You would think writing a CV would be a pretty straight forward process wouldn’t you? A brief list of your recent jobs, current skills and education and you’re good to go. In actual fact, CV’s can be fraught with unspoken faux pas and, if you commit one or more of the howlers below, end up being binned before you’ve even got a foot in the door.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, spelling and poor grammar topped the list of employers’ CV annoyances with 87% citing this as the number one bugbear in a recent survey. This was followed by providing incorrect information, such as the wrong company name, cited by three quarters (76%) of the 600 respondents polled by GSM London higher education provider and You Gov in January of this year. Missing out vital information, such as contact details and dates of employment, was also a top grievance (74%). Here are the top ten worst offenders and how to avoid them.
1) Spelling and grammatical errors
There is really no excuse for not doing a basic spell check after writing your CV. Regardless of the type of job you are applying for, poor spelling and grammar makes you look lazy and incompetent, which will of course be a major turn off for potential employers.
2) Writing in the third person
“Why oh why do people feel the need to say about themselves, ‘Julie is an excellent recruiter’ in the third person?” Julie Towers, managing director of Penna Recruitment Solutions at Penna plc bemoans. “You are writing about yourself and we know that so why pretend you have a biographer? Just say who you are and what you do, what you have achieved and why you meet the requirements. Write as yourself and you will, perhaps, show some much needed humility.”
3) Failing to provide relevant contact details
“You’d be amazed how many CV’s we receive with basic contact details missing or limited to just a work email,” says Towers. “You may think it’s okay for us to contact you at your present
job – but we don’t! So give us all of your contact details or steer us towards the best way to get in touch and at what times. It looks organised and professional and gives us a sense of your style.”
4) Not providing any sort of job description of what they currently do
“I never understand why some candidates feel their job description suitably defines what they do. Have you ever seen a job description that tells the story of your XX years of hard work and graft, the outcomes, the trials and tribulations? No, nor have we. So please don’t cut and paste your job description/profile into your CV as some sort of lazy excuse for your own interpretation.”
5) Listing irrelevant and unsubstantiated skills
Colin Angel, policy director at the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), says his top turn off is when people list all the skills they have without any evidence of how they used them and what they achieved.
6) Sending your CV off without checking or understanding the job you are applying for
Angel says people have to make sure they understand the role they are applying for and relate their experience accordingly. CV’s where no attempt has been made to relate the applicant’s experience to the job advertised will, otherwise, go straight in the bin.
7) Don’t embellish or fabricate too much
Lying about your ‘A’ level results or experience is really not acceptable and a simple phone call to your old school or employer will reveal you to be a fraud. It’s really not worth the risk so, by all means, talk up your skills and experience but make sure you stay truthful too.
The jury is out on whether or not to include a photo of yourself on your CV but, if in doubt, says Towers, then err on the side of caution. “My personal view is ‘don’t do it’, and if you disagree with me definitely don’t include a holiday snap, or one of you cut out of a wedding/formal photo (I’ve seen both!)” Towers says your CV and accomplishments should do the talking, without pictures.
9) Listing everything you’ve ever done from your village paper round to tap dancing
Unless you’re a recent graduate, you may well have done a number of jobs but there is no need to list them all on your CV. “It’s always interesting to find out what people did when they were teenagers but it’s just not relevant,” says Towers.
10) Being completely obsessed with money
Salary and budgets are obviously hugely important to all of us but banging on and on about money on your CV can put recruiters off. Towers explains: “The size of the budget you’ve been in charge of is relevant at times, but if the role is about leadership and management, then it’s probably what you did with it, what you delivered from it and your achievements than the money itself,” says Towers.
Georgina is an award winning freelance journalist and editor who specialises in writing about the world of work. Georgina has worked for two leading HR titles – People Management and Personnel Today and now contributes regularly to Edge, HR Magazine, People Management and Employee Benefits.