10 COMMON CV MISTAKES


An employer can receive dozens, even hundreds, of applications for any single job vacancy. If you want to stand out amongst the crowd, your CV has to work hard for you.

The truth is, many CVs are headed straight for the reject pile. Why? Simply put, the CV fails to make a case for why the applicant is right for the job. Many people don’t even realise their CV is the problem, and so keep sending out the same document, in the same way, wondering why they aren’t getting results.

Avoiding the following, 10 most common CV mistakes, will help you get much better outcomes from your job search.


1. Writing a generic CV

Generic CVs are, usually, poor CVs. Writing a one-size-fits-all CV is a mistake. You need to take time to customise each and every application. A great CV attracts attention for the right jobs.

An employer has a clearly defined set of needs and requirements for each and every job vacancy. Your CV needs to show why you are the right person for that specific role.

If your CV doesn’t make this clear, it isn’t doing its job. A CV is a fluid document that should be tailored for each individual vacancy. A quality CV takes time, but it is time well spent. Specific, tailored CVs are much more successful.

2. Lack of focus

Not only must your CV be tailored, but it must be clearly focused. If you don’t remotely meet the requirements of the role, even the best CV is unlikely to get you far. Target a specific type (or types) of job and make that your focus.

Review your CV with this in mind, asking yourself how each piece of information conveys this focus. An employer wants to look at your CV, and quickly identify how you are qualified for the role.

Don’t waste time including irrelevant information.

3. Writing about responsibilities, not achievements

An employer doesn’t just want to know about what you have done, but how well you have done it. One of the most common CV mistakes is to simply include a list of responsibilities for each of your job roles. This doesn’t differentiate you from other candidates.

Instead, the content within your CV should be achievement orientated. If you worked as a receptionist, how well did you perform the role? Did you answer all calls within a specific period of time? Receive a commendation from management for excellent customer service?

Perhaps you completed a college project that received top marks, or showed your ability to lead a team? Quantify this with specific information. The best way to show you did your job well is through achievements – it helps to set you apart from other candidates.

4. Making your CV too long

A CV should be a succinct, focused document. Its purpose is to win you an interview. It isn’t a record of every job you have ever had, or task you have ever completed. It’s a marketing document.

Most CVs don’t need to be more than 2 pages long.1 page if you are a recent university graduate. Employers spend just a few seconds reviewing your CV initially, so it has to make an impact in this time.

It can be all too tempting to include lots of information in the hope that something sticks. But it is your job to decide what is important and what is not. Dumping lots of data doesn’t work. It all comes back to focus and relevancy. A CV isn’t your life story.

Long, difficult to read, unfocused CVs get poor results.

5. Poor presentation

Your CV should be well organised, easy-to-read and easy-to-scan. Pick a standard font, a clear format and present your CV professionally. Keep the design clean and professional.

Don’t include paragraphs of unbroken text or font sizing so small it’s a stretch to even read.

It’s your job to make it easy for an employer to review your CV.

6. Errors

Mistakes happen, but they shouldn’t really happen on your CV. Your CV is your first chance to communicate your value and to represent your standards.

Misspellings, typos and grammatical errors could be enough to take your application out of the running. Why take the chance?
Revisit your CV repeatedly, editing it and refining it as you go. Watch out for errors in capitalising words and consistency of tenses.

And don’t forget to include your up-to-date contact information (you’d be surprised just how often that actually happens).

7. Wasting space

There’s no need to include the line about references being available on request. If an employer needs a reference, they will ask for one. Similarly, including lots of detail on your personal interests is a waste of space. Only include data that conveys an achievement or is relevant to an employer’s needs.

Every line of your CV exists to win you an interview. If it’s not impressive, or necessary, don’t include it.

8. Lack of clarity

Your CV needs to be clear and to the point. Write it in simple, easy-to-understand language. Don’t use 50 words when you could use 10. Ensure that what you have written actually makes sense.

Using dense, overly verbose language reduces the potency of your CV. Some people get caught in the trap of feeling they need to use complicated, flowery language. But, in fact, far from being impressive, this just makes a CV difficult to read.

Write your CV in simple English, and review the content for clarity. Does it actually make sense?

9. Objective

Another common CV mistake is the inclusion of an objective at the beginning of the document. This was the done thing years ago, but it’s rather out of date.

An objective is one of those statements telling an employer about what you are seeking. The thing is, if your CV is written properly, that will already be self-evident. What an employer wants to know about is what you can do for them. What you have to offer them.

A profile, instead of an objective, does this. Include 2 or 3 sentences outlining what you have to offer, specific to the role. By focusing on an employer’s needs, you are much more likely to be selected for interview.

10. Clichés

Some phrases are overused on CVs. The problem with this is that it makes it difficult for you to stand out amongst other candidates.

“Track record of success.’’ “Excellent communication skills.” “Team player.”
Employers and recruiters have heard theses sorts of phrases so many times that their value is diminished – the words become meaningless.

Instead of trotting out these sorts of terms, much better that you communicate these skills through your achievements and experience. Quantify them. How did you demonstrate these skills? Did you bring in new clients? Collaborate on a successful project?

Avoid vague terms and get specific.