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Top ten most common CV mistakes and how to avoid them

By Rob Muddiman on 10 Mar 2015

As a recruiter we receive a lot of CVs and although it is good to stand out, you don’t want your CV to stand out for the wrong reason! We asked our colleagues what the most common mistakes were on a CV and here are the top ten and how to avoid them:

No phone number or email address

You will be surprised how many people don’t put contact details on a CV.  If an employer likes the look of your CV, then you want them to be able to get in touch with you quickly. If you make it difficult by not providing a phone number or email address, then you might be moved to the bottom of the shortlist pile. Make it as easy as possible for employers to get in touch, it could be the difference of getting that job or not.

Use a suitable email address and not a ‘fun’ unprofessional email address, with any nicknames. Set up a professional one, which you use purely for job searching if necessary.

Bad punctuation

Spell check amends a lot of our work and underlines words in green when it believes punctuation is incorrect, however it won’t always pick up these errors.  Ensure you are proof reading your CV thoroughly. Don’t just read it online, print it out and read it aloud, ask someone else to read it for you, read it backwards. Common bad grammar mistakes include:

  • Their/they’re/there
  • You’re/your
  • Math’s

Bad typos

‘Manger’ instead of ‘manager’ and ‘dairy’ instead of ‘diary’ are our favourites. Spell check won’t pick up on these as they are correctly-spelled words, but often not what applicants meant to say. As when checking bad punctuation, make sure you proof read your CV thoroughly.

Also ensure spellings are in English versions and not American.  Often spell checkers will default to American, unless you change this.

Past work history

It is important to include your work history with your most present role at the top, working backwards to your first role. Most importantly ensure that all dates on your work history are accurate, these will be checked when references are taken and employers have access to LinkedIn; if dates are different this can be embarrassing and raise questions. Refer to the months as well as years you worked for each employer.

Word does automatically format dates when you hit enter, so be sure to double check these haven’t changed before submitting a CV.

Writing essays on CVs

Your CV should be easy to read, so write short, to the point statements explaining your experience and responsibilities.  You will be given an opportunity to go into more detail at interview stage or use a cover letter to explain anything in more detail.  Most employers only scan a CV, so it should be less than 2 pages and short sentences and bullets make it easier to pick out the key words and skills that they are looking for.

Creative formatting

Unless applying for a very creative role or if it is specifically asked for, it is best to keep your CV as a word document, without graphics/ word clouds/ fancy fonts and layouts.  Anything else can be difficult to follow and often the person shortlisting your CV won’t be a creative expert, so won’t know if it is a good creative piece or not, instead they are more concerned with your work history and qualifications. Many HR systems require a text version of a CV, so if you do choose to use creative formatting make sure you have a text version to send alongside it.

Including irrelevant information

There is no benefit to including where your current employer is based, so why include it? The only time it might be worth mentioning location is if a role is based internationally and may mean the qualifications or experience required is slightly different. Other irrelevant information includes:

  • Your date of birth – you do not need to provide this under The Equality Act 2010
  • Number/ age of children, where your children study/ work
  • Irrelevant/outdated skills, such as old programmes that no longer exist

Your CV should only be 2 pages, so use this for relevant information and remember to be mindful of the role you are applying for to ensure you are highlighting the most relevant information as per the job specification.

Not putting key achievements on your CV

When employers are shortlisting they want to be able to see your key achievements, so ensure these are stated on your CV. Most employers scan over a CV, so they should be bold and stand out.  Your CV is a real chance to sell yourself. Everyone can say they are a team player and able to work to deadlines etc, but you need to make yours stand out. Why should they interview you? How have you gone above and beyond? How have you added value in your job? Use facts and figures and keep it concise and punchy.

Writing in the third person

When writing about your achievements and experience write in the first person, eg ‘my experience, I managed’. This topic is often debated amongst recruitment professionals, but the general consensus is you should write in the first person as it is about yourself. Writing in the third person can put some people off, so maximise your chances of being shortlisted by avoiding this.

Putting salaries on the CV

Many roles are advertised with a fixed salary and although showing what you earned can be helpful, if this is outside of what the role is advertised at, it can put potential employers off. It is much better to discuss salary with your recruitment consultant or if apply directly with the hiring manager or HR professional, at interview stage or when asked by the employer, which you can then back up with reasoning, especially when taking a pay cut or promotion.

For further career advice on the application process, such as writing a good cover letter, visit our career advice.