Top 10 CV Mistakes

Jul 21, 2010 by

First of all, I have yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys writing a CV. Let’s face it, that would be a bit weird.

Typically, for us Brits at least, to blow one’s own trumpet has a squirm-inducing effect. That said, your CV is likely to be your best shot at making that all-important positive 1st impression.

You may be tempted to out-source your CV to a 3rd party, but do so with caution. Believe me, you can tell when you get a CV that’s been churned out. Have a crack at it yourself, seeking advice and opinions from friends and family, or from useful expert blogs.

DIY, done well, will stand you in good stead.

The majority of the content of your CV will be personal to you and therefore impossible to comment on.

Instead I have compiled…

A Top 10 of Common CV Mistakes

Sometimes what not to do is as important as what to do.

Mistake 1. Heading it ’Curriculum Vitae’.

If it’s not obvious what your CV is then I would suggest that you have a problem on your hands. The one thing that your CV does not need, however, is a title. Start with your full name, address, telephone number(s) and email address. There is a high probability that your CV will be printed off and stapled together, so don’t put your contact details at the bottom of the last page. The fact that the page looks like a CV will do the rest.

Mistake 2. Overcomplicating things.

You may think that using colours, fonts, clip art, boxes, highlights, photos, and all the other Word tricks you know will demonstrate your computer skills, but all you are doing is making life difficult for yourself. CVs with bells and whistles like that can be very difficult to read and look unprofessional. Too much going on will detract from the most important thing = YOU!

Mistake 3. Negative messages and unnecessary information.

Avoid giving your reader any reason to reject you because you said something they would view as negative. For example, don’t list your reasons for leaving jobs, such as ‘poor salary’, ‘dispute with boss’, or ‘job was boring’. Similarly too much personal information, such as children’s names and dates of birth or the name of your dog (yes really!), are highly unlikely to be relevant to the potential employer. They also leave you open to identity theft.

Mistake 4. Too lengthy.

Does it really need to be 8 pages long? Aim for 2 pages. Nobody needs more than 2 pages, believe me. If you do need more, refer back to Mistake 3: is it necessary information? Consider how it will look once printed off too because a single sentence on your 3rd page is best avoided.

Mistake 5. No personal profile.

You are aiming to engage with a potential employer. Keep it concise and considered but don’t boast. A few sentences about your achievements, key skills, and motivations will convey your personality. Ensure to back yourself up with any relevant facts and figures. A sentence on hobbies and interests outside of work should also help but, for goodness sake, think how it will reflect on you. Telling your potential new boss that you enjoy clubbing and partying, for instance, might get you labelled as a drunkard.

Mistake 6. Work experience as a list of duties.

Try to avoid making your CV look like a job description. Give jargon and abbreviations a swerve – at all cost! Tailor your CV to your specific sector but do not make assumptions that the reader will be the expert that you are. Many recruitment agents and HR professionals who handle CVs tend to be younger and often lack the knowledge you might take for granted.

Mistake 7. Info in the wrong order.

Put your name and contact details at the top and then start with your profile. Then list out your educational headlines and most recent work experience. Move on through your work experience to end with anything personal that you want to convey. Simple, yet effective.

Mistake 8. Info that’s irrelevant to the sector you are applying for.

Don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve. It is easy to go for the scatter gun approach when looking for jobs. Applying for a Supermarket Shelf Stacking role whilst stating on your CV that you are looking for a new Managing Director’s position, is highly unlikely to get you selected. You may want to have 2 versions of your CV ready to fire out, but we’d recommend you tailor your CV to each and every application that you make.

Mistake 9. Writing in the 3rd Person.

She was writing this blog post in the third person but it just came across as too impersonal. The same will apply on your CV – don’t do it!

Mistake 10. Bad spelling & grammar.

For goodness sake, don’t let yourself down at the last hurdle! If you’re rubbish at spelling then lean on the spell-checker. Even horrid American spelling is better than a typo.

Real examples of CV bloopers abound online. Three of my favourite gems are:

“It’s best for employers that I not work with people.”

“Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions.”

“Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as ‘job-hopping’. I have never quit a job.”

I don’t suppose for a second that I have covered everything, and I don’t claim to have all the answers… but I am hoping that this is of some help.

Remember that, when it comes down to writing it, you need to write the CV yourself and to make it your own.


Have you read the 5 Most Frequently Asked CV Questions (And Our Answers)?


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