too though – it’s common in the construction/consultancy sector because of the variety of projects candidates work on and some of the candidates we see are very senior with long careers.

        That’s not to say brevity doesn’t have its place too though. You can tailor your CV for a specific job, only giving detail on those relevant to the position, the others can just be a short list if mentioned at all. Sometimes very senior candidates won’t show every single role on their CV but put a line about ‘employment history prior to X provide on request’.

        In a nutshell a CV should be an advert for why you suit that particular job rather than a blow by blow account of everything you’ve ever done.

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