11 Common CV Mistakes According to Employers | Top Universities

11 Common CV Mistakes According to Employers

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Chloe Lane

Updated Aug 02, 2022



CV mistakes

If you’re sending out loads of CVs and not hearing anything back, it may be time to give your CV a much-needed re-vamp.

There are plenty of CV mistakes that graduates make, which don’t seem like a big deal at the time, but can majorly diminish your chances of getting the job. 

Here are just a few of the most common CV mistakes, according to five employers.

1. Having spelling errors and bad grammar

Having spelling errors and bad grammar

Whether you proofread it yourself, or get somebody else to, checking over your CV from start to finish can be the difference between being accepted and being rejected.

“Spelling mistakes are still so common, no matter how many times someone gets told,” said Jade Thomas, Office Manager at Pure Commercial Finance. 

“The best thing to do is print it out and read it before sending. You always spot so much more when it’s printed.”

The Director and Founder of Careermap, Simon Bell, advised putting your application through a spell and grammar checker like Grammarly.

2. Exaggerating the truth

Exaggerating the truth

Writing that you’re an expert in Microsoft Excel might seem like a great idea at the time, but when you get the job and are asked to perform a V-lookup you will instantly regret your decision.

The managing director of Illustrate Digital, Scott Jones, said: “It’s important to be confident and sure about who you are and what you have to offer, but don't lie or oversell yourself.”

His advice? “Be real about what you know and what you're still keen to learn. Don’t forget that skills can always be taught.”

Emily Web, HR manager at Liberty Marketing  said: “Whilst it might make your CV look a bit better, it will show in an interview if you can’t back your skill levels up when questioned.” 

3. Poor formatting

Poor formatting

Poor formatting is one of the first things employers notice when looking at your CV. It can reflect badly on you, as it looks like you don’t pay close attention to detail.

“Your CV is you on paper, so make sure the layout’s as close to perfect as possible. This means no typos or jarring font changes halfway through,” said Rebecca Martin, a recruitment manager at Connect Assist 

Thomas said: “If something is formatted badly or candidates don’t advertise themselves well in the first few lines, then there isn’t much point in reading on.”

“We’re looking for CVs which are easily scannable, clean and professional” explained Bell.

4. An unoriginal personal profile

An unoriginal personal profile

If your personal profile is full of clichés, you’re going to look like someone who doesn’t have original ideas.

Bell said: “You’d be surprised by how many CVs we’ve read which use the sentence ‘I’m a hard-working, driven individual, who works well independently and as part of a team.’

“Although, these are great qualities to have, we’re looking for you to expand on this, think how have you gained these skills? How does it relate to the position you’re applying for?”

Martin agrees that writing a short personal statement or a professional bio at the top of a CV is essential. She says it “should give an idea to a prospective employer of the type of person you are, your work ethic, values and what motivates you.”

5. Not focusing on your achievements

Not focusing on your achievements

When writing CVs there can be a tendency to focus on your duties in that role rather than your achievements.

“It’s great to see where someone has worked,” said Martin, “but the focus should be on what a person has gained from their employment and what they can bring to a new company.” 

Martin explained that when writing your CV “an outline of your key achievements should be where the most time and effort should be spent, followed by your skills & experience section.” 

She added “Both sections should be concise, factual and easy to review at a glance. These will hook your future employer into your CV so that they pay attention to the other sections.”

6. Making your CV too long

Making your CV too long

We asked the employers how long they think the ideal CV should be.

“Ideally, no longer than one page,” said Martin. “If that’s not possible, make that front page really stand out so your new boss will want to pay attention to the rest.”

When it comes to CVs “nobody wants to read a book,” remarked Thomas, “especially when there are so many to go through." 

Web thinks the length of an applicant’s CV really depends on the role. “You would expect a very experienced person’s CV to be two to three pages, whereas someone less experienced should have maximum of two pages.”

Bell advises not to worry too much about the length of your CV and recommends that you “focus on the quality of your CV rather than quantity.”

When writing a CV, he said to “highlight your skills, personality, career aspirations and education level.”

7. Putting the wrong contact information

Putting the wrong contact information

Making mistakes about your contact details is a common mistake that can be detrimental to your job search.

“You can often have an applicant who looks like a great fit on paper, but you can’t reach them to discuss the position,” explained Martin. “I think this is because most people tend to focus on the main content rather than the small details.”

8. Not tailoring your CV to the specific role

Not tailoring your CV to the specific role

“Rather than a generic CV, which is vague and sent out to a large number of employers, we want to see applicants tailor their CV to the job description,” advised Bell.

Tailoring your CV “shows that the candidate has performed research into the company and role and is a much better way of selling yourself”, said Jones.

It’s important to thoroughly read the job descriptions and pick up on key words and phrases, Martin advised.

Drawing the employer’s attention to relevant skills you’ve picked up in roles – even if the roles aren’t directly related to the job you’re applying for – is a good way to demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the company and the role. 

Jones added: “It’s a bonus if you’ve got experience in similar roles, but if you haven’t then tailoring your CV to highlight how you’ve gained useful experience in other positions that will be relevant for the role you’re applying for is the next best thing.”

9. Including references

Including references

Although this isn’t always a no-no, Bell advises against including references unless explicitly asked, as these are “usually requested further down the recruitment process.”

Martin explained that for her, references on a CV are really nothing more than a name. “For successful candidate’s reference details would be requested and the relevant request would be sent to the referees”, she said.

10. Not including hobbies and interests

Not including hobbies and interests

While it’s important not to include too many hobbies and interests, they can be good to show your personal side and demonstrate some valuable transferrable skills. 

Web said: “Hobbies and interests are a great way of giving an insight into who you are as a person and how you could possibly fit within the team.”

Think about the things you’re passionate about which will support your application, Bell advised. “These hobbies can show teamwork, leadership, time management and communication skills, as well as showing your dedication and commitment ”, he explained.

11. Using an inappropriate email address

Using an inappropriate email

Bell explained that one thing that massively puts employers off is using an inappropriate email address in an application. Putting an unsuitable email address as a contact detail can instantly derail your application, as it can make you seem extremely unprofessional and overshadow the rest of your application. 

Bell explains: “We really have seen it all, from [email protected] to the less mild versions, which we can’t repeat”.

“Unfortunately, no matter how good your CV is, employers won’t continue you to the next stage of the recruitment process, it’s doubtful that they’d even read it,” he warned.

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