Top 5 CV mistakes

Author
Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
Posted
January, 2016

Nailing your job application is vital in today's ultra-competitive employment market. Discover some of the most common CV blunders and how you can avoid them…

When you've found and applied for your dream graduate job, the thought of being rejected at the first hurdle is the stuff of nightmares. However, it's surprisingly easy to make even the most basic of mistakes when writing your CV.

We've asked two experts for their advice on how to avoid the most common errors and ensure that you stand out for the right reasons.

Poor formatting

CVs that aren't clear and easily readable are a huge turn-off for employers. National Citizen Service (NCS) research shows that recruiters spend an average of just 8.8 seconds reviewing each CV that they receive - which leaves you precious little time to make a good first impression.

It's therefore important to keep your CV concise so that it can be absorbed quickly. Helen Tucker, HR director at Procter and Gamble (P&G) Northern Europe, recommends that the template you choose to follow when composing your CV should be striking yet uncluttered. 'Avoid confusing layouts, and beware of using too many fonts or font sizes,' she advises.

Before printing or submitting your CV, spend some time away from it. Peter Fox, careers adviser at Durham University, suggests that you then scrutinise how everything looks on your computer screen. 'Cluttered, disorganised and messy are three characteristics that your CV shouldn't possess,' he adds.

Failing to tailor your application

When it comes to CVs, one size never fits all. Everything that you include must be completely tailored to the company and role that you're applying for. This, as Helen puts it, will 'make it easy for them to see that you're the perfect candidate'.

Peter claims that recruiters can immediately sense whether you've sufficiently assessed the job requirements. Evaluating which of your skills match the job specification most effectively will give you the best chance of success.

'Don't be afraid to remove irrelevant experiences,' Peter adds. 'Even if you're applying for similar roles with different organisations, check their specific requirements and tweak accordingly.'

Lack of evidence

It's easy to make generic, empty statements on your CV when you're frantically trying to meet a tight application deadline. However, failing to effectively evidence your skills, achievements and experiences can be a fatal mistake. 'Anyone can say 'I have leadership skills',' says Helen. 'Explaining where you got them makes the statement a lot more credible.'

Peter believes that you should quantify your successes whenever possible - but never at the expense of the CV's readability. 'Recruiters will be assessing not just what you've done, but also your written communication skills,' he explains. 'Writing concisely but meaningfully is crucial, as this is a central element of many graduate jobs.'

Not explaining 'why'

Employers want to know that you've been committed to planning your career by gaining relevant experience and honing appropriate skills. You can prove your credentials by justifying why you've chosen to undertake certain activities in terms of your personal and professional development. You should then elaborate even further on the resulting skills that you've gained.

For example, discussing your extra-curricular activities is very important - providing that you pay particular attention to any positions of responsibility you've held and outline what you've taken from the experience. This is also a fantastic way to convey your personality, which will help you to stand out from other candidates.

'As a general rule, okay CVs give you the "what"? - for example, what degrees or jobs that person has held,' explains Helen. 'However, great CVs also give you the "why"? - for example, why that person has chosen that degree or society.'

Spelling errors

There are no excuses for making spelling mistakes - even if English isn't your forte. An error-free CV is vital in showcasing your precision and attention to detail, so check everything - even information that you'd think it would be impossible to get wrong, such as your contact details. Spellcheck and proofread your CV yourself before asking others to cast their critical eye over the document.

The best way to minimise the risk of making mistakes is to take your time - never leave writing your CV to the last minute, as rushed examples are easily spotted and quickly dismissed. 'In this brutal and competitive world of graduate recruitment, careless errors are rarely tolerated,' concludes Peter. 'Avoid needless rejection by slowly and meticulously checking for errors.'

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