There are many different ways to create a CV in terms of content, layout, structure and wording but there are some basic mistakes that are guaranteed to get your application rejected. These are the fundamental “CV sins” that you should avoid at all cost if you want to be in with any chance of getting your application to the next stage…
#1: Spelling mistakes
Making mistakes in spelling or grammar is one of the quickest ways to get your application rejected. Regardless of how good your experience is or how well you fit the job description, your CV won’t even be read if it’s littered with spelling mistakes.
TIP: Don’t rely on spellcheck – it doesn’t pick up everything. Get someone to look over it for you and always double check it yourself before you send it out.
#2: Gimmicky formatting
A neatly laid out CV typed in a readable font and in a format which can be opened by anyone is what you should be aiming for. Include your employment, with your most recent employer first, then list your qualifications, then your personal statement and mention that references are available on request.
Don’t be tempted to make your application stand out by using “fun” fonts or colourful backgrounds, pictures etc. Let your experience and qualifications speak for themselves.
TIP: When you send your CV, create it in a Word file or perhaps a PDF and if you’re sending via email you may want to copy the text into the body of the email as well as sending it as an attachment.
One way or another, you will get caught out and as well as not getting the job you may find yourself blacklisted by that company and possibly others too.
TIP: If your qualifications or experience aren’t up to the level required then think of other ways to impress an employer through making the most of your transferable skills or concentrating on the aspects of the job description that you do meet.
#4: Writing too much
A CV should be no longer than two sides of A4 paper. If you haven’t said all you need to say within the first two pages then you need to start over. Don't include every qualification you have ever gained. Just say something like “X GCSEs A-C including Mathematics and English”. Similarly, don’t list every job you’ve ever had, but talk about your most relevant roles starting with the most recent, then work your way backwards.
TIP: If there isn’t room for your hobbies and interests, feel free to leave them out and make your personal statement brief and to the point, rather than taking up half a page.
#5: Writing too little
The recruiter will want to know how well you fit the profile of the ideal candidate for the role and all this information should be easy to find in your CV. Tthere is also a lot of specific information that an employer will expect to see.
For example, if you’re applying for a retail operations role remember to include the number of direct reports you had in each of your previous roles as well as the turnover you managed.
TIP: Make sure you detail any measurable achievements you saw in each role, such as increasing the profitability of your store or the success of a particular range if you're in head office.
#6: Being too generic
Every job description is different, so your CV should be tailored to fit the job to which you are applying. Match your skills, experience and qualifications to the job description where possible. Research the company in detail and try to get a good idea of the culture, then tailor your personal statement to your findings.
TIP: Don’t outright lie about your interests and ambitions, but you can highlight aspects of your personality that fit with the brand. When it comes to CVs a “one size fits all” approach is not the way to go.
Never, ever badmouth your previous company at any stage of the process, no matter how badly you think you were treated in your last position. Criticising your previous company, managers or colleagues will only serve to make you look unprofessional. Similarly, don’t paint yourself in a negative light; although you shouldn’t appear to have an overblown opinion of your skills, you shouldn’t downplay your achievements.
TIP: Keep the tone of your CV and the language you use positive and professional throughout the application process, even if you aren’t selected for the role.
Can you tell a good CV from a bad one?
Take a look at the best and worst ways to present a CV here…