Getting your CV right can be difficult, but it's not something to overthink or stress over. Our specialist recruitment consultants look at hundreds of CVs every day, reviewing the good, the bad and the bland. They know what it takes to make your CV stand out in a crowded market of job seekers, and they want to help you avoid some of the biggest, most common mistakes.
Our list of common CV mistakes you should avoid when applying for a job is relevant to all candidates, regardless of the industry or role you're hoping to get. We've even included a 'top tips' highlight for each item so you can work on improving your CV.
So, here's our list of 22 top CV mistakes to avoid when applying for a job, along with tips on enhancing your CV and progressing your career.
1. You apply without a tailored CV
If you've created a one-size-fits-all resume and have yet to present a tailored CV for the specific role, then don't be surprised if your potential employer sees it as lazy and generic.
To resolve this issue, consider examining the skills you offer to the organisation that match the job description you're applying for.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself that will help tailor your CV:
- How can you support your future employer in achieving their goals?
- What can you deliver above and beyond the job specification?
- What are the best ways to get experiences into your tailored CV?
Tailor your CV for the specific role you’re applying for to maximise your chances of success when applying for a job.
2. Your CV is too long
Recruiters and hiring managers are busy people with busy schedules, and some may spend no more than 10 seconds reading your CV. They certainly don't have time to read four pages of your career history, so keep the CV relevant and concise. To make your CV easier to scan through, you can always use bullet points and titles to outline your key values and experiences. If you can't scan through your CV in less than 10 seconds, neither will your future employer.
Your CV length should never be more than two sheets of A4 paper and set out in a way that takes you no more than 10 seconds to scan through. We would advise using bullet points and titles to set out your key values and experiences to make your CV easy to scan through.
3. Not checking for spelling mistakes
One way of not getting an interview is presenting your CV or cover letter with spelling mistakes. Lack of care or attention to detail in your CV gives the impression you’ll deliver that same lack of care in your work.
So, always click the spell check on your word processor, which can save you from genuine embarrassment. Make sure you read your CV out loud to find those words your spell checker has glossed over. Don't be the candidate who puts on their CV; 'I lie to do that job' instead of 'I like to do that job'.
Always use a spell checker tool and read your full CV aloud. Don't worry; we promise that no one will think it's strange.
4. Too many grammatical errors
Similar to our previous point, having grammatical errors on your CV can put off employers. While the spellchecker will improve the grammar on your CV, it is certainly not foolproof. So if you're a little uncertain about grammar, we'd suggest asking someone you trust to proofread your CV.
Spellcheck is your friend, but to be safe, we recommend you get someone you trust to review your CV or use a tool like Grammarly before you hit send on your next job application.
5. Going into too much detail about old jobs
Avoid including too much detail about your old job descriptions, especially if these roles are unrelated to the position you're applying for.
Remember, you have limited writing space, so think twice about what to include in each section of your CV. For example, ask yourself if you need three paragraphs to explain the customer service experience you picked up from years ago when you were a bartender.
Keep old job descriptions brief. A simple sentence may save space for recent experience and your more relevant work. Recruiters or hiring managers will ask if they need more information about past roles.
6. Too much information and long personal interests
While personality and personal interests are important for brands and companies to gauge the fit, there’s no need to elaborate on all your qualities and traits. The best practice here is to be brief, honest and concise about who you are. Your personality will shine through naturally.
Keep your personal information concise, easy to understand and truthful.
7. Keyword and phrase stuffing
Let's start by defining what we consider keywords to be in this context. Keywords are words or phrases the reader wants to see on your CV. So, for example, if you work in sales, the reader would expect to read terms such as sales or business development.
Instead of stuffing your sentences with keywords like, 'I work in recruitment as a recruitment consultant for a recruitment agency. My job is to recruit people to work for my client's companies' and try something softer like 'I'm a recruiter; I spend my day finding skilled people to work with our clients.'
Plan the keywords you want to add to your CV and be sure to understand their meaning before using them.
8. Not doing your research
When writing your CV, use common keywords, experiences and terms used in the company branding, website, social media channels and from the job description.
Make sure you understand these terms and combine them with your CV if they are relevant.
Use the company terms and job descriptions from similar jobs as a great way to utilise relevant keywords within your CV.
9. Poor formatting
Whitespace is so under-used when it comes to creating CVs. If you can keep your CV legible, it will feel like easy work for the reader. So to keep a clean CV format, use small sentences with no more than 15 words and ensure adequate spacing between sections.
Your paragraphs shouldn't look daunting. Instead, entice attention and write concisely, i.e. don't use six words when four will do.
10. Weak job descriptions
Job descriptions are an important section in your CV, including all your experience and accomplishments. Make sure you maximise impact and add keywords to your job descriptions to make it easier for your future employer to spot.
Job Descriptions are so important that we have even written a whole article on how to use them to your advantage. Read our Top 3 Tips for Your CVs Job Titles to learn more.
11. Not selling yourself or your achievements
It is easy to read about the responsibilities you had in a previous job role. Still, they're not very useful for recruiters or hiring managers as they don't indicate if you were successful.
Instead of listing responsibilities, write about what you actually accomplished and how you achieved success.
Sometimes it is challenging to have self-awareness around your career. Try talking to a friend or your loved ones about your strengths. Take notes about the points made and use them to sell yourself in your CV successfully.
12. Stop with the clichés – they were so last year!
Clichés fall into our everyday conversation and naturally make it onto our CVs. But that doesn't justify using them. Making bold and immeasurable claims such as:
- UK's number one LinkedIn expert
- Top 1% of salespeople in the world
can come across as outlandish and over-the-top.
To avoid making the same mistake, consider how they sound to the reader and add some context to support your statements. For example: 'I won the accolade of being the number one salesperson, and this was awarded to me as I produced 48% of the sales revenue from 16 salespeople across the globe for my company.
Keep your CV accurate, factual and relevant. Don't make outlandish claims that cannot be substantiated in your interview.
13. You don’t explain the gaps in your career
As Transport for London would say, 'Mind the Gap.' When writing your CV, you must explain the gaps in your career history. The best advice to remember is that the more information you give now, the less awkward it will be during the interviewing stage.
Be honest here. No matter the reason for your CV gap, it is better to explain why it happened.
14. Don’t lie
Don't lie. Period. Why? If you lie on your CV, you will likely be caught out later and later exposed. Lying on your CV will likely result in you being disqualified from consideration or removed from your position.
While this may seem a little harsh, you'd only have yourself to blame. You will tarnish your reputation and will need to justify why you left your last role at your subsequent interview.
The simple fact is that lying is wrong. So don't lie – not even one white lie.
15. Using text boxes
Text boxes are torture for recruiters and employers. There is no shortage of horror stories where recruiters spend precious time reformatting text boxes because the text has been cut off or overspilled.
CVs that include text boxes can be a pain to deal with, and, in most instances, recruiters and hiring managers will move the contents of your CV into a pre-set template that has been agreed upon with their client or internal process.
Use a plain text CV with no boxes or download your CV and upload it as a PDF.
16. Disorganised and confusing content
Less is more. Remember, you are writing for a specific job and with a specific set of requirements. So keep focusing on this and ensure you stay within those requirements.
Be intentional with the words and language you use. Steer clear of ambiguous words and remember to keep your keywords specific to the job application.
17. Inconsistent details
Dates, job titles, skills and experiences are all things that are commonly forgotten at various stages of the hiring process. Sometimes, recruiters come across CVs with conflicting information from one line to another.
Inconsistency in information typically raises a red flag for recruiters and hiring managers, often landing the CV straight into the discard pile.
Reread your CV multiple times and keep an eye out for inconsistencies. Again, telling the truth helps with this one.
18. Including inappropriate email addresses
Funny email addresses may be funny, but they don't belong in your CV. Unfortunately, many examples of email addresses with inappropriate connotations do not give a great impression to your future employers.
Keep your email address professional, clean and appropriate to your audience. Consider creating a new one for professional communications.
19. Using fancy fonts
In the world of formatting and style, fonts are a real distraction. Fonts used in CVs should be simple to read, easy on the eye and consistent.
Keep to one clean font throughout, such as Calibri or Roboto.
20. Order of jobs from oldest to latest
Ensure your CV is ordered in reverse chronology, so your future employer first sees your most recent experience.
Job experience should be chronological – from the latest to the oldest.
21. Including DOB and address
Your CV has no place for your date of birth or address. It cannot be used as a hiring or deciding factor and, as with the other items listed, is non-essential and can take up valuable space.
Space is at a premium on your CV. Do not waste it by including unimportant details.
22. Poor choice of Social Media profiles
Is your social media feed so well curated that you're happy for future employers to see? If not, don't add it to your CV.
Social profiles offer recruiters, hiring managers and companies a personal and in-depth insight into your life. But, while that may make for a great conversation, it's not professional or appropriate.
If you add social media links to your CV, expect them to be viewed. So, ask yourself, do you want your potential employer to see your social media feed?
On The Lookout For Your Next Role?
That sums up our 22 top CV mistakes to avoid when applying for a job. If you’ve enjoyed this post and want to learn more about how to perfect your CV, why not read our '8 Most Common Design Mistakes in CVs’ for some helpful advice on how to master the design and layout of your CV?
If you’re looking for your next Technology or Advanced Engineering role but need help tidying up your CV before submitting your job application, we can help. Get in touch today and discover how Amoria Bond can progress your career.