13 of the biggest CV red flags that won’t land you an interview

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The average recruiter or hiring manager spends six to eight seconds looking at a CV before they decide if it is suitable or not, according to the website StandOut CV.

And Glassdoor reports that most corporate job opportunities can attract approximately 250 CVs, meaning that hiring managers are on the lookout for red flags to whittle down their pile as quickly as possible. Give yourself the best shot at your dream role by avoiding these 13 CV red flags…

1. Spelling mistakes

Spelling mistakes are the first red flag that many people will look for as they demonstrate a lack of attention to detail. And with so many readily available spellcheckers, there’s really no excuse for submitting a CV littered with mistakes. The spellcheckers aren’t perfect, though, so ask at least one other person who you know has great spelling to read through your CV for you before you submit it. Even if you’re spelling is good, you will be blind to mistakes in documents that you’ve looked at lots of times. One or two minor errors shouldn’t matter, but it’s worth spending a bit longer to ensure everything is correct.

2. Grammatical errors

Again, grammatical errors can demonstrate a lack of care and that you didn’t spend the extra time making sure your CV was 100% and therefore, the reader might question how much you really want the role. They can also make your CV look messy and harder to read.

3. Cluttered layouts

Don’t cram too much into your CV. You don’t want it to be too long, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the font as small as possible to fit everything in. You need it to be concise and readable. Write your CV for the reader, not for you.

4. Lack of headings

Although they take up precious space, bold headings are a must for a good CV. Think about what order your sections should go in and put them in order of relevance to the role. Don’t put education first if your work experience does a better job of selling you for that position.

5. Too long

‘TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)’ will be what the person looking at CVs will be thinking for those that go on and on. Ideally, your CV should be two pages, three at an absolute maximum and only if you have a lot of relevant experience to talk about for the role. Really think about if everything you’ve put in there needs to be in there and is interesting and to the point.

6. Too short

Equally, if your CV looks too short at first glance, it’s a sign that you haven’t put much time or effort into it or that you don’t have much experience. Even if you haven’t worked in the industry before, talk about other work and life experiences where your skills are transferable.

7. Unprofessional email address

Your email address should sound professional for you to be taken seriously as a candidate. Don’t use the one you used when you were 13 unless it is just your first name, surname or initials – no funny words, nicknames or birth years!

8. Unexplained gaps in your employment history

If you do have gaps in your employment history, explain why or what you were doing during that time. It’s fine to say that you were travelling or were unwell. Be as transparent as you can as it’s better than having no explanation or being dishonest.

9. Inconsistency

Ensure that your employment dates don’t overlap without an obvious explanation and that the details you’ve put on your CV match up with what might be found elsewhere, for example, on your LinkedIn profile. Inconsistencies will be a red flag for employers.

10. Moving quickly between lots of different jobs

Unless you have a really good reason (and write it down if you do), it doesn’t look great to be chopping and changing between jobs. If you were working for the same umbrella company but moved roles or brands within it then make this clear instead of it looking like you worked at lots of different places in a short space of time.

11. Getting too personal

Try and get a bit of your personality into your CV, and by all means, write a few lines about your interests and hobbies outside of work but remember that this is a professional document, so don’t go overboard with the personal details.

12. Not following the brief

Read the application process very carefully and then read it again. If you haven’t followed the instructions given, this will likely be a quick route onto the ‘no’ pile. For example, if they ask for a covering letter with your CV, make sure you send one and make sure it feels bespoke to the role.

13. Not tailored to the role

 Never just fire the same CV out for multiple jobs. If you want the role, take some time to re-read your CV and tweak it for the position. Match your CV experience with the requirements in the job description as much as you can and mirror the language used.

Employers want to know that you are capable of doing the job, but they also want to know that you want the job, so demonstrate both of these on your CV by putting time and effort into including the most important things for the position and not including any red flags.

Further reading

Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.

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