CV mistakes to avoid
6 common CV mistakes to avoid
Read time: 5 minutes | Author: Susie Timlin - Chief Operating Officer at UKGI
6 CV mistakes to avoid:
- Not tailoring your CV to the job and organisation
- You don't get to the core quickly
- Tooting your own horn too much
- Submitting a biography rather then a CV
- Embellishing the facts
- Including your references full in contact detials
When writing your CV, ask not what the business can do for you, but what you can do for the business. It’s important that the organisation is the right fit for you, but you need to first demonstrate how you see yourself working, and excelling, within that organisation in your CV.
The point here is to not blindly boast about your grandest achievements over the years, but to only pull out a handful of the most pertinent to the role and the organisation. First and foremost you need to sell yourself to the business and talk directly to the reader; you can then later decide during the interview process whether the business has, in turn, adequately sold itself to you.
The exact amount of time that recruiters or hiring managers spend looking at your CV varies depending upon your source – some say it’s as short as six seconds – so it’s important that you make the important information as accessible and prominent as possible.
Don’t slowly amble in, building up to a crescendo of your proudest accolades just in time for the recruiter to discard your CV – put them front and centre!
Remember, recruiters and hiring managers review CVs for a living – they will be able to see straight through any bluster or bravado. One of the CV mistakes that are a turn-off for many recruiters is candidates who refer to themselves in the third person e.g. ‘John is an insatiably creative individual’. The recruiter will know you’ve written it so focus on making it personable and direct; facilitating more of a conversational style, as opposed to a cold list of bullet-points.
TRY AND DEMONSTRATE YOUR SUCCESS WITH REAL FACTS AND FIGURES
I’d also advise against personal summaries in your CV which are too self-aggrandizing. After reviewing so many LinkedIn profiles, CVs and conducting a certain number of interviews, recruiters become immune to words such as “passionate” and “motivated”. These words are too vague and clichéd to have any real impact; keep your personal summary original and unique to you.
Rather than cramming in every positive adjective that you can think of, try and demonstrate your ability and success with real facts and figures. Instead of saying “I’m an ambitious and motivated sales professional who works well in both teams and by myself”, try “My unrelenting ambition to become a top salesperson has led me to undertake courses in X and X to help fill gaps in my skillset. I applied these new skills to my position within a team as well as solo-work where I achieved X sales in year X”. If you can’t substantiate your claims then there is no use to including them.
Using complicated business jargon is unlikely to impress either. Of course, use words to help describe previous roles, but don’t just use complicated terms for the sake of trying to sound good.
I’m a fan of a short, concise CV that is clearly tailored to the role and speaks directly to me. Avoid writing a CV which is pages long; recruiters and hiring managers only require the salient facts. Grab their attention with concise bullet-points and terse descriptions, as opposed to sprawling, verbose sentences.
This goes for professionals of all levels of seniority. It doesn’t matter how illustrious a career you’ve had, none of us need pages and pages to sell ourselves for a particular position and, if you do, then you’re probably including information that isn’t relevant. This comes back to my first point about following your own agenda; focus your CV on only the job description and you won’t have to worry about excessive length.
The quickest way to make yourself unpopular with hiring managers and recruiters is to embellish the facts or outright fabricate your employment history and/or personal achievements. You may not be pulled up on it immediately, but at some point down the line you will come to regret it. Amongst the top egregious fabrications are: giving yourself a retrospective promotion, taking credit for the work of another employee, overstating your length in a company and claiming to have qualifications you never obtained – you can read about the consequences of these mistakes in greater detail in this blog.
If there’s information in your past which you’d rather not mention – such as being fired from a company – then you’re entirely within your rights to omit it from your CV, but when later asked about it it’s always best to be up front and honest.
There are some imperfections you can’t correct
SOFT SKILLS ARE ALWAYS HARD TO ARTICULATE IN A CV
There are many things that your CV won’t include, which are of equal value to your chances of being successfully selected. Soft skills are always hard to properly articulate in a CV, for example. The same applies for assessing a candidate’s fit in an organisation; it’s not until the interview stage that an employer can get a clear idea of whether the candidate has the right personality.
As our CEO Alistair Cox says in his Influencer blog, “Your human instinct in the hiring process has never been so important, because most recruitment failures are the result of a poor cultural fit. It makes the interview process even more important”. So, whilst you won’t be able to give a full insight into your character on a typed piece of A4, at least give enough of an enticing preview to land you an interview – during which you can truly express yourself!
Review and hit send
Whole books have been written on how to write a CV; however it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Quite the opposite; keep yours succinct, snappy and salient to the position you’re applying for and sooner or later you’ll land the job you’ve always wanted.