39 CV mistakes that stop you from getting interviews

December 07 2014 , 0 Comments

39 CV Mistakes

If your job hunt is failing, chances are your CV is letting you down.

Your CV is all an employer has to build a first impression of you, so just one mistake can seriously damage your chances of landing job interviews.

We’ve compiled a list of the 39 most common CV mistakes that lead to rejections and surveyed a group of UK recruiters to rate how damaging each one is.

 CV Mistake Damage Rating

It's rare for any one single CV mistake to cause instant rejection, but usually a combination of several that stop candidates from getting shortlisted.

Check your CV for any of the following errors and get them fixed if you want to start landing job interviews.

 

1. Not tailoring your CV for target employers

CV Tailoring

Your CV must be targeted to appeal solely to the niche of employers and vacancies that you are applying to.

Not tailoring your CV is the most damaging mistake that you can make when writing your CV.

If you only address one mistake on your CV, make it this one.

When an employer reads your CV, the fundamental fact they want to understand is whether or not you can do the job.

If your CV doesn’t include the skills and knowledge that your target employers are looking for, you won’t be shortlisted – no matter how well written and structured your CV is.

Do your research and find out exactly what your desired employers are looking for, then make sure that you are making those requirements prominent on your CV.

Relevant job adverts and company websites are good places to start when researching the requirements for your target roles.

Damage rating: High

 

2. Wild unproven Claims

“Best salesman in Europe”?

“Most successful project manager in the industry”?

“Widely regarded as leading figure in merchant banking”?  

Writing these sort of phrases on your CV may secure you a place on the BBC’s Apprentice, but they just look a bit embarrassing in the real world.

Claims like this are often impossible to prove and do not look very credible.

Use facts and real examples of your success to prove your value to employers whilst remaining humble.

Damage rating: Medium

 

3. A ridiculous email address

Bad email address

When you’re trying to impress and appear credible, it's a big mistake to brand the top of your CV with something like badboyz4eva69@yahoo.com

It looks hugely unprofessional and will have readers questioning your judgement and general approach to work. 

If you do have an email address that seemed really cool when you created it, but now leaves you slightly embarrassed, set up a separate professional email address for your job hunting mail. 

Damage rating: Low

 

4. Big chunks of text

Huge un-broken paragraphs of text are a reader’s worst nightmare – especially when those readers are looking at hundreds of CVs every week.

Big chunk of text

Instead of making employers wade through large messy chunks of text; break the information up into short paragraphs and bullet points. This way they will be able skim read your CV and easily spot the information that they are looking for.

Damage rating: Medium

 

5. Not showing your impact

It’s great to demonstrate your skills and abilities in your CV but you also need to show what sort of impact they make on an employer.

Don’t simply state your responsibilities and knowledge – but go on to explain the results of your skills when you apply them.

CV Impact

For example, don’t just write;

“Producing financial reports and reviewing spending”

Elaborate to show your impact

“Producing financial reports and reviewing spending, resulting in a £10k annual saving”

It may not be possible to do this for every one of your responsibilities but try to do it where possible.

The addition of numbers/figures/facts is a great way to quantify your impact.

Damage rating: Medium

 

 CV writing service  Free CV template

 

6. CV Keyword stuffing

You may have read that your CV will sometimes have to pass through an automated computer CV scanning system before it reaches a human reviewer.

These systems search CVs for key words that are related to a vacancy and then filter out any CVs that don't contain the words they need - therefore ensuring that only relevant CVS reach the recruiter.

Knowledge of this process has caused some candidates to panic and repeatedly cram keywords into their CV in an attempt to "beat the system" - check out the example below.

Keyword stuffing in CV profile

Whilst this may seem like a good idea to ensure that you get your CV in front of decision makers; it's not a great tactic in the long run.

Why not?

Firstly, it looks hugely unnatural and won't make for very good reading when an actual human lays eyes on it.

It ruins the flow of your writing and stops you from communicating your points fully.

If you received a CV that read like this, would you be impressed?

Secondly, not all companies use these systems and good recruiters certainly don't rely on them. Most recruitment process are still very people orientated with IT systems simply supporting the CV reviewing process - not replacing it.

Write your CV to impress real people first and tweak it for computer systems afterwards if need be - but do not stuff keywords in where they shouldn't be.

Damage rating: Medium

 

7. Not giving a high level summary of roles

When writing your role descriptions, avoid diving straight into the details of your responsibilities without setting the scene first. It will make it difficult for readers to understand how your work impacts your employer and how you could fit into a new team.

Start each role with a brief summary of what your employer/team does and how your work contributes to the organisation at high level.

Damage rating: Medium

 

8. Meaningless clichés

CV Cliches

Your CV should focus on hard facts like skills, achievements and industry knowledge. 

Cliché Phrases like “works well in a team or individually” or “blue-sky thinker with a can-do attitude” may look fancy but they don’t actually tell anybody much about you. 

Concentrate on explaining exactly what you've done for your employer and how it has benefited the organisation to show the positive impact that can be made by hiring you.

Bulking out your CV with vague and overly complex descriptions like the one above will just confuse and annoy employers.

Damage rating: Medium

 

9. Reasons for leaving

Employee Leaving

Recruiters don’t need to see the reasons you left for every job on your CV. Your CV should be solely focused on attracting employers by selling your talents.

You will need to convey your motivation for leaving your current role and joining a new employer, but you can explain this briefly in your cover letter – don’t waste space on your CV with it.

Damage rating: Low

 

10. Elaborate fonts

One of the most important aspects of an effective CV is that it should be easy for recruiters and employers to read.

Whilst it can be tempting to use a fancy font to add a bit of elegance to your CV, it will actually make your CV tough to read and give recruiters a bit of a headache.

Take a look at the examples below.

CV Fonts

If you were sifting through hundreds of CVs a week, which font would you be more pleased to see?

Use a simple, clean font like Arial or Tahoma for a professional easy-to-read CV.

Damage rating: Medium

 

Start your CV Writing Service with a free CV review

 

11. Salary requirements/details

CV Salary Details

The purpose of your CV is to secure job interviews by demonstrating your suitability for the roles you are applying for – money does not come into the equation at this stage.

There’s also an element of holding your cards close to your chest when it comes to salary details, if you want to secure the highest possible rate. For example, if a company is able to pay £40k for a job and you’ve already told them that you only want £35K in your CV, then you will make it very difficult to negotiate closer to the £40k mark when it comes to offer stage.

Making salary demands at such an early stage of the application can also seem a little forward in terms of job search etiquette, so wait until the initial telephone conversation to talk about remuneration.

Damage rating: Low

 

12. Logos and images

Logos on a cv

Logos and images aren't necessary in a CV; they often aren't formatted well and take up a lot of space on the page that could be better used describing your value with words.

Too many images can also inflate the file size of your CV and confuse CV scanning software, meaning delayed or failed delivery to some inboxes.

Keep things simple by using text only in your CV.

Damage rating: Low

 

13. Not including enough detail in current role

Your current (or most recent) role, is one of the most important factors in your CV.

After giving your CV a quick scan, most recruiters will jump straight to your current role and study it in some detail.

The reason for this is that your current role gives recruiters the greatest indication of what you’re currently capable of.

Not enough info in first role on CV

If you have rushed the addition of your latest job to your CV and you’re not including all of your newly acquired skills and experience, then you are doing yourself a great disservice.

When updating your CV, dedicate some serious time and effort to writing your latest role, it will pay off in the long run.

The only time this could be acceptable is if you are a recent school leaver and your most recent role is less relevant than  your education or other factors in the CV.

Damage rating: High

 

14. Too much detail in older roles

Employers don’t need to know all of your day-to-day responsibilities from a job that you did 10 years ago – they will only glance at them at most.

Older CV roles

When describing older roles, a short summary will suffice and free up space to add more details in recent roles.

Damage rating: Low

 

15. Crazy CV colours

Whilst a splash of colour has become more common in CVs recently (Especially when applying to less conventional firms); be cautious with the amount and type of colours you use.

If you're going to add a bit of colour then stick to safe colours and only use them in headings.

Don't go overboard by writing the whole CV in a bright neon colour or changing the background colour.

Colours on CV

When applying to traditional companies like banks or law firms, play it safe with black and white.

Damage rating: Medium

 

CV writing service  Free CV template

 

16. CV Skills graphs

CV Skills graphs

The idea behind CV skills graphs is that they give readers a quick visual demonstration of a candidate’s abilities in certain areas.

However the problem with skills graphs is that they offer no real tangible scale and often leave employers with no real indication of skill levels.

Instead of using skills graphs; stick to plain and simple facts written in text.

To give indications of skill levels that recruiters can actually relate to, use real life measurements such as;

  • Length of experience – “3 years HTML coding experience”
  • Qualifications and training - “Windows certified”
  • Scale of tasks – “Led a team of 5 in the management of a £50k event”

Damage rating: Medium

 

17. Inconsistent use of fonts

Inconsistent CV fonts

Few things make a CV look messier than a mish-mash of fonts scattered across the page.

Use one font throughout the whole CV or use one for the body of your writing and another for headings.

Damage rating: Medium

 

18. Excessive word repetition

Repeating a word several times in a short space of your CV shows poor written communication and a lack of creativity.

Repetition in CV

If you find that you have done this in your own CV, have a think about how you could restructure the sentence or head over to thesaurus.com to find some alternative words to replace your overused terms.

Damage rating: Medium

 

19. Messy CV page transitions

Your CV is a professional document and should be formatted accordingly. Messy page transitions like the one below, look sloppy and may worry recruiters.

Bad CV page transition

If you received a leaflet from a business and the information was poorly laid out like the above, you would probably have reservations about hiring them – the same is true of recruiters, when they see a poorly structured CV like this.

This is not a deal breaker but definitely worth fixing by adjusting your page margins or moving a section on the next page.

Damage rating: Low

 

20. Photographs

Photo on CV

Unless you’re a model or actor, then a photograph will not add value to your CV; especially not a professionally staged shot with an attempt at a profound looking pose. The best it will achieve is a few laughs from recruiters as it gets passed round the office for their amusement. 

Space on your CV is limited so use it wisely by filling it with compelling content that will convince the reader that you are worthy of an interview.

Damage rating: Low

 

Start your CV Writing Service with a free CV review

 

21. Too many pages

Too may pages on CV

A seven page CV is not going to be read by a busy recruiter or employer – they just don’t have the time when dealing with scores of applications.

Keep your CV as close to two pages as possible and make your points short and sharp, to ensure that you are communicating the important information quickly and creating a high impact CV.

Damage rating: Medium

 

22. Basic language

Your CV is supposed to be an impressive professional document and the language you use plays an important part in that.

If you use overly simplistic terminology throughout your CV, you run the risk of appearing as an average candidate with poor communication skills.

Avoid writing sentences like this;

"Helping out with different important tasks to free up time for the manager"

It looks very simple and isn’t very descriptive due to the basic wording.

Instead; use more precise terminology and well structured sentences to explain your points properly.

For example you could change the above to;

"Supporting various business critical functions to relieve management of administration duties"

Damage rating: High

 

23. Ordering roles incorrectly

Roles should be listed in reverse chronological order; meaning that you start with your current role at the top and work your way down to your oldest role.

CV Order

The reason for this, is that recruiters want to know what your current abilities are and they will study your current or most recent role in great detail to find out. They are not hugely interested in the roles you did 5 or 10 years ago, as you’ve probably progressed quite a lot since then.

This mistake is considered to be quite a clanger and not many people make it, so ensure that it’s not in your CV.

Damage rating: High

 

24. Unexplained Gaps in your CV

CV Gaps

Sometimes there will be gaps in your employment; it’s a fairly common occurrence for people to have time out of work.

But if you leave a big gap in your work history without explaining it, you will worry employers. It gives the impression that you just haven’t done anything for that period.

Don’t be afraid to write about time out travelling or completing personal projects when writing your CV. It’s better to show that you’ve been doing something constructive than nothing at all. Some employers even like to see activities like travelling as it can demonstrate pro-activity and social abilities.

Another thing you shouldn’t be ashamed of including, is time out due to serious illness. Illness is something that’s out of your control and good employers will not discriminate against you for it.

Damage rating: High

 

25. Sending your CV as a PDF

Do not send CV in PDF

Although it may seem like a good idea to send your CV as a PDF to give it a more polished look, there are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t.

  • It’s not editable:

Recruiters often have to make edits to your CV before sending on to a client or hiring manager as some companies have a standard format that all CVs in their process must be changed in to, or sometimes recruiters will just need to make a few tweaks to your CV before sending to clients/hiring managers. (e.g. removing contact details or highlighting experience)

If your CV is sent in PDF, recruiters cannot edit it and they will need to contact you and ask for an editable version, which will slow your application down and may even cost you an opportunity.

  • Microsoft Word is the most widely used and accepted CV format

99.9% of recruiters and hiring managers work with systems that are prepared to open and read Microsoft Word documents, so it’s best to use Word if you want to ensure your CV gets read.

Damage rating: Low

 

CV writing service  Free CV template

 

26. Including reference details

References on CV

Employers will not ask for reference details until offer stage, so there’s no need to waste space on your CV by including the names and addresses of 10 ex-managers.

More importantly, some less-scrupulous recruiters may contact referees without your permission in order to pitch their services – this could be damaging to your relationships.

Damage rating: Low

 

27. Poor file naming

When you email your CV to somebody, the document name can be clearly seen in the attachments.  If you haven’t give the file a suitable name, it can look a little unprofessional.

CV File name

Take a couple of seconds to change the file name to something that creates a more polished image. Your name followed by CV should suffice.

Damage rating: Low

 

28. Wasting space

Ideally you should be trying to fit your CV on to 2 pages, so leaving lots of blank space due to large page margins and gaps between sections is not a good idea.

Reduce your page margins, avoid using big gaps between sections and make sure you squeeze your contact details down into a small area at the top of your CV.

Focus on filling the limited space you have, with compelling reasons to hire you.

Damage rating: Low

 

29. Grammar mistakes

Strong candidates will be expected to have strong written communication skills, so grammar mistakes can seriously harm your credibility.

CV Grammar Mistakes

Proof read your CV to check for grammatical errors and use a grammar checking tool like Grammarly if you want further reassurance.         

You can also take a look at this infographic from CopyBlogger that shows the 15 most common grammar errors.

Damage rating: High

 

30. Spelling mistakes

 CV Spelling

With automatic spell checkers coming as standard with most word processing packages, you really shouldn’t have incorrectly spelt words on your CV.

It goes without saying that spelling mistakes will damage the perception of your CV massively.

Don’t become completely reliant on spellcheck to eliminate all errors though – it won’t always pick up typos or miss-used words, so take the time to proof read your CV.

Damage rating: High

 

Start your CV Writing Service with a free CV review

 

31. Writing in third person narration

Your CV is a communication between yourself and your potential employers; so it should be written accordingly in the first person narrative.

Third Person CV

CV’s written in third person narration break the communication channel slightly and can also appear a little arrogant and out-of-touch.

In my experience, third-person narration also tends to be a sign that the candidate may be a bit of a diva – which is not the image you should be projecting.

Write your CV in the first person narrative to connect with readers and demonstrate an unpretentious attitude.

Damage rating: Medium

 

32. Your date of birth or age

Employers do not need to know your date of birth or age to make a decision on whether to hire you or not - they only need to know if you have the right skills and experience.

Damage rating: Low

 

33. Your full address

CV Address

Similar to your date of birth, your full address is surplus to requirement. It will take up a lot of space on your CV and it’s more detail than recruiters need to see.

Instead of your full address, just include your general location (e.g. London, Manchester etc.) and if you are willing to relocate, then make that known also.

Damage rating: Low

 

Keep your personal information safe: Your date of birth and address are valuable pieces of information that can be used against you if they get in to the wrong hands.

If an ID thief gets hold of your name, address and DOB, they can potentially apply for finance in your name - so it’s best not to place these details on a document that you will be circulating online.

 

34. Strange or controversial interests

If you have any interests that may offend certain groups or give a slightly odd first impression of you – then just don’t include them.

At best they won’t make a difference, at worst they may lead to your rejection.

Damage rating: Medium

 

35. Padding

Sometimes candidates (especially junior candidates) will panic if their CV is coming in a bit short and try to “pad it out” by lengthening sentences and including surplus details.

Recruiters want to see the important facts quickly and padding will only weaken your message, so don’t try to lengthen your CV for the sake of it.

If you are worried that your CV is lacking anything, then scan LinkedIn for similar candidates to yourself and see if they are including any important information that you aren’t.

My CV writing guide will also help if you’re unsure of what your CV should include.

Damage rating: Medium

 

CV writing service  Free CV template

 

36. Lies

CV Lies

Lies on your CV such as improved qualifications or fabricated experience are not advised.

Do some people lie on their CV and get away with? Sure, some people probably do… but it's not worth the risk.

Firstly, diligent recruiters will look into facts that don’t add up, so you could find yourself getting caught out in the early stages and even blacklisted from certain agencies.

Secondly, if you manage to blag a job based on skills and experience that you don’t have; you’re going to struggle to perform from day one in the job, and will eventually get caught out anyway.

Damage rating: High

 

37. Overuse of personal pronouns

Recruiters and employers will understand who you are referring to without the need to frequently repeat the words I, me etc.

Sometimes you will need to include personal pronouns but it should be the exception rather than the rule.

As you can see from the examples below – the language flows a lot better and sounds more professional when you refrain from using personal pronouns.

CV personal pronouns

Damage rating: Medium

 

38. Leaving CV template instructions in

CV Template Instructions

Using a good CV template is a great way to get a head start in the writing of your CV, but make sure that you remove any instructions that are included in it.

This is a really sloppy mistake that will not go down well with recruiters and employers.

Damage rating: High

 

39. Unclear CV section divisions

In order for your CV to be easily navigated and look professional, you need to ensure that it’s sections are clearly defined.

A CV like this where sections aren't properly structured, is difficult to read and looks messy.

Poor CV sections

Clearly divide your CV sections with bold headings and sufficient spacing, for ease of reading and a professional outlook.

Damage rating: Medium

 

CV Mistakes - Conclusion

There are a number of mistakes to avoid when writing your CV which can cause of range of negative effects on your job applications.

As a minimum you should remove all of the high-damage mistakes but also try to remove all other mistakes when you have the time.

Don't let your CV stand out for the wrong reasons.

For further help in writing your CV, you can check out my Ultimate CV Writing Guide which comes with a free CV template.

 

Start your CV Writing Service with a free CV review

Learn how to write a CV


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