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Nine most common CV mistakes and how to avoid them

Posted on 10/07/2020 by Tracey George MIRP


As a specialist recruitment consultancy, representing many different organisations, 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! One of the best ways to avoid this, is to check your CV against some of the most common mistakes, highlighted below: 

No phone number or email address 

You will be surprised how many people don’t put contact details on their CV.  If an employer likes the look of your CV, then you want them to be able to get in touch with you quickly.  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 & typos 

The spell check function amends a lot of our work and underlines words  when it believes punctuation is incorrect, however some errors it will be unable to pick up, for example:   

  • ‘Manger’ instead of ‘manager’ 

  • ‘Dairy’ instead of ‘diary’  

Ensure you spell check setting is set to the English UK version, as this often defaults to American.  

Ensure you proof-read your CV thoroughly and ask a family member or friend to check this for you too.  

There are additional apps that can help with grammar, such as grammarly, which will check and make alternative suggestions.  

Past work history 

It is important to include your work history with your most recent role at the top, working backwards to your first role. Most importantly ensure that all dates on your work history are accurate, refer to the months as well as years you worked for each employer. 

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

Writing essays on CVs 

Your CV should be easy to read, so write short, to the point statements explaining your experience, responsibilities and achievements.  You will be given an opportunity to go into more detail at interview stage or use a cover letter/ supporting statement to explain anything in more detail.   

Ideally your CV should be 2 pages, sometimes 3 depending on your work history.  Short sentences and bullets make it easier to pick out key words or skills employers 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.   

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. 

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.  Your CV is an opportunity to sell yourself.  Everyone can say they are a team player and able to work to deadlines etc, but you need to demonstrate this in your CV with evidence-based statements.  Don’t just list your duties and responsibilities, think about achievements and outcomes, these often impress employers more.  

Writing in the third person 

This topic is often debated amongst recruitment professionals, but the consensus is you should write in the first person as it is about yourself, eg 'my experience,' 'I managed.'

Don’t ignore gaps in your work history 

Gaps in employment history are quite common and if they are explained honestly, this will not usually present any problems with employers.  At TPP, we believe honesty is always the best policy. 

Don't be afraid to let recruiters or employers know that you took some time out to volunteer, care for family, travel or take a career break due to having children. There's also no shame in informing employers of a period spent away from work due to an illness, medical condition or redundancy.  It is the role of a recruiter to support you with your job search and a good recruiter will want to represent your history in an honest and transparent way. 

You'll be able to explain gaps in your work history in your cover letter or supporting statement too. 

Tailoring your CV 

It’s a common mistake that people have one generic CV they use for every job they apply for.  

In a competitive market, where employers are receiving many applications for each role, you need to make your CV stand out. If you have the relevant experience asked for in the person specification, ensure you show this on your CV.  

For further career advice you can access our Employability Hub or contact a TPP Consultant on 020 7198 6000, who would be happy to help.