• Jo

5 common CV writing mistakes

I think CV writers and recruiters alike could produce more than just a short story about what they consider to be CV writing mistakes. It’s true that some of these will come down to personal preference, but most are fairly basic and common mistakes that will inevitably lead to your CV being thrown in the bin (or being cross-shredded and confidentially recycled to be politically correct). I’ve listed five of these below, but some of my personal favourites are at the end as a little appendix for your amusement!

Photo by u j e s h on Unsplash

Poor spelling and grammar

Nothing turns a recruiter off more than a CV containing spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Please, please, please proofread your CV (many times) once you’ve written it and ask someone else to proofread it for you as well, as they’re more likely to spot any errors. Don’t rely on spell-check as this doesn’t pick up on the misuse of words such as dairy when you mean diary.

‘Offputting’ formatting

A recruiter will often be reviewing tens, if not hundreds of CVs for the job they’re recruiting for, so go ahead and make their lives a little easier by keeping the format of your CV simple and clear.  This includes but is not limited to avoiding fancy fonts (yes, I’m talking about those script fonts which simply don’t have a place here), separating sections with clear headings eg. work experience, education, additional information, keeping font size to something legible so that the recruiter doesn’t need to pull out their pocket magnifying glass, and saving it in a familiar format - PDF tends to work best as this can be read on any device and helps to shrink the size of the document, just in case you’ve written a 400 page autobiography (I hope not – see point below).

Making it too long/short

The longest CV I’ve had to review was 23 pages.  The shortest was a third of a page.  They were equally unsuccessful in winning me over for the jobs they were applying for. Ideally, for the recruiter’s sanity, a CV should be one or two pages long. Most people, no matter what their age and level of experience, should be able to achieve this.  If you’re going beyond two pages, it’s likely you’re including too much information that’s irrelevant or outdated, or you're not being concise enough.  If you’re struggling to fill a page, you’re probably not selling yourself adequately, have left out key information, or forgotten to include a section of your life. You may struggle a little if you’re a school leaver without much work experience, but take a look at my sample CV, which may help you to overcome this.

Leaving gaps unexplained

This is a question I’ve addressed quite thoroughly in an earlier blog post which I’d recommend reading for further information. Generally speaking, I would ensure your CV doesn’t contain any gaps as this can lead to the recruiter interpreting these in a less than flattering way. It’s likely that, whatever the reason for the gap, you will have done something you can talk about or have learned something transferable, so think about how you can turn it into a positive part of your experience.

Listing responsibilities rather than achievements

Your CV shouldn’t resemble a shopping list of the tasks you carried out within your roles - sadly, being responsible for the company filing system doesn’t mean you were any good at it! If you weren’t any good at it, you’ll probably want to exclude this point anyway, but if you were, think about why. For instance, did you make it more streamlined, thereby reducing the company’s outgoings because they no longer needed to employ a temp to spend their days squirrelled away in the basement searching for that desperately needed client file from 1994? When you’re thinking about what to include on your CV and what to leave out, consider the following question – what (positive) impact did it have? If none, don’t include it. However, I'm confident you can think of three things you did within each role you’ve held that you feel chuffed about these are what you need to include and the resulting (I’ll say it again, positive) impact is what you need to talk about.

As promised, some of my personal favourites include the following:

Lying/wildly exaggerating. You will get found out, trust me.

Using clichés in your personal statement. Hard-working team-player has been used a little too often, and this section should be unique to you with originality always appreciated by the recruiter. Also, don’t include anything you can’t back up within your listed work experience or interview.

Stating your reason for leaving a job. I once reviewed a CV that explained in great detail how the candidate didn’t get on with their boss, had a huge row with her and ended up being fired. I didn’t need to know that. There’s no need to state why you left a job, although it is worth pointing out if a job was always intended to be short-term eg. A contract or temporary role, as this can help to prevent the impression of job-hopping.

Including a photo. It’s too easy to get this horribly, horribly wrong.

Using a 'dodgy' email address. I stopped using hotblonde1990 after my first rejection. Only joking, I wasn’t born in 1990 (sadly much earlier).

Giving too much personal information. The recruiter doesn’t need to know you’re divorced with three children, it’s not relevant to the job.

Writing in the third person. Gives a very strange impression. I’ll leave it there.

For information about the CV writing services I provide, visit