High school students will soon be on the job market. Some, after work experience in the summer, will get a weekend job while others will have to spruce up their curriculum vitaes (CVs) waiting for the next job opportunity.
However, many jobseekers are ruling themselves out before they even get called for an interview with a string of mistakes, bloopers and howlers on their CVs, which can easily be avoided.
So don’t be found wanting when you do your CV no matter what type of opportunity you are seeking.
Here are some of the common mistakes, bloopers and howlers you need to avoid on your CV:
1. Including Irrelevant Personal Information – Recruiters are inundated with CVs for every job available so it is normal for them to spend just ten seconds looking at CVs. So don’t clog up your CV with irrelevant information that’s not going to help your application – and may cause recruiters to miss the really juicy contents. This means unless it’s directly relevant to the position you’re applying for, leave out details like your religion, political preferences, height, weight and the story about the time you met one of the celebrities.
2. Poor Spelling And Grammar – There are no excuses for spelling mistakes – even if English isn’t your forte. An error-free CV is vital in showcasing your precision and attention to detail, so check everything – even your contact details. Spellcheck and proofread your CV yourself before asking others to cast their critical eye checking it over for you.
Consider these sentences – Can you identify where the errors are?
- I am a prooficient typist.
- Socially I like to dine out with different backgrounds.
- I left last four jobs only because the managers were completely unreasonable.
- I have excellent typong skills.
- While working in this role, I had intercourse with a variety of people.
Thus, it is essential to minimise the risk of making mistakes by taking your time – never leave writing your CV to the last minute. Rushed examples are easily spotted and quickly dismissed.
‘Careless errors are rarely tolerated. So, avoid needless rejection by slowly and meticulously checking over your CV.’
Having good written English is a skill that most employers look for, so make sure that you don’t do what one candidate did and write your entire CV in abbreviated text language throughout.
3. Using One Version Of Your CV – If you have just one version of your CV that you are using to make multiple applications, the chances are that this is not working for you. Every job description is different – address the person specification succinctly – so you need to focus and target your CV each time you make an application.
Some recruitment experts believe that spending quality time on fewer applications is generally more effective that the scatter-gun approach. This also means . . .
4. Failing To Tailor Your Application – When it comes to CVs, one size doesn’t fit all. Everything that you include must be completely tailored to the company and role that you’re applying for. This actually makes it easy for the recruiter to see that you’re the perfect candidate for the job.
By looking closely at the job description or person specification helps you in sensing whether you’ve sufficiently assessed the job requirements. Through evaluating which of your skills match the job specification most effectively will give you the best chance of success.
‘Don’t be afraid to remove irrelevant experiences, even if you’re applying for similar roles with different organisations, check their specific requirements and tweak your CV accordingly.’
5. Info Graphics And Overly Designed CVs – Keep your CV format clean and clutter free. Use a sensible amount of white space and don’t cram too much into a small space.
Your CV will not get noticed more because you’ve coloured it purple and made the headings exceptionally large. Don’t use graphics to self-certify your skills, employers don’t buy that. Also, graphics aren’t easy to read so they are likely to be entirely missed by initial filters.
6. Poor Formatting And Unnecessarily Elaborate Design – CVs that aren’t clear and easy to read are a huge turn-off for employers. Research shows that recruiters spend an average of just about ten seconds reviewing each CV that they receive – which leaves you precious little time to make a good first impression.
These days, the chances are your CV is going to be judged on a screen. So don’t take the opportunity to play with fancy fonts and colours – stick to typefaces that are screen friendly (like Ariel, Times New Roman or Verdana) and use a font size of 10 or 12 for body copy, and slightly larger for subheadings. If you’re sending it as an attachment, use Word and avoid backgrounds and ornate borders. Let your experiences and achievements be the star.
Before printing or submitting your CV, save it and spend some time away from it. Going back to it for a second time to scrutinise how everything looks on your computer screen is a good advice.
Thus, cluttered, disorganised and messy are three characteristics that your CV shouldn’t possess.
7. Lying Or Manipulation Of The Truth – When you’re trying to get a foot in the door and impress potential employers, it’s tempting to be economical with the truth, because who’s going to check, right?
Wrong! The facts on your CV are easy to corroborate so never assume that recruiters won’t make enquiries to do so.
Giving yourself a grade boost, fibbing about your current job title or embellishing a period of work experience won’t do you any favours in the long run. At best, your lies will be obvious and your CV will be rejected out of hand. At worst, you may be invited for an interview where you’ll either trip yourself up or be asked questions that you’re unable to answer.
While your CV should absolutely be the best, shiny version of you and your experiences, making up qualifications, experiences or achievements will invalidate any of your real, hard won successes. Recruiters are on the lookout for anything that seems out of place, including salaries and job titles (and are often expert at spotting them), so be honest and ensure that you give your real attributes a fair chance of getting you the job you want.
Instead of using your time and energy to concoct half-truths and complete fabrications, use it instead to really sell the qualifications, skills and experience you do have.
8. Lack Of Evidence – It’s easy to make generic, empty statements on your CV when you’re trying to meet a tight application deadline. However, failing to effectively evidence your skills, achievements and experiences can be a fatal mistake.
Always try to quantify your successes whenever possible – but never at the expense of the CV’s readability. Recruiters will be assessing not just what you’ve done, but also your written communication skills so writing concisely but meaningfully is crucial, as this is a central element of many jobs.
9. Not Explaining ‘Why’ – It isn’t enough to just state your credentials; you need to prove them by justifying why you’ve chosen to undertake certain activities in terms of your personal and professional development. You should then elaborate even further on the resulting skills you’ve gained.
As for High School students, discussing your extra-curricular activities is very important providing you pay particular attention to any positions of responsibility you’ve held and outline what you’ve taken from the experience.
As a general rule, okay CVs give you the ‘what’ – for example, the degrees or jobs that person has held. However, great CVs also give you the ‘why’ – for example, why that person has chosen that degree or society.
10. Copied And Pasted Job Descriptions – This is a big no, no! A CV is a personal document and should provide evidence of what you have done, your own individual achievements. It’s not simply about reciting a list of job responsibilities. Think about it, if every ‘customer service assistant’ copied and pasted their job description into their CV how would an employer ever choose whom to interview?
11. Ignoring Gaps In Your Work History – Gaps in employment history are fairly common and rarely a problem as long as they’re explained.
You don’t need to worry about gaps of a couple of weeks but if you’ve been out of work for months (or even years) you need to clearly and concisely explain why. Any unexplained absences of this length will be looked upon with suspicion by potential employers and will give the impression that you’ve been idle during this time.
Don’t be afraid to let recruiters know that you took some time out to volunteer, look after a sick relative or travel the world. There’s also no shame in informing employers of a period spent away from work due to illness or redundancy or . . .
12. Mysterious Gaps In Employment – If for any reason you’ve taken a break for employment – whether it’s for travel, study, volunteering, redundancy or simply to care for your child – explain it. If you don’t, recruiter may jump to their own, less flattering conclusions and pass your CV over without a second thought.
13. A Meaningless Introduction – If you include an introduction in your CV, make sure it’s to the point, and accurately sums up the key qualities the recruiter is looking for. Avoid meaningless phrases like ‘dynamic, results-oriented, driven, personable team player’ and instead clearly outline your key qualification for the role. For example, ‘Part time sales manager with 16 years’ experience in the commercial sector’. If a recruiter looks at one thing on your CV, it could well be your introduction so ensure it tells them as much as possible.
14. Being Too Vague – Using phrases like ‘several’, ‘a few’ and ‘numerous’ can come across as too vague on a CV. So if you spent three years working on a project, say so. Or if you exceeded a sales target, include how much it was by. And if you say you delivered more than a client was expecting, briefly explain how. If you’re too vague it can seem like at best you’re exaggerating, at worst, making something up completely.
15. Including References – You’ve little enough space on your CV to ensure you are able to portray yourself as the full package, so don’t waste any with lengthy references. Most recruiters don’t expect them, and a simple note saying ‘References available on request’ is enough. If a job advert specifically requests references, you can include them on a separate sheet.
16. Hiding Important Information – Just as you need to declutter your CV by leaving out anything irrelevant, it’s vital to highlight the key points that may help swing an interview for a particular job. So think about the design of your CV and ways you can bring important details to the fore, for example by putting key achievements in bullet points or bolding your previous job titles.
Finally note that . . .
We all make mistakes. That’s just part of being human. The important thing is that we learn from them. If you have been firing off your CV and getting no response, it may be time to reflect and ask yourself why? Just go through the list of common mistakes, bloopers and howlers on CVs, which you can easily avoid. Correct yourself and see what you can achieve.
In one of my forthcoming instalments, I am going to look at the format of a good CV. In other words, what do I have to include in my CV, or what topics or sub-topics do I have to address?
Until then, good luck in all your endeavours.
As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.