Top five CV problems to avoid


The jobs market is so competitive nowadays that you need to make a good first impression. But you only have around 10 seconds to do that, so you need to get the message right, quickly and concisely.

If you need to update or re-write your CV, take your time and make sure you are happy with it. It might be best to do it in stages. Come back to check it the next day with a fresh pair of eyes. Ask at least one other person to check it for you as we tend to skim through our own mistakes. 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 are doing ok, actually ok isn’t always good enough.

If your CV isn’t ready, don’t start job hunting until it is. Don’t risk sending an old, out-of-date CV with a job application, it’s a wasted opportunity. If you’re still not happy with your CV, get help from a professional CV Writer. They know what to look for and how to ‘sell you’.

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. Typos, 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. Not Listing 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’. You must use numbers or percentages to add impact and helps to quantify the achievement. If you can, use an ‘Achievements’ section, rather than adding it to the role.

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…’ change it to ‘promoted the company at industry events…’. This gives the sentence more impact.

3. Not tailoring your CV to the job

Every job you apply for requires a tailored CV. Never use the same CV twice.

It can be tempting to use one CV to send to a large number of companies. It’s not worth it! Speculative job applications are highly unlikely to work. Employers are used to mailshots, so don’t waste your time.

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. Your CV is too long or too short

This is by far the most common one 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 waffle.

Your CV may have work history that goes back a long way (more than 15 years), but any information role that is more than 10 years old only needs to be summarised. Employers are interested in current, relevant experience. Roles that you had a long time ago, unless its specialised, are too far back to be of interest.  

Article written by Sue Edwards, CV Writer.

If you would like to be a guest writer, please contact me.