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Eight most common CV mistakes

Trying to make a strong first impression can be exceptionally difficult and quite often, great candidates fall at the first job hunting hurdle by making silly mistakes on their CV. 

We’ve put together a list of the most common pitfalls and tips on how to avoid them.


1. Spelling mistakes and bad grammar

A lack of attention to detail could outweigh your otherwise perfect CV. Spell-check doesn’t always spot errors and is unable to detect misuse of incorrect words, such as ‘diary’ being mistakenly spelt as ‘dairy’, so it's always worth asking a fresh pair of eyes to look over and find any last typos for you. 

Grammar can be tweaked by reading your CV aloud – if it doesn’t sound correct, it's likely that it won’t read very well either. 

2. Focusing on duties rather than achievements

Draw attention to your accomplishments rather than reeling off your job description. Think of successful campaigns, new procedures, sales increases and the specific value you contributed in your current and previous roles. Not all roles have measurable KPI’s, but think of the reasons and examples on how you made an impact and what you can bring to your new employer. 

3. Using clichés

Using terms such as “good communicator;” “can-do-attitude” and “team player” without substantiating them with facts or examples will add very little (if any) value and whoever is reading your CV will just tune out. Snap out of using jargon and highlight specific key skills backed up with valid examples to give your CV credibility.  

4. Incorrect information

Dates which don’t match up, incorrect personal information and blatant tell tales will only leave you stumbling for words when your recruiter or potential employer catches you out. However, you may not even reach face-to-face contact if you’ve written down the incorrect phone number or email address, so make sure you check everything. 

5. Poor format

Unless you’re going for a design role, your CV should not be a piece of art. A sophisticated font, such as Arial or Times New Roman on a clean design is all you need. Make sure it’s easy to read on screen and saved as a recognised file which can be opened as an email attachment, such as a Word doc or PDF.

When employers receive large volumes of CVs, poorly presented ones are often very quickly discounted. Formatting portrays written communication skills, technological competency, attention to detail and your level of professionalism. It is key to have a well formatted CV.

6. Failure to tailor

Make sure you tailor your CV to each role you apply for. List skills, responsibilities and achievements which are specifically job related.  Steer clear of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and adapt to match specific requirements.  

7. Job-hopping and employment gaps

Job-hopping and unemployment gaps can be viewed negatively. However, quite often these are periods where you’ve learned and developed key transferable skills. Grouping similar roles under headings such as ‘freelance’ or ‘contract work’ and stating long periods of travel is far better than leaving blanks. Leaving it up to the employer to guess your situation could result in less flattering conclusions and ultimately have your CV thrown into the rejection pile.  

8. Too long

Your CV is not supposed to be a novel – if the employer is not convinced after two pages; it’s likely they’ll not be persuaded in the next four. Keep it concise and remember less is often more.

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