23 May 2019

The most annoying mistakes on a CV....

I've not blogged for a while about CV mishaps but on a regular basis I find myself rolling my eyes at a new CV in my inbox.  Recent highlights include someone who didn't even remember to put their name on it and don't get me started on the people looking for new rolls working with lots of steakholders.  Anyway, this isn't a rant, it's meant to be a helpful look at what you can do to ensure that your CV gets noticed for the right reasons.  And a reminder that your CV is the one single thing that a potential employer first sees which will 'sell' you to them and that you will be in a pile with a few other CVs.  Any glaring mistakes and you'll be at the bottom of that pile.  I'm surprised how often a CV is rushed together, quickly amended with a new paragraph to include updated job details which then leads to different fonts, a cock up with the dates (usually), use of the wrong tense in the previous role and a CV that just gets longer and longer.  So here are my most annoying mistakes on a CV.  If I find them annoying, you can bet that your potential new employer will find them annoying too.


I could write chapter and verse on just the typos that I see on CVs. But I won't as it just really comes under 'Sloppiness'.  Attention to detail is one of the key strengths that employers look for in their staff and if you can't demonstrate that on your CV, you won't get the job.  It's game over without even an interview.  Typos are the obvious one but under this heading I also want to see the same font (and nothing fancy or italicy), I want the dates to be consistent and I want anything outdated to come out of the CV.  If a potential employer thinks the CV is sloppy, they'll think you're lazy.  You can't be bothered to make sure that the CV is the best thing you have to represent you....and they'll translate that to how you will be in the work-place.

Personal Profiles.

If you are going to have a personal profile (and genuinely I don't have anything against them per se) then it's important to get it right.  The most annoying profiles are the ones which are basically a long line of adjectives, popular ones include passionate, driven, flexible, determined, enthusiastic....At some point, I just think Blah and switch off.  So a potential employer will too.   A good personal profile can make a real difference, the key is to make it personal to you rather than the list of adjectives.  Make the profile about key achievements and objectives.


If I never see the phrases 'strategising' (or even strategizing)  or blue-sky thinking or outside-the-box again, it will be too soon.   Keep your use of buzzwords to a minimum.  It's jargon.  You know it and the potential employer knows it too.  They'll be visualising you as someone who is full of hot air.


To be fair, if I had to write a CV, I'd probably look online for a template too.  But I'd make sure I customised it properly.  It's meant to help give you some structure and a 'look'.  As with everything these days, everything is about content so make sure you adapt the template to you and your experience.

Bullet Points. 

Generally I love bullet points.  But not when they all start with 'responsible for.....'.  Bullets give you the ability to highlight your strengths and achievements so that the reader immediately 'gets' you.  Don't make them think 'Blah'.


In the old days, we (recruiters) used to bang on about 2 sides of A4 being sufficient for a CV. And generally speaking, that's still true.  You'd be surprised how easy it is to edit a CV if you give yourself time to do it properly and to consider if you really need everything that is in there. You don't really need to list all your university holiday jobs when you're an Account Director and don't waste 6 lines on personal details.  Equally, don't feel the need to reduce everything to 6 point font with extended margins so that you can fit it all in....Employers want to read something that is pleasing to the eye and not all crammed together. 


I get it.  It's the part of the CV where you get to show your human side, where you get your personality across.  I'm sure there are different schools of thought on this but my own personal view is to keep it brief.  We don't need chapter and verse.  Nicely self deprecating but not boastful.  I don't particularly need to know the name of your cats (true), that you gained grade 1 violin at age 10 or even your golf handicap.  Neither do I think it's a great idea to list gambling as a hobby (also true).


It's an interesting fact that seldom do I look at a CV with a photo and think that it was a good idea to include it.  Very few people have a great CV photo.  If you are going to have one, use an excellent quality photo, definitely not a holiday snap, definitely not with you in a bikini (true), or with a tiger (true) or with Richard Branson (true).  Keep it as a headshot, fully clothed with a nice neutral background.  Friendly but not scary.  You see, it's fraught with potential problems and the use of a poor choice of photo also has the capacity to put an employer off - yes, people do judge on appearances, no they shouldn't but they do.   Much easier all round not to have one on there.

In summary. Writing your CV is a task for a weekend.  Do it properly, it's an investment in time worth making.   If you are putting it off, I'd actually start from scratch. The worst CVs are those which have been cobbled together and bits added to again and again - these are full of errors, grammatical, the wrong fonts, old and useless information etc.   Keep it precise and concise. Not too wordy, not too flowery.  Not too formal, not too informal.  It's all about balance.  If you are going for a specific role then yes, it's worth tailoring the CV specifically for that role....but then remember when you later use the same CV that it was tailored for a different role (!).   I try to do my bit and spot the errors or gently recommend amending CVs if they need it but really it's in your interest to get it right.  Get a close friend to check it for you and above all, make sure there are no typos.