5 CV Mistakes to Avoid

It’s true that there is no such thing as a perfect CV, but there are proven ways you can better standout to be considered for your next role. Here we explore 5 common CV mistakes and ways you can avoid them.

CV Mistake 1: No professional headline

We live in a ‘Twitter generation’ with goldfish-like attention spans. When writing your CV, you must earn the continued attention of your reader. There is no better start than a high-impact headline. The biggest mistake is having no headline. The second biggest mistake is a weak headline. 

How can you fix this?

  • Change your headline each time you send your CV. Make sure it’s 100% focused on impressing the person recruiting for the specific role to which you are applying.
  • Split your headline into two ideas. Align the first to the job title. The second should highlight the most specific, relevant area of your experience. e.g.
    "Call Centre Team Manager | Financial Services & Insurance Industry Specialist

CV Mistake 2: Poor use of the top of page 1

There’s only one part of your CV that matters. The first ½ page. Your CV will be scanned and judged in between 9 and 15 seconds. The first impression comes even sooner and after just a few seconds the mind-set of the reader is either scan for more good, or, scan to reject.

How can you fix this?

  • Invest time getting the first ½ page right. If you don’t impress them here, they won’t read further.
  • Use this prime space effectively. Don’t waste a whole line with “Curriculum Vitae”. Don’t waste space with your full postal address. CVs should start with your name, mobile number, email and a link to your profile on LinkedIn.com.
  • Position your headline (see point 1) in a larger, bold font.
  • Finally, a 3-paragraph profile can tell the reader all they need to know…
    • Paragraph one should explain why your experience makes you a good fit for the role you are applying to.
    • Paragraph two should summarise your current role as well as a concise overview of your career history mentioning the most relevant and impressive companies, brands, achievements and qualifications.
    • Paragraph three is the “Now seeking …” line. This is where you match what you are looking for to the role you’re applying for; role, company type and location. e.g.
      “Now seeking a Call Centre Manager role in financial services based in Manchester.”

CV Mistake 3: Repeating role description elements instead of detailing your achievements

Many CVs list exhaustive descriptions of duties and responsibilities. No one wants to wade through everything you did in every role. Worse still, this fails to excite your reader because these descriptions don’t conjure the possibilities of the positive difference you could make if you joined the team.

How can you fix this?

  • For each role, detail your achievements and categorise them under the headings of the essential skills from the job description. This way, you demonstrate you can do what they want with your best examples.
  • Add depth of detail which is relevant to the role for which you are applying. This could be detail of results (data points and numbers are often best), detail of software you’re familiar with, training, project scale, etc.
  • Be careful with jargon. Do include industry abbreviations as make sense in your sector, but make sure your CV still makes sense to a non-technical expert.

CV Mistake 4: Making your reader work to find the facts they need about you.

Many CVs fail to impress because the best points are hard to find. This stems from the mistaken idea that you should write one CV. Do this and you are asking the reader of your CV to mine through all your experience to find what they are looking for. Why should they do the work? The best candidates realise this work is the responsibility of the writer not the reader.

How can you fix this?

  • For every application start a new CV. Save your generic CV file under a new file name and tailor it to the role description you are applying for.
  • Adjust your professional headline.
  • Highlight your relevant skills and expertise using bold and bullet points.
  • Realise that less is more. By cutting back on irrelevant detail you naturally emphasise the right parts of your experience and make it easier for the reader to find what they need.
  • Don’t list every training course you’ve ever done, draw attention to those that matter. 

CV Mistake 5: Trying to impress with fancy fonts and formatting

Unless you’re being hired as a graphic designer, you’re not being judged primarily on your ability to decorate the page. Resist the temptation to insert employer logos, colours, shading, borders or any other graphical treatment. Instead, keep your CV simple, and let your talent, your experience and your achievements do your marketing.

How can you fix this?

  • Remove additional fancy formatting.
  • Use white space, clear layout and content flow to tell a logical story to your reader.
  • Use bold and bullet points to draw attention to key ideas at a glance.