5 major CV blunders and how to fix them
by Andrew Fennell
Your CV is your first impression. It’s your first chance to introduce yourself to a recruiter or potential employer, so it has to be good. After all, even the smallest error can have a recruiter doubting your abilities.
But with so many job hunters making the same silly mistakes, recruiters have become adept at spotting these — and it doesn't take them long! Just one misspelt word could be all it takes to land your CV on the rejection pile.
To combat this, you need to make sure you take your time and get everything on your CV just right. There’s no room for error.
To help you out, we’ve pulled together a list of five of the most common CV blunders that candidates make, as well as how to avoid making the same mistakes on your application.
1. Lack of structure and format
An unclear or distracting format can negatively impact your CV. Recruiters need to be able to scan through and quickly find the information they're looking for. If they have to try hard to decipher your application, they will likely just push it aside.
What’s more, be wary of using quirky or creative layouts. While these can be helpful in certain situations or industries to help you stand out, they can also become distracting or confusing to the recruiter.
As such, it’s a good idea to choose a traditional, clean layout. It’s also best to use small paragraphs, subheadings and bullet points when formatting your CV, to ensure your information is easy for busy recruiters to navigate.
2. Telling lies
It can be tempting to tell little white lies on your CV, especially if you don't meet all the criteria set out in the job description. But lying or even exaggerating on a job application can land you in hot water.
Common lies or hyperboles include bumping up your grades, exaggerating responsibilities in a previous role, lying about employment dates or giving yourself a promotion by including a more senior job title.
While it might seem harmless, especially if you feel perfectly qualified for the role, imagine turning up to an interview and being asked questions you can’t answer, or a potential employer checking up with your references and finding out you lied. It’s not going to look good and it’ll probably cost you the job.
So as with anything, honesty is always the best policy. If you don’t quite meet the criteria, try to make up for this by shouting about your transferable skills, highlighting your passion for the role and showing your value through quantified achievements.
3. Writing a generic CV
Creating a generic CV and firing it off to 50 different employers may seem like a more efficient method of job hunting. But the truth is, a recruiter can spot a generic application a mile away — and it suggests to them that you're not really invested in the role.
Be sure to tailor every application you submit to the specific role, company and industry you're applying to. Do this using the job description and requirements as a guide and doing some additional background research into the company. Your aim should be to meet their requirements and company culture as closely as you can.
4. Not demonstrating your impact
It’s all well and good listing your grades or your responsibilities in past jobs, but this doesn't tell the recruiter how you can bring real value to the role; so you need to make sure you're demonstrating your value throughout your CV.
You can do this in your personal profile and employment history. You might even want to add a dedicated ‘achievements’ section to make it easier for the recruiter to spot.
If you can quantify your achievements, that’s even better. For example, rather than merely stating that you’ve got SEO experience, you could say ‘through revisiting old blog content and updating this with SEO in mind, I was able to grow traffic to the company website by 15%’.
5. Making spelling or grammatical errors
Last but certainly not least, spelling and grammatical errors can really damage your CV. These can look unprofessional and lazy but are also easily avoidable.
Once you’ve finished writing your CV, make sure you read it through several times. It’s easy to miss things when you’ve been working on something for a while, so it’s also a good idea to have someone else look over it for you. They might spot something you missed.
Lastly, run your CV through a free writing checker tool like Grammarly. It’s free and will pick up anything you could have accidently overlooked.
Don’t make the same mistakes
These simple mistakes can damage your chances of being invited in for an interview, but the good news is, with a little time and effort these can easily be avoided.
Use our advice above to write a killer application without these silly CV blunders and you’ll land yourself a job in no time!
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.