CV don’ts….please, really, just don’t!

I’m hoping to elicit comments from colleagues and former colleagues in response to this post.  Actually, input from allcomers will be welcome.  What terrible faux pas have you seen in CVs (or made in the past, if you’re prepared to admit it)?

I’ve seen all kinds of CVs in my time, including the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Probably the commonest problems, as you might expect, are poor grammar and spelling. These are sometimes only tiny errors, but have a big impact on the overall impression a candidate makes. Think from the recruiter’s perspective: would you trust someone who misspells their own name?!?!? Seriously, I’ve seen this. Before you suggest it might have been a variant spelling, I’m entirely sure it was an error, because the person in question stated their name twice on the document and it wasn’t the same both times. And just to confirm, it isn’t normal to put your name twice, anyway.

There are also things it’s simply not appropriate to mention. “Highlights” I’ve encountered include mentioning kids’ GCSE results, star signs, physical descriptions as part of an introductory ‘personal statement’, putting as much information about a spouse as the candidate and a couple of people who stick in my mind for going into incredible, cringe-worthy detail about why their past jobs were each so disastrous.  Then there’s the category I like to call errors of inefficiency, such as using up half the page just to list all GCSE results in full, a line dedicated to each and every subject.  That’s 25% of your entire document.  Seriously, is that the best you have to offer? 

And let’s not forget about the crime of “too much information.” Recruiters do NOT need to know the ins and outs of an applicant’s relationship history, even if it does relate to reasons for leaving jobs.  These in themselves are best revealed only when forced by a direct question…and even then you can give the explanation of what you were trading up to instead of what you were escaping.

Moving onto the inappropriate email addresses some people include.  Here’s a great example:

A candidate’s email address had the phrase “shakinmabootie” in it

 fine if you’re target job is exotic dancer, but otherwise a big no.  Check out 9 more bad ideas if you need a laugh.  I’ve seen plenty of ‘fluffybunny@…’ or ‘hotchick99@…’ type of unprofessional contact details, but the worst from my personal experience was ‘i124q@…’ (read it aloud, it’s bad) which was not only on a CV, but one handed in as a piece of assessed coursework.  Epic fail, needless to say.

The trick is to remember that a CV is not a piece of automatic writing, it’s not your entire autobiography and it’s not a repository for sundry information loosely herded into a seemingly random order.  It’s a document with a purpose: to make an employer invite you to interview.  Your best chance for achieving this goal is to select the details you wish to include carefully, according to their usefulness and interest to the reader.  Ask yourself how each item relates to the requirements of the new role.  If you can’t come up with an answer, it probably doesn’t need to feature.

Personal best/worst, demonstrating the importance of careful proofreading, as shared by a recruiter in a top law firm: “as you can see, I have studied both law and business and the decision to choose between has been, for me, a hard on”

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “CV don’ts….please, really, just don’t!

  1. I did enjoy your post, thank you Careers Lady!

    My single piece of advice would be to STOP writing “I like going to the gym…” under activities/interests or anywhere else on the application for that matter.

  2. Lindy

    Having recently sat on the other side of the fence as a recruiter, my normal job involves helping university students with CVs, I was AMAZED at the proof-reading errors in Application Forms from people applying for a job with the title Professional Development and Employability Tutor. The role involves a need to be a role model to students, so any that had errors were swiftly put in a ‘no’ pile.
    My advice is: write the responses using a application like MSWord, SPELL CHECK and get PROOFREAD by someone else, then cut and paste into form. (and then don’t edit in the form because that’s where errors creep in!)

  3. another contribution from a colleague in careers – her favourite CV error was in the Hobbies section: “I like hiding my horse.” Cute typo 🙂 Also leads to a classic joke – what kind of cheese would help you to do this? Mascarpone!!! (mask-a-pony, geddit?)

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