What not to do on your CV

What not to do on your CV

When it comes to your CV, every word counts.

However, with competition for the top roles increasing, even the simplest mistake could be enough to make or break your application.

To avoid getting into any bad habits, here are a few things you definitely shouldn’t do with your CV:

Send the same CV every time

Here’s a very important and relevant fact: CVs are not one-size-fits-all.

Whilst it may be tempting to start sending as many applications as possible (a.k.a. ‘the scattergun strategy’), this approach will not increase your chances of success. In fact, it could end up having the complete opposite effect.

Without tailoring your CV and cover letter to the role in question, your application will be generic, and therefore not of value to the majority of hiring managers. Different recruiters want different things, and different roles require different skills. Without focussing on what they’re looking for, you’re missing out on the opportunity to sell yourself.

For the sake of taking a few minutes more, this is definitely an opportunity you should not be passing up.

Write too much

When writing a CV, some candidates are tempted to include as much information as possible in an effort to impress.

However, a well-written CV does not necessarily mean an overwritten CV. Remember: employers don’t have time to read through your life story. Keep it short, pertinent and to the point if you want your CV to be a success.

Think carefully about whether each line is absolutely necessary. If it’s not relevant, it’s not going to help you get the job. And if it’s not going to help you get the job, all it’s doing is drawing attention away from what you really want them to read.

Keep it to two pages (where possible) and cut down on the filler material.

Use generic language

Socialising with friends. Team working. Other bland attributes.

When you’re stressing to impress, CV clichés can be difficult to avoid. However, these stock phrases will only make you slip back into the crowd, not to mention strip your application of its individuality.

The use of certain bland language could even be a particular bugbear for some hiring managers. In a recent survey, one in three recruiters called ‘socialising with friends’ their biggest pet-hate phrase.

Add value to your application, and use adjectives and active verbs to help back up your achievements. ‘Successfully managed a team of X individuals’ not only sounds much better than ‘good team player’, it’s also far more likely to help get you hired.

Lose structure

Never underestimate the importance of presentation. It’s all very well getting all the words right, but if you haven’t displayed them in the right way a recruiter is unlikely to give your application the time it deserves.

Keep it simple. Avoid using anything too complicated in an effort to impress. Pictures, tables, graphs may look pretty (depending on your affinity to Microsoft Excel) but should be approached with caution. Not only do they take up valuable room, they’re also rather unreliable. If the formatting isn’t pulled through properly, it could make your CV appear unprofessional – even if it’s not your fault.

Choose a professional font, present things in a logical order, use bullet points where possible and embrace the white space.

CV layout dos and don’ts

Get sloppy with spelling

Over 50% of recruiters highlight poor spelling and grammar as their number one reason to lose faith in an application.

In fact, when it comes to making a tough decision over similarly qualified applicants, this could even end up being the direct reason for missing out on a role. Poor spelling makes you look unprofessional and unprepared – two qualities not generally desired by hiring managers.

No matter what stage of your career you’re in, never underestimate the importance of proofreading. Asking a close friend can also be a great way to catch any overlooked mistakes, and help take your application to the next level.

Re-reading: it’s impotent.

Forget your contact details

So you’ve written an engaging CV, put your personality across well and impressed the employer. Unfortunately, you haven’t included any way for them to contact you.

As surprising as it seems, this does actually happen. Some candidates spend so much time perfecting the finer points of their application, they simply don’t take care of the basics.

To avoid any potential missed opportunities, always check that you’ve put a relevant number or email address you often check on your CV (see underline). We’d even recommend making sure your details are the first thing you include. That way, a recruiter will know exactly how to contact you when they’ve made their choice.

Other things to avoid on your CV: The date, the words ‘Curriculum Vitae’ (recruiters know what it is), physical characteristics, irrelevant work experience, emoticons.

Need more CV advice?

It takes an employer just seven seconds to save or reject a job applicant’s CV. This means creating a succinct CV is absolutely vital if you want to land that all-important interview.

To find out how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, buy James Reed’s new book: The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview.



Still searching for your perfect position? Have a look at all of our current vacancies now


8 comments on “What not to do on your CV

  1. Migimoo - May 11, 2016 at 12:35

    “Re-reading. It’s impotent”. Hahahahaha!! The irony! 😁

    1. Michael Cheary - May 11, 2016 at 14:12

      Hi Migimoo,

      We can confirm that this error was made deliberately. We apologise for any confusion/irony/smiley faces caused.

      Have a great day,

  2. Mark Ratcliff - May 17, 2016 at 13:21

    the thing that always made me roll my eyes was people insisting they loved being part of a team but they also loved taking on responsibility and flying solo….and every cv ever written has a claim in it about the writer’s creativity, how they love expressing it, or leveraging it

    1. JibberJabberFule - May 24, 2016 at 21:11

      Sick making its true but then probably 95% of the job descriptions I see specify that the applicant must be able to work alone and also as part of a team

  3. Andrew Middleton - June 1, 2016 at 14:34

    Those cliches you mention are exactly the same cliches recruiters put in their job adverts

  4. Reaction59 - June 20, 2016 at 12:56

    The thing that irritates me most is people stating that they are ‘passionate’ about something, a term which that paragon of falseness Tony Blair popularized. If you really are ‘passionate’ about managing staff, organizing projects or going to countless boring meetings (as you will be in this job) then you are too emotionally unbalanced to work here. Next please!

  5. chris pritchard - July 3, 2016 at 09:23

    Interesting that the first point mentioned is the “not sending the same CV”. While I can understand this is possible if you know who vacancy is for, a large majority of vacancies are handled by recruitment agencies (This is certainly the case in engineering as far as I have seen). Not sure how you would achieve this when recruitment agencies are placing generic job vacancies, that read almost exactly the same every time.

    “We are currently looking for a skilled electrically biased maintenance engineer for a leading FMCG manufacturer…..”
    “My client is a reputable market leading manufacturing business and is looking to grow over the next 12 months……”
    “also implementing exciting changes within their maintenance and engineering team and are looking for candidates who want to be part of this change…”

    From a recently advertised vacancy, with the exception of location and salary range, it reads like 98% of the maintenance roles I have seen, and in some case applied for in the last 4 months………….so how do I tailor my CV between this one and the next one that looks almost the same?

  6. Colin Wright - July 4, 2016 at 08:16

    Be careful what you write in your interests if you really must list them. Someone I interviewed loved horse riding even though she did it once when she was nine. Someone else loved reading. The last book they read was on the GCSE reading list. It might also be worth noting that the recruiter might know more about the last job you did than you think. Were you really accountable for full P&L for the store? It says here you were the sales administrator.