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Common CV Mistakes – and How to Fix Them

CV mistakes are almost as common as CVs themselves. These common CV mistakes can mean the difference between landing the job and continuing the search. Fortunately, you can easily fix these errors.

Your CV is the closest thing an employer gets to a window into your soul, but drafting this document is no small feat. If you’re like a lot of job seekers, you may focus on getting your CV done quickly at the expense of completing it to perfection. This mysterious document doesn’t have to prove permanently challenging, though. Make these tweaks to your CV and watch as the emails from recruiters begin accumulating.


Listing Duties Instead of Achievements
The employer with whom you apply probably already knows the basic duties your previous job demanded. After all, it’s not as if the job duties of a secretary, lawyer, or doctor are a big secret. Don’t waste precious CV space listing your job duties. Instead, highlight your achievements. Don’t simply state that you answered phones; talk about how you brought in new clients or operated a complex switchboard instead. By highlighting your achievements, you stand out ahead of everyone else, most of whom probably listed only job duties.


Padding Your CV
Your CV does not need to be a specific length, and not everyone can have a packed CV. Instead, your CV needs to be an accurate reflection of where you are in your career. Adding in irrelevant skills or highlighting jobs you had 20 years ago makes you look less qualified, not more.


Poor Quality Writing
A recent survey found that 61% of CV have typos. Do yourself a favor and ask at least two other people to read over your CV. And once you’ve eliminated all typos, look at the quality of writing. Get rid of passive voice, which robs you of credit. For example, the award was not won; you won it! Keep your verb tenses the same throughout your CV, and avoid excessive wordiness, which will quickly cause employers’ eyes to glaze over.


Poor Formatting
Particularly if you’re applying for a job that requires computer skills — which most do — your CV needs to look like you know what you’re doing. Keep the fonts plain and clear, and avoid excessively large print. But ensure that your CV is neatly organised and flows well. If you run out of room, for example, you might put your contact information in the margins or rely on columns — two choices that show you know what you’re doing behind the computer.


Forgetting About Skills and Awards
Potential employers don’t just want to know what you did at your previous jobs. They also want to know what you’ve learned. If the job for which you’re applying is skill-intensive, be sure to add a skills section to your CV. Highlight only those skills that are noteworthy and specifically relevant to the job; competence with sending emails or the ability to use Google, for example, have no place on your CV. Higher-end skills such as knowledge of a specific programming language or experience with an unusual word processor, though, should figure prominently. If you’ve won any awards, consider also adding an awards section, which shows you’re not just good at what you do, but great.


Using phrases that make your CV generic and boring
While it’s not recommended to take risks with your CV, some of the old standby rules no longer apply and can make your CV seem generic.  Here are five phrases, words, and clichés you should remove from your CV:

  • “References Available Upon Request”
    It’s common knowledge that you don’t have to provide references up front anymore, but you truly don’t need to worry about mentioning references at all. If a potential employer requests references, you definitely need to be ready to provide at least two strong ones. Most employers know, though, that you’ll provide this if asked. You don’t need to take up space reminding them of the obvious.
  • The Objective Statement
    Another outdated idea that takes up valuable real estate on your CV. It’s obvious what your objective is – to get the job. For many industries, you can just get right into the work experience and education sections without adding a lead-in; your cover letter does that job. One caveat – some industries do prefer that you include a summary at the top of your CV detailing your most relevant experiences and certifications. Be sure to research your career of choice to see if this is commonly expected in your field.
  • “Duties Included”
    Quite a few of the old-school CV rules simply serve as space fillers. There’s no reason to hold the hiring manager’s hand and directly point out that you will now be discussing what your past jobs granted you as duties. Instead, launch right in to your bullet points, each beginning with a strong action word.
  • “To Whom it May Concern”
    Before the internet age, finding the name of the hiring manager in charge of the position you were interested in could be difficult.  Today, most job postings include the name of the hiring manager. If not, it’s a simple task to search a company’s website or LinkedIn for the hiring manager’s name. Unless close to impossible to find, the hiring manager’s name should be used in the greeting of your cover letter and any communication about the job posting. If you are absolutely unable to find a name, go with “Dear Hiring Manager” instead.
  • “Hard-Working”
    In describing yourself and your skills, don’t go for something as generic as “hard-working.” While you shouldn’t get heavy handed with the colorful descriptions, phrases like “hard-working” actually tell a potential employer very little about you. What exactly does this phrase mean to you? The answer to that question is how you should phrase the description on your CV. Always follow the principle of “show – don’t tell” on your CV, and you’ll have a better idea of how to phrase job duties and skill descriptions when applying for jobs.


Looking for your next professional opportunity? Allen Recruitment is an international overseas recruitment agency based in Ireland but with offices all over Europe, in SwedenNetherlands, Belgium, FranceUK, Poland and Spain. We have a host of exciting opportunities in different industries including financial, tech and life sciences. Get in touch today to see how our expert consultants can help.


Posted in: Job Seeking Resources

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