Writing a CV not only demands time but also unwavering attention to detail. You have to think back for dates of education and jobs; you need to work out what you should say, and then write, revise and polish so that your CV paints a glowing picture. And then there’s the proofreading on top!
So that your CV gets the attention it deserves, avoid these 10 common clangers:
1. Not bothering with a covering letter.
Without a covering letter, your CV may end up straight in the bin. A covering letter is vital because it gives you the opportunity to highlight any relevant qualifications or experience, explain any employment gaps or provide other information to make the employer want to read your CV.
2. Assuming a spelling check is good enough.
In a 2007 survey, 63 per cent of recruitment managers told CareerBuilder.co.uk that spelling errors are the most frequent mistakes in CVs. Never rely on doing a spelling check (I typed ‘relay’ instead of ‘rely’ accidentally and it wasn’t picked up). Check and check again and ask a friend to check for you. Attention to detail and strong written communication skills are requirements of many jobs. If there are two similarly skilled candidates and one has spelling errors on the CV, who is more likely to be picked?
3. Repeating yourself.
In the same CareerBuilder.co.uk survey, 30 per cent of recruitment managers said CVs not tailored to the position was the most frequent or annoying mistake. Don’t dish out the same CV and covering letter time and time again. Always make them relevant to each job and employer.
4. Focussing on roles, not achievements.
Explain what you have achieved for the company. For instance, it’s easy to state you have experience in sales, but employers will take more note if you say you were responsible for a 10 per cent growth in overall sales.
5. Being general.
Some employers may search through CVs online using keywords. If you’re posting your CV online, make sure employers can find you quickly and easily by using key phrases that are similar to the ones in ads for jobs you like.
6. Giving your CV format a creative touch.
One candidate printed his CV on ‘Garfield the Cat’ paper. Avoid being snazzy – keep your CV looking professional by sticking to standard white or cream-coloured paper, black type and an easily legible font such as Arial or Times New Roman.
7. Guesstimating your dates and titles.
Prospective employers are scrupulous and any white lies — including stretching employment dates to hide gaps — could be spotted. Why take chances? According to a UK survey for Experian, nearly half of HR managers at the UK’s biggest firms can tell when a CV is lying. It found that 37 per cent of job seekers had lied about their previous experience, 21 per cent about their qualifications and 19 per cent about their salaries.
8. Tell everyone why you left.
Honest is always the best policy but it’s perfectly acceptable to stay quiet until asked. Don’t put anything negative on your CV — if you left because you were laid off or fired, then only mention it if asked.
9. Include lots of personal information.
What you do in your spare time is up to you. But there’s no point mentioning it unless it’s relevant to the job you’re after. The same goes for your height, weight, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or any other facts that could potentially be used against you.
10. Droning on.
That paper round at the age of 12 isn’t relevant to your career, so there’s no reason to include it on your CV. Your CV should be no more than two pages – and no more than a page for most professionals – so only include your most recent and relevant work history. The CareerBuilder.co.uk survey found one candidate took eight pages to describe all the tasks done at previous jobs.
With so much competition around, ensnaring that interview can be just as important as landing the job. Without a good CV and covering letter, you’re on a starter to nowhere.
By Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.co.uk editor
Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.co.uk. She’s an expert in job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.