Your CV is one of the most important documents you’ll ever create in your life, and that all important route to an interview. Many articles found on the internet focus on what to include in a CV to be successful, but what’s equally as important is what NOT to include.
As the saying goes – you never get a second chance to make a good first impression! So here’s our top seven tips on what to avoid and what NOT to include when writing a CV:
1. Applying for a job when you don’t have any of the right skills
We’ve all fell into the trap of finding a job that has a great salary on offer with some amazing additional perks and thought, ‘This looks amazing, I should apply’. However, is it really worth your time and effort if the chances of you getting the job are very low?
Read the job description very careful before you apply and ask yourself if this is actually a role that you have the right skill set for. Put yourself in the mind of the employer and ask yourself if you’d offer the job to someone who has not done anything relevant to the position. Obviously the answer would be no, and although there’s nothing wrong with striving to achieve more, you have to assess whether or not it’s actually currently worth it.
Of course, if you have some relevant skills or experience, even if they weren’t acquired an identical role, you may be able to sufficiently focus your CV on how you meet the person description. Remember that skills can be transferable and aside from learning them in a work environment, they might be acquired through training, voluntary work, freelance work or completion of your own projects. So the fact that you haven’t done the exact same job previously is not a bar to applying – but you will at least need to show how you acquired the necessary skills in some other way.
Otherwise, if the role you’ve seen is something you definitely want to do in the future, then why not consider gaining more of the skills and qualifications needed?
2. Hiding important information
You may only have the attention of the hiring manager for a few seconds, and ensuring you end up on the shortlist pile means you have to also ensure the right and relevant information is highlighted and easy to see at a glance.
Check back through your CV to see how much of the relevant information is easy to spot. If the application required the skills and knowledge of how to use Microsoft Office, then make sure it’s at the top and not buried deep down in a long list of information. The same goes for other relevant skills, work experience and qualifications. Pick out what you know to be essential or relevant for the role, and make it stand out. The personal statement at the top of your CV is a great place to summarise how you fit the job spec.
3. Including irrelevant personal information
Some hobbies and interests are best left off your CV.
You might be a proud member of your local brewery or you may think it is interesting that you voted for the monster raving loony party last year – but is it really relevant to the job you’re applying for?
The answer is most likely no, which means it’s probably better to leave it off and focus on the more important aspects. Employers are mainly interested in what you have to offer to the role and the company – qualifications, skills, previous experience, knowledge and so on.
Although hobbies and interests are often included on a CV, you should ensure that you only include pastimes that put you in a good light.
Find out more: Does the hobbies & interests section of my CV matter?
4. Failing to explain employment gaps
You may have a noticeable gap in your employment history for a number of reasons, and rather than just hope the employer doesn’t see it, you really need to consider explaining it. An employer would be immediately curious and suspicious as to what you were doing if a large amount of time is missing from your CV. Of course, some employment gaps are better explained in person. If for example you were suffering from an illness, questions may be best left to the interview. But if there is a simple explanation, such as taking a year out to travel, then including this can help put any prospective employers’ concerns at ease.
5. Making spelling and grammatical errors
Although this is by far the most obvious thing to avoid on our list and you’re probably wondering why we bothered to mention it, you’d be surprised at how many CVs we still come across that contain spelling and grammatical mistakes that would easily put an employer off instantly!
The only way to truly ensure your CV doesn’t fall into this trap is to have it checked by a third party. Have it proofread by someone you know you can trust to spot any errors, and don’t just stop there – have it checked by at least one more person to absolutely make sure it’s 100% accurate.
Don’t forget that word processing software is not always that great at spotting grammatical errors, and will sometimes offer changes that would make a sentence incorrect. You might also type a word that is actually in the dictionary but doesn’t have the meaning you intended, and it may not be highlighted by the software as a spelling or grammar mistake.
6. Padding out your CV
A frequent mistake is to oversell yourself with too much information that’s irrelevant and difficult to read quickly. An employer wants to speedily glance at a two page CV to see if it ticks the right boxes, so everything needs to be concise and to the point as well as relevant.
An employer isn’t interested in reading lengthy paragraphs about how amazing your communication and team working skills are when instead you could let them recognise that for themselves by providing actual examples, results and stats to back it up.
The perfect CV will accurately highlight the relevant qualifications, skills and work experience to instantly show the employer you are the right person for the job. It has to be no more than two pages and spaced out correctly using a professional font which is easy to read and navigate with the eye.
Find out more: What is the best résumé font or best CV font to use?
Remember that the hiring manager will only glance at each CV for a few seconds before moving onto the next. Sure, yours will get read in more depth if it passes the speed read test, but it won’t even make it on the ‘possible’ pile if it’s padded out with the usual cliché sentences.
7. Providing false or misleading information
It’s very easy to get carried away when you are trying to showcase yourself on a CV, but there is a line that has to be drawn when it comes to stating false or misleading information. Although it might get you an interview and possibly even the job, there’s a good chance you will eventually get found out, in which case you could lose the position.
The hiring manager may also spot the blatant fabrication before they even consider an interview, and you might never know the reason why you didn’t get short listed. So although there’s nothing wrong with making your CV stand out from the rest, always avoid using false information, especially when it comes to your qualifications, skills and work history.
“One of the worst fibs I spotted on a CV that had been sent to me was the applicant claimed he had worked at a law firm for a period of time – our law firm! The person who applied must have sent out the same blanket CV to all prospective employers without tailoring it. He had certainly never worked for a minute in our office!