The 4 Major CV Mistakes That Might Undermine Your Prospects for Interview
In my time as a headhunter in the City, I read literally thousands of CVs. Time and again, the same mistakes cropped up in the CVs of even the most eligible applicants I worked with. I continue to see these same painful errors in the CVs of my coaching clients. No matter how suitable you may be for the role at hand, if you fall into these traps, you risk your CV being discarded and your opportunity to interview wasted.
This is perhaps the most obvious mistake that anyone could make in their CV. It sounds obvious, yet according to a survey by Career Builder in 2013, 58% of CVs have typos. This is not necessarily down to poor writing skills either - in most cases I would say it’s carelessness and a failure to spend the necessary time proofreading before hitting send.
Get someone you trust to read through your CV - they’re likely to spot mistakes that you will have missed if you’ve been re-hashing the same CV for hours (or days). Failing that, print out your CV and go through it line by line, word by word, with a coloured pen. It’s easier to identify typos on paper than on a screen.
I always tell my coaching clients that if it’s at all possible, keep your CV to one page. That said, I appreciate that sometimes there is just too much relevant content to squeeze onto a single page of A4. Never let your CV run over to more than 2 pages; a recruiter or potential employer will lose interest and may even hold it against you, as it could suggest a lack of ability to be concise. It is a talent to be able to synthesise, prioritise and convey crucial information in as few words as possible. Moreover, there are always ways of being creative with margins, spacing and font sizes to maximise how much you can fit.
Overly long CVs often fall into another trap - repeating the same information in different, superfluous sections. There is limited value in having a distinct ‘skills’ section - your skills should be embedded in your personal profile (the opening section of your CV) and in each specific job role. Equally, your personal profile should not merely repeat examples and sentences lifted from your job descriptions. It is meant to be a thematic synthesis that draws together the skills and attributes that should make you an attractive potential employee.
4. Stretching the Truth or Outright Lies
Finally, whilst this should go without saying, honesty is always the best policy in a CV. I’ve been part of recruitment processes where applicants have been caught out lying about where they went to university, how long they were at a firm, the level of their language skills… It always ends badly. If you are under-qualified for a role, yet think you would genuinely be good at it, emphasise your transferable skills and your passion. You should be able to articulate honesty and persuasively why you are a worthy candidate to be considered.
Although these mistakes seem obvious, it should not be underestimated how often they undermine the prospects of great candidates. If you can ensure that your CV avoids these common errors, you’ll already be positioning yourself to stand out from the crowd.
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