CV Mistakes To Avoid
As a CV writer and my previous experience as a recruiter, I’ve read 10,000’s of CVs and seen the most common CV mistakes time and time again.
So I’ve compiled a list of the most common CV mistakes to allow you to ensure that they don’t feature on yours.
Here are the top CV mistakes that people make
CV Mistake 1 – Hide and Seek
The cardinal sin of all CV mistakes!
The first point of call for all CV writing should be to place your name at the top, ideally in the header section, so that it appears on every page.
Sounds simple but time and time again, as a recruiter, I’ve had to search for the applicant’s name which is hidden amongst the rest of the personal details.
If laid out correctly, the header should instantly provide the reader with your name and contact details.
This increases the readability of the CV and will stop any misunderstandings later in the process.
Let’s imagine that you have spent 3 hours creating a CV with great impact appeal that leads you to making the interview stage.
However as your name is hidden amongst the text a recruiter mistakenly places your CV in the “to be filed” tray thinking that it’s a rejected CV.
What a waste of 3 hours and a potential opportunity lost!
CV Mistake 2 – CV Photos
The amount of CVs I’ve received over the years with attached photos is staggering and, although it’s expected in other countries, it is unnecessary in the U.K.
You want your CV to be judged on the merits of your achievements, skills and work history. You do not want a recruiter to judge your suitability for a position based on your appearance at this stage.
Apart from this, a photograph is very subjective and no matter how professional recruiters are, there is always room for bias as they are, after all, only human.
CV Mistake 3 – Missing Or Inappropriate Email Address
This is the most ridiculous of all CV mistakes to make!
A CV is effectively a sales brochure of you, the professional.
Why would you either omit your email address from your CV or worse still use an inappropriate email address?
But people do on a very regular basis.
Whether you love or loathe the technological revolution we live in today, we have to accept that the time when recruiters would use the telephone to contact applicants is on the decline.
Instead we are applying for positions and recruiters are responding using email or social media as their preferred contact method.
Therefore a professional email address and social media presence is essential.
Avoid the use of gimmicky emails such as:
This not the message you want to convey.
Stick to more professional sounding addresses and browse your social media presence to check that too conveys the right impression of you.
CV Mistake 4 – No Clear Section Headings
To increase the readability of a CV it is advisable to break the CV up into relevant sections.
These sections should each have a header that is differentiated from the bulk of the CV text by using bold or underlined text, just like this article.
Here are the most commonly used headings:
- Contact Details
- Personal Details
- Key Skills
- Key Achievements
- Employment History
CV Mistake 5 – No Bullet Pointing
Lets face it, recruiters read hundreds of CVs a week.
The initial read through is always the one that picks out keywords highlighted on the job description they are looking to fill.
To increase your chances of making that first selection, you need to ensure that the pertinent information is clearly visible and the easiest way to achieve this is with the use of bullet points.
The following demonstrates how easy it is to read the information contained within bullet points.
The most common CV mistakes
- Spelling and typos
- Inclusion of a photo
- No Personal Detail
CV Mistake 6 – Reverse Chronological Order Not Used.
Writing your CV in reverse chronological order is the most advisable order should you be using the chronological CV format.
Using this order requires you to place your most recent work history at the top of the employment section of the CV and work backwards in time.
This ensures recruiters will read the most relevant information first rather than reading all about your first employed position 30 years ago.
If you wish to make the selection for interview I can guarantee that this is far more likely to happen if you employ the reverse chronological order.
CV Mistake 7 – Excessive Details Of Interests
Adding an interest section to a CV is a good idea if your are involved in a voluntary role or if your outside interests demonstrate skills useful to the workplace such as team sports
Recruiters look very favourably on this.
However the listing of all your interests is unwise as it only adds to the length of your CV and could distract the reader from the more important aspects.
This is especially true if you list the following as your interests:
“Horse rideing, like going pub when havent got my kids and doing stuff with them when they anit at school”Anonymous
I can imagine the recruiters thoughts on these interests for various reasons!
CV Mistake 8 – Including Date of Birth
This used to be a stipulation for all CVs 10 years ago however it is no longer the case for 2 reasons.
Now, however, this is one of the most common CV mistakes people make.
Firstly we live in a society which discourages discrimination, and rightly so.
Putting a date of birth or your sex on a CV places the recruiter in a predicament. If an applicant doesn’t make the initial selection for whatever reason, he/she could accuse the recruiter of doing so on the basis of age or gender.
Secondly, under data protection guidelines, the inclusion of a date of birth on a CV is considered unwise. Should these details fall into the wrong hands, they could be used for the basis of identity theft.
Therefore its is advisable that they omitted from a CV.
CV Mistake 9 – Referees Included
I always recommend that references should only be provided when it’s asked by the interviewer during the latter stages of the recruitment process.
To include them on a CV only adds more detail and therefore creates more distraction.
In addition to this, if you are sending the CV to a recruitment company, the reference names may be added to a headhunter list for the same position and could become the competitor that prevents your appointment to the vacancy.
CV Mistake 10 – Spelling
The CV is a promotion tool for you. Don’t send a CV that hasn’t been triple checked and is littered with mistakes to a recruiter!
Spelling in these modern times is unforgivable as modern day spell checks are excellent, if you have set the correct language in the first.
Remember that there are subtle differences between English and American English.
CV Mistake 11 – Typos
This is probably the trickiest of all our 15 CV mistakes to avoid.
Typos are commonly found on CVs as they aren’t picked up by the spell checks. You know the ones
- There rather than their
- To rather than two or too
- Won instead of one
The list is endless but their inclusion in a CV demonstrates a lack in attention to detail and possibly worse, place in question your written communication skills.
The only way to avoid these is to check, check and check again.
The best way to proofread your own documents is to leave them for a day or two after completing the first draft. Then return and read through. You will be surprised how many errors become visible.
You could also ask a family member or friend to proofread your CV.
CV Mistake 12 – Length
One of the biggest CV mistakes you can make when writing your CV is its length.
When you talk to recruiters the common consensus is that it should be either 1 or 2 pages long. I recommend Clients they should use their intuition on this subject.
If you are just starting out in your career and maybe have 5 years or so experience, then a 1 page CV should be more than sufficient.
However if you are a senior manager or executive with 25 years experience then a 2 page CV would be more appropriate.
Under no circumstances should a CV be longer than 2 pages. Keeping the CV short improves the readability and ensures that the key achievements aren’t lost amongst a wealth of waffle!
CV Mistake 13 – Gaps In The CV
What have you got to hide?
Then don’t leave gaps in your career history and qualifications unexplained.
Gaps in the CV will only create questions in the recruiters mind and stop you from getting an invitation to interview
If you do have gaps, then add an explanation to justify the disjointed nature of your CV and settle the recruiters curiosity. This will result in an interview .
Be honest with your explanation, most employers recognise that events happen in peoples lives which prevent them from working. Perhaps you:
- became someones carer
- took time to raise a family
- studied for further qualifications
- were made redundant
Make the explanation brief and move on to aspects of your CV that are more positive
CV Mistake 14 – Wrong Person
No I don’t mean addressing the cover letter to the wrong person.
What I am talking about is writing your CV in 1st or 3rd person. There are 2 easy CV mistakes to make with this point. They are:
- Selecting 1st person over 3rd
- Not writing consistently in their choice of person
What are the differences?
- First person is the I/we perspective.
- Second person is the you perspective.
- Third person is the he/she/it/they perspective.
We receive the majority of CVs in the first person which, although technically there is nothing wrong with this, makes the document appear unprofessional.
First person is great for articles, such as this, that want to appear friendly and personable, but you wouldn’t find a research paper or sales document written this way.
Although it can be hard to write in 3rd person it’s worth sticking with it as it will:
- read so much easier
- presents a professional image
- projects positivity
- demonstrates a higher level of written communication skills
- reduce the length of the CV by removing I, I’m, I’ve etc
There are so many positives that’s it’s one of the essential CV mistakes to avoid.
CV Mistake 15 – Colours
I will never understand why, when people decide to use colour in their CV, they use every colour known to man!
I have seen CVs where the individual has selected a different colour for each paragraph. That’s one of the colourful CV mistakes to make!
Apart from looking ridiculous, the colours only act to distract the reader from the content or at worse prevent the recruiter from reading your CV.
Sometimes its essential to use colour in your CV. If you work in the design industry then its imperative that you demonstrate your design capabilities on your CV and the use of colour may possibly enhance the design.
If you don’t work in the design, or an associated industry, then its best to avoid colour.
If you really want to use colour, then please do so subtly and only use colour on the section headings as I have done in this post.
Ensuring that you avoid these CV mistakes will place your CV in the top 10% and increase the chances of your selection for interview.
Thanks for reading this blog post and I wish you every success in your search for the next step in the career ladder.
Having avoided the common CV Mistakes I’m sure you will secure interviews with a powerful CV. When you do attend an interview make sure you check back with us so that we can tell you the interview Mistakes you need to avoid during an interview coaching session.
About the Author of 15 CV Mistakes to Avoid in 2020
Matt Wallace – CV Writer/Interview Coach
We Write CVs – firstname.lastname@example.org
UK based CV Writers who are all former Recruitment and HR professionals working solely for We Write CV’s which guarantees Clients a quality service.
If you enjoyed our blog: 11 CV Mistakes To Avoid in 2020 then please check out our other posts including:
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