Top five CV problems to avoid


The jobs market is so competitive nowadays that it’s most important to make a good first impression. This will probably be your CV, so you need to get the message right, quickly and concisely, together with the presentation and make it error free.

If you need to re-write your CV take your time and ensure it’s the best it can be. It might be best to do it in stages, then you can go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Ask people to check it for you, to see if they can spot anything that you’ve missed. Many professional CV Writers will do a free CV review for you, so take advantage. When you’ve been concentrating on something for a length of time it’s often hard to see where you might be going wrong. Even if you think you doing Ok, that might not be the case, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Once you’ve sent off your new CV for a job application it’s too late to turn back, so ensure its a really good CV before you get that far. Don’t risk sending your CV in the hope that it’s ok.

When a job is advertised, the employer will have a lot of CVs to trawl through, and need to make quick judgements to shortlist for interviews. The following are the most common reasons for not being shortlisted.

1. Typing errors, and poor spelling and grammar

If spelling and grammar are not your strong points, make sure your CV doesn’t suffer. First impressions count, so make sure your CV doesn’t let you down.

Even if you think you’ve done a good job, get it checked by someone whose English is good. Don’t rely on spell-checkers – lots of words can be spelt differently, but mean something entirely different.

2. Listing duties or responsibilities instead of achievements

Don’t use phrases like ‘responsible for ……………………..’. Your CV is not a job description. You should be selling your achievements and areas where you have made a difference. Explain exactly what you did and what the positive outcome was. For example: ‘using specialist software, closely monitored sales trends and stock levels, and ordered stock appropriately. This reduced out of stock instances by 21% in 2011’. Use numbers or percentages adds impact and helps to quantify the achievement. It’s also a great idea to use an ‘Achievements’ section, rather than add all this to the appropriate job.

Use active ‘doing’ verbs to make your CV sound more dynamic. For example instead of  ‘involved in the promotion of the company at industry events…’ into ‘promoted the company at industry events…’ This change of wording alters the sentence to give it more impact, rather than being merely ‘involved’ in something, you were ‘actively doing’ it.

3. Not tailoring your CV to the job

Every job you apply for requires a tailored CV. If you’re considering sending out speculative applications it can be tempting to send the same CV to a large number of companies. However quality is far more important. Employers are used to mailshots and can usually them at a glance.

Another important point is to ensure that your skills and experience match those required by the job. Just applying because you know you CAN do the job isn’t good enough. You may be overqualified for the post or possibly not qualified enough. Whatever the requirements make sure your most relevant keywords and skills in your CV are top of the list and highlight them. If there are several important points that you don’t match, don’t apply, or if you may well be disappointed.

4. Visually unappealing and difficult to read

Many people make the mistake of adding far too much information into their CV, making it look cluttered and difficult to read. Don’t use long paragraphs of dense text. Use bullet pointed lists, short sentences and make it clear and concise.

It is important to make your CV stand out, but don’t use colour, coloured paper, or a photo, unless the job application specifically requests them or you are applying for a creative role. And don’t be tempted to mix fonts to try to create interest – it doesn’t work!

5. Too long or too short

This is probably the most common one, particuarly at Premium CVs. The usual rule of thumb is no longer than two pages, or three maximum if it’s a complicated CV, or you have lots of relevant experience at a high level. Likewise, if you’ve recently graduated with no full-time experience you may not have as much as 2 pages of information. In this case one page is absolutely fine, so don’t try to pad it out with irrelevant info.

Your CV may have work history that goes back a long way (more than 15 years), but this information need only be summarised, unless it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. Employers will probably be looking for current experience, rather than experience that you had a long time ago and probably almost forgotten.  

Article written by Sue Edwards, CV Writer.