6 common CV and resume mistakes you need to avoid
Some CV mistakes are obvious while others are consciously repeated – what are you doing wrong when writing your CV? Here Hays lists the six common mistakes you should stop doing now.
Have you written the best resume? How should you write a CV to impress hiring managers?
Some CV mistakes are so obvious they’re only worth mentioning briefly. These are the sorts of mistakes that we all know to avoid, but which sometimes slip our mind: spelling and grammatical errors, colloquialisms and missing contact details. But there are some mistakes that are consciously made – and that perturb hiring managers.
Having worked in the recruitment industry many years, hiring managers at Hays have seen all the common CV and resume mistakes. They also know from experience that different businesses and different hiring managers have different expectations for CVs. How can you write the best resume to meet these expectations? International recruitment expert Hays shares their top six mistakes to avoid when writing your CV or resume.
1. Not tailoring your CV to the job and organisation
When writing your CV, ask not what the business can do for you, but what you can do for the business. It’s important that the organisation is the right fit for you, but you need to first demonstrate how you see yourself working – and excelling – within that organisation in your CV.
The point here is to not blindly boast about your grandest achievements over the years but to only pull a handful of anecedotes of the most pertinent to the role and the organisation. First and foremost you need to sell yourself to the business and talk directly to the reader; you can then later decide during the interview process whether the business has, in turn, adequately sold itself to you.
2. Hiding the best bits
The exact amount of time that recruiters or hiring managers spend looking at your CV varies depending upon your source – some say it’s as short as six seconds – so it’s vital to make the important information as accessible and prominent as possible. Don’t slowly amble in, building up to a crescendo of your proudest accolades just in time for the recruiter to discard your CV – put them front and centre.
3. Tooting your own horn too much
Remember, recruiters and hiring managers review CVs for a living – they will be able to see straight through any bluster or bravado. One turn-off for many recruiters is candidates who refer to themselves in the third person eg. ‘John is an insatiably creative individual’. The recruiter will know you’ve written it so focus on making it personable and direct; facilitating more of a conversational style, as opposed to a cold list of bullet-points.
It is also advised to avoid personal summaries in your CV which are too self-aggrandising. After reviewing so many LinkedIn profiles, CVs and conducting a certain number of interviews, recruiters become immune to words such as 'passionate' and 'motivated'. These words are too vague and clichéd to have any real impact; keep your personal summary original and unique to you.
Rather than cramming in every positive adjective that you can think of, try and demonstrate your ability and success with real facts and figures. Instead of saying, “I’m an ambitious and motivated sales professional who works well in both teams and by myself,” try, “My unrelenting ambition to become a top salesperson has led me to undertake courses in X and X to help fill gaps in my skillset," or, "I applied these new skills to my position within a team as well as solo-work where I achieved X sales in year X.” If you can’t substantiate your claims then there is no use to including them.
Using complicated business jargon is unlikely to impress either. Of course, use words to help describe previous roles, but don’t just use complicated terms for the sake of trying to sound good.
4. Submitting a biography rather than a CV
Many hiring managers are a fan of a short, concise CV that is clearly tailored to the role and speaks directly to them. Avoid writing a CV that is pages long; recruiters and hiring managers only require the salient facts. Grab their attention with concise bullet-points and terse descriptions, as opposed to sprawling, verbose sentences.
This goes for professionals of all levels of seniority. It doesn’t matter how illustrious a career you’ve had, none of us needs pages and pages to sell ourselves for a particular position and, if you do, then you’re probably including information that isn’t relevant. This comes back to the first point about following your own agenda: focus your CV only on the job description and you won’t have to worry about excessive length.
5. Embellishing the facts
The quickest way to make yourself unpopular with hiring managers and recruiters is to embellish the facts or outright fabricate your employment history and personal achievements. You may not be pulled up on it immediately, but at some point later on you will likely regret it. Among the top egregious fabrications are: giving yourself a retrospective promotion, taking credit for work of another employee, overstating your length in a company and claiming to have qualifications you never obtained.
If there’s information in your past which you’d rather not mention – such as being fired from a company – then you’re entirely within your rights to omit it from your CV, but when later asked about it it’s always best to be upfront and honest.
6. Including your references' full contact details
Perhaps the least extensive but by far the most common of these six mistakes is including all the contact details of your references. There are a couple of stages you need to pass before the prospective employer will make arrangements to contact your referees, so save these until later. This is crucial document space that could be better used describing your impressive employment history.
There are some imperfections you can’t correct
CVs are by no means a perfect candidate vetting process but they are the most effective out of the options available. There are many things that your CV won’t include that are of equal value to your chances of being successfully selected. Soft skills are always hard to properly articulate in a CV, for example. The same applies for assessing a candidate’s fit in an organisation; it’s not until the interview stage that an employer can get a clear idea of whether the candidate has the right personality.
As our CEO Alistair Cox says in his latest Influencer blog, “Your human instinct in the hiring process has never been so important because most recruitment failures are the result of a poor cultural fit. It makes the interview process even more important”.
So, while you won’t be able to give a full insight into your character on a typed piece of A4, at least give enough of an enticing preview to land you an interview – during which you can truly express yourself.
Review and hit send
Once you’ve checked your CV thoroughly for the above errors, and you’ve asked a confidante to do the same, then you’re almost ready to hit send. One last warning before you do: make sure the document is saved as a PDF; there are times when hiring managers have to chase a candidate for this because they’ve supplied a formatted document that is inaccessible.
Whole books have been written on how to write a CV but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Quite the opposite; keep yours succinct, snappy and salient to the position you’re applying for and sooner or later you’ll land the job you’ve always wanted.
Here are some other blogs to help you progress your career:
- How to impress a recruiter with your resume/CV
- A simple guide to writing the perfect resume/CV
- Why does your CV not always tell the right story?
- What size company is the right fit for you?
- Are you suffering from career burnout? It’s time to make a change
- How to optimise your LinkedIn profile
- 11 ways to become more productive at work
- How I coped with relocating 11,000 miles for my new job, twice
Hays / Expatica
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