Let me set the scene. You have spent countless hours applying for what seems like every position in the industry. Anxiously, you check your inbox for the 10th time today, and to your surprise, you find an application response.
‘Thank you for your interest in this position. The selection committee appreciates the vast amount of time you have invested in your application’; it reads, have your efforts finally been recognised?
‘Unfortunately, your application is not one selected for further consideration’. Fatigued and frustrated, you wonder whether your application has ever seen the outside of an office paper bin.
Candidates are often so eager to leave a strong impression that their CV is susceptible to careless mistakes. The following 7 points are the most common CV blunders, which will prevent you from progressing to the next stage.
Humanising your CV by including certain interests can differentiate you from other candidates. However, it is important to avoid oversharing personal details which may leave your application more suitable for match.com than indeed.com.
Your age, date of birth, religion, ethnicity, photograph and marital status should never be included on your CV because these details have no relation to your professional capability and will not give recruitment any idea on how you perform in a working environment. Furthermore, you should not include details of social media handles – unless used in a professional capacity such as LinkedIn – and ensure all accounts are not associated with career-damaging content.
2. Listing skills instead of demonstrating them
If a man told you he could fly, would you believe him? No, of course not – you would require proof. Why should a recruiter believe you are the perfect candidate you describe yourself to be without proof? Henceforth, demonstrate how you have developed certain skills through personal experiences as opposed to including a skills section. Including these in bullet points under specific experiences/positions provides evidence that you have developed these skills. Coincidently, almost every applicant happens to be ‘hard-working’, ‘proactive’, ‘passionate’ and a ‘team-player’. Therefore, to differentiate yourself, avoid using cliché qualities in your headline or in position descriptions.
3. Including dull and irrelevant interests
The interests section is an opportunity to reveal elements of your personality through activities such as hobbies, volunteering, charity work, extra-curricular activities and awards/achievements. What constitutes as an appropriate interest to include on a CV is subjective. Aim to avoid typical activities such as ‘socialising’ and ‘watching films’ because this will not differentiate you. Focus on interests where you hold a level of responsibility, with transferable skills, related to your career field and that fits with your company’s culture. For example, an aspiring technologist may include ‘coding’ or an aspiring legal professional may include ‘mooting’. Give a brief explanation of each interest, highlighting positions of responsibility you have had while partaking in this activity. If you do not have any relevant interests, it is better to save space and remove this section.
4. Listing the job description under work experience positions
Detailing your job function – particularly if it has little relevance to your desired profession – will not be received well by recruiters. Instead, write a short, one sentence description of what this experience/job entailed. As an example, for work experience at a law firm, you may write: ‘Two weeks’ work experience at a City law firm with insight into commercial and intellectual property law’. Underneath, include brief bullet points which market your achievements, detail key projects you have worked on and the skillset you have developed in this position. Aim to use active verbs with words such as ‘organised’, ‘led’, and ‘monitored’ in place of ‘I was responsible for…’
5. Using an unprofessional format
Avoiding colloquialisms and maintaining a formal register within your writing is a given. Other features threaten your professionalism such as immature email names: it is time for change firstname.lastname@example.org! Writing in the third person should be avoided, although including too many personal pronouns is not advisable because the text clearly applies to you. A slightly more obscure formatting issue is using an unprofessional title when saving the CV document on your computer, as surprisingly to some, recruiters can see this once it is sent to them.
The presentation of your CV is equally as important. Ensure all text is black and that a professional font is chosen (Calibri or Times New Roman). You should also avoid including large amounts of unbroken text so that the application is read easily. Additionally, if there is a page break, prevent information within sentences or bullet points from being spread across each page messily by aiming to keep sections together.
6. Writing too much
If an employer does not want to hire you after two pages, it is unlikely that their mind will change by page four. Contrastingly, if your CV is under 2 pages, do not include meaningless sentences to fill out the space as this will contribute nothing: a concise and well written CV is favourable. In the interest of saving space, do not include the full details of your references. Alternatively, state ‘references are available upon request’ at the bottom of the document.
7. Inaccurate spelling and grammar
Proofread, proofread and proofread again! Spelling and grammar errors are perhaps the most common reason for rejection because it suggests a lack of care and attention to detail. Ensure your tense is consistent throughout – in previous job positions speak in past tense and in current positions speak in an ongoing present tense (e.g. use ‘overseeing’ as opposed to ‘oversee’).