dropping CV in a bin

Five CV killers you need to avoid

This may be the era of LinkedIn and online profiles but the CV remains a jobseeker’s primary marketing tool. There are common mistakes that will almost certainly consign your CV to the reject pile, so here are five things you should avoid.

The CV’s objective has always been the same: to sufficiently convince an employer that you are worth interviewing for a particular job. Even though it has existed for more than 500 years (Leonardo da Vinci is usually credited with having written the first one), common mistakes continue to be repeated that will almost certainly consign them to the reject pile.

“Your CV must be impeccable,” says Corinne Mills, author of the number one best-selling CV book, You’re Hired: How to write a Brilliant CV. “If your attention to detail is poor, an employer will interpret that as your approach to work.” Mills, who is also joint managing director of the consultancy, Personal Career Management, emphasises that there “can be no excuses when it comes to your CV” and advises on five no-go areas.

Don’t over-format

In many cases, the first ‘person’ to see your CV will be a piece of computer software. Recruiters typically use CV parsing technology to extract the information from a CV and import it into their databases. Mills explains that if the CV is heavily formatted and complex, this can skew the software’s reading of the information.

“Make the format as plain and simple as possible,” she says, adding that it is also important to ensure the CV features keywords that the software will be looking for.

“So make sure job roles and qualifications, for example, are expressed in the same way as they are in the job advertisement or specification. You could have the best possible experience for the job but if the computer can’t recognise it, you won’t reach the next stage,” she cautions. “You have to satisfy the robots before you get to the human eyes.”

Don’t be irrelevant

Employers want to assess if you’re fit for the role as quickly and easily as possible. Ensure your relevant experience, skills and knowledge are prominent. This information should be clearly conveyed in the CV along with evidence to back up your claims. Employers accept that younger candidates will lack employment experience so reference project work, secondments, part-time jobs or other activities that demonstrate your ability and potential.

“As long as it is pertinent and relevant an employer will want to know about it,” says Mills, who adds that when it comes to the length of the CV, two pages is ideal. “Any more and you are probably waffling but any less and it can feel scant.”

Don’t be sloppy or unprofessional

Your CV must demonstrate the highest standards of professionalism. This means no spelling mistakes or poor grammar so it is essential that you get at least one other person to read and check it through.

“Even if you are dyslexic or English isn’t your first language or you simply missed an error by accident, it won’t wash at the screening stage,” says Mills. “Every detail must be thoroughly checked. If you show an attention to detail on your CV, the employer will assume you’ll do the same in your work.”

When it comes to presentation, use one single typeface and ensure the design is clean and uncluttered (also for the reasons given in point one). If you include a picture of yourself, make sure it is appropriate and of good quality.

Don’t be deceitful

We’ve all seen those episodes of The Apprentice when a top candidate gets caught out at the crucial interview stage and seriously dents their chances of progressing any further. At best, lying on your CV might see you humiliated and embarrassed but at worst you could be prosecuted.

In July 2014, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service (CIFAS) introduced a publication entitled Don’t finish your career before it starts to dispel the myth that lying on CVs is harmless and acceptable. It features real-life examples of applicants who have submitted false or exaggerated information running the risk of dismissal, a criminal record or even imprisonment.

Mills warns that even lying about what might seem ‘small things’ such as changing a grade C to a B, will also have the effect of making your feel uncomfortable in the interview which can be conveyed to the interviewer. “Even if the employer doesn’t know why you are behaving like this, they will probably think you are rather shifty,” she says.

Don’t give out the wrong message

Your CV should be a wholly positive document. Talk about your strengths not your weaknesses and, as Mills points out “never ever” criticise a person or company.

“For instance, don’t say you left a previous job because the manager was difficult,” she says. “You don’t have to say why you left a position.” Also remember that your CV is not the place for political opinion or religious beliefs. If the person reading the CV doesn’t agree with them, you could find yourself discriminated against.

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