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CV Mistakes: Common CV Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

CV Mistakes: Common CV Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Looking for a job is one of the most challenging and tiresome processes most people have to go through, particularly when you are competing against hundreds of people for just one position.  There is nothing more disheartening than applying for 50 jobs and not even getting a call back from one of them.  So, it’s important to arm yourselves with all of the right tools to ensure you have the best chance of securing an interview (and ultimately a job!).  And, that all starts with your CV.

A CV is a perfect way to sell yourself to a potential employer, but shockingly most of us don’t have any idea where to start when it comes to putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard!).  So when you are desperate to get yourself out into the job market, it is all too easy to just ‘throw’ some words together, call it a CV and hope for the best.

But the problem with sending out a CV without proper attention to layout, spelling, focus or specific detail is that you have a much higher chance of ending up in the ‘bin’ pile and thus missing out on that precious first interview or call back.  Given that employers spend just a few seconds reading through each CV they receive, it has never been more important to get it right.

Below is a list of the five most common CV blunders and how to avoid them so that you can improve your chances of sealing the deal with an interview:

  • Spelling and Grammar: In this day and age, it’s all too easy to rely on spell check programmes to ‘find’ your mistakes for you. Sadly though, these programmes often miss contextual errors, and given that most employers are incredibly put off by mistakes, it’s important to proofread your CV as if your life depends on it.  Another great tip is to read your CV out loud to ensure that it sounds right and makes sense, for example, are you using your tenses correctly?  You also need to look out for those simple little mistakes that often sneak into CVs, i.e. ‘your’ versus ‘you’re’ and ‘their’ versus ‘there’.  Spelling and grammar mistakes indicate a lack of attention to detail which sadly cannot be undone no matter how strong your academic background is or how you present yourself at an interview.
  • CV Length: In a world where every minute counts, employers simply do not have time to spend three hours reading through your CV, so there is nothing more off-putting than sending through a 10 page CV. The chances are that no matter how amazing you are, your CV won’t even get a glance.  CVs have to be concise.  They have to be to the point.  They have to be quick to read.  So stick to two pages as less is always more in this instance.
  • Poor Formatting: Once you have your CV content perfected, it is important to ensure your formatting is simple and slick. Given that most people apply for jobs online or via email, it’s important that your CV can be read well on screen.  Choose a clear font such as Calibri, Ariel or Times New Roman, and a font size of 10 or 12.  Keep your background plain, use italics sparingly, and avoid crazy page borders or backgrounds or your CV will look confusing and messy.
  • Gaps in Employment: Not everyone has a solid career history without any gaps at all, so if there are periods in your career where you were not working, for example due to maternity leave, long term sickness or travel, it is important to explain these in your CV rather than just leave gaps.  Remember, an employer will not know your entire life story or why you were out of work during those periods so it’s important to be clear.
  • The use (or over-use) of clichés: Are you an enthusiastic, highly-committed, solution-focused team player with exceptional leadership skills? *Sigh* that is too bad as it’s likely going to lead to your CV ending up in the ‘no’ pile.  There is one thing guaranteed to grate on an employer, and that is the CV cliché.  It may sound good to you, but to an employer it comes across as meaningless waffle which is not going to do you any favours in securing an interview.  Avoid the clichés and the shameless self-promotion, and instead be confident and highlight what you have done and can actually do, and how you can make a difference to the employer.

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes when it comes to your CV, but a bit of care and attention (and extensive proofreading) can help you to avoid them.

Karen Dunbar is a CV Consultant, Professional Writer and mum of one with a passion for helping people secure their dream jobs and a talent for transforming seemingly boring words into compelling content. She talks a lot, loves blueberry muffins and has an obsession with owls!