No interview? The 8 biggest CV mistakes that could be holding you back...

Darren Burns 21.06.2016

With the end in sight for the EU referendum and the indication that the number of jobs will increase over the coming months, it is imperative that candidates are doing the best job at marketing their talents.

Your CV (and potentially covering letter) is the first opportunity you have to showcase your skills and achievements.  When it comes to writing your CV it is important to go through it with a fine tooth comb as even the greatest candidates in the world can make sloppy mistakes that will ultimately lead to them getting rejected. Here are the 8 biggest CV mistakes that could be holding you back...

1. A meaningless email address
What some candidates fail to remember is that your application will be judged from the first word to the last word written. Candidates, as a rule of thumb, will have at the top of their CV; name, address, contact number, email address and increasingly a LinkedIn profile web link. So it would seem a shame for a fantastic candidate to be disregarded from a process after line 4 which reads “thugs4life666@yahoo.com”. Graduates or school leavers may still have the email they chose in school where it was less relevant but it is important to make this change when moving into the professional world. Choose something simple and easy such as “first.surname@domain.com”.

2. Clichés and buzzwords
The overuse of clichés and buzzwords on a CV can also turn off businesses. Not only because phrases such as “hardworking and a team player” or “motivated go-getter” are vague and not quantifiable but every candidate is doing the same. You need to use the opportunity in your profile to list key achievements and real life experiences that will make you stand out from the crowd. If you want to say you are a “hardworking team player” then quantify it and mention times when you have shown that.

3. Photographs
For me, photographs are a big no. In an age of diversity, as a recruiter I am far more concerned with the ability of the candidates, education, skillset and achievements rather than the age, gender and hair length of a candidate. Furthermore, they will take up space at the business end of your CV and could detract some employers, especially if the picture is poor quality. Utilise a LinkedIn profile if you would like to use a photo of yourself.

4. Too many pages
This one can be slightly trickier because some roles will necessitate for a candidate with extensive experience in their field to provide more information and they may find it hard to keep it short and concise. Some candidates will take this to the extreme and list every point from their experience even back to when they were in the post room in 1975 when they are now applying for a CEO role. The key points about the length of a CV is to, where possible keep to 2 pages (max 3) as not to bore the reader who may be reading a number of applications. If it is still coming up too long reduce the content of older roles that do not add any (or as much) value to the role you are applying for. It is also worth reviewing and cutting down on some of the non-essential responsibilities and hobbies and interests. Whilst you want “you” to shine through, talking about your  love for chess and reading may not hold much sway at the bottom of page 5.

5. Unexplained gaps in employment
There is nothing more frustrating when a CV is riddled with gaps in employment. Having gaps in CV’s now are fairly common occurrences with career breaks, illness, travelling, and maternity/paternity leave to name a few reasons. There is a misconception amongst candidates that career gaps mean bad candidates. FALSE! Unexplained gaps on a CV will lead people to become nervous about what this person was doing in this time. Don’t be afraid to write about time out travelling or completing personal projects when writing your CV. It’s better to show that you’ve been doing something constructive than nothing at all. Some employers even like to see activities like travelling as it can demonstrate pro-activity and social abilities. Another thing you shouldn’t be ashamed of including is time out due to serious illness. Illness is something that’s out of your control and good employers will not discriminate against you for it. 

6. Spelling and grammar mistakes
With automatic spell checkers coming as standard with most word processing packages, you really shouldn’t have incorrectly spelt words on your CV. It goes without saying that spelling mistakes are a huge red flag for recruiters and hiring managers. It shows a lack of care and attention and in some roles, such as accountancy when the smallest mistake could be disastrous, it is important not to make this schoolboy mistake. Don’t become completely reliant on spell-check to eliminate all errors though – it won’t always pick up typos or miss-used words and occasionally you may get an American spelling on some words which unless you’re applying for a job in the States, this won’t look good. You should take the time to proof read your CV or get a friend or colleague to double check it for you.

7. Elaborate fonts
Stick to an easy-to-read font to avoid putting your reader off! Text that is difficult to read, too fancy or unprofessional can make your CV look tacky. Stick to something classic such as Times New Roman or Ariel in a readable size.

8. Big chunks of text
Huge un-broken paragraphs of text are a reader’s worst nightmare – especially when those readers are looking at hundreds of CVs every week. Instead of making employers wade through large messy chunks of text; break the information up into short paragraphs and bullet points. This way they will be able skim read your CV and easily spot the information that they are looking for.

Darren Burns's picture
Operations Director
dburns@morganmckinley.co.uk