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How to avoid the 7 most common CV mistakes

So you’ve got all the right skills and qualifications, and even years of experience – but what if you make a mistake on your CV?

The simple truth is that you will likely be rejected if you make just one small mistake in your CV. It doesn’t matter how skilled and qualified you are if you are not able to write an error free application.

One mistake on your CV sets the seed of doubt in the employer’s mind, and makes them wonder how accurate you would be if hired. So on that note, here’s how to avoid a mistake and 7 of the most common recruiters will come across.

Your spell checker didn’t work

Have you ever typed something in Microsoft Word and wondered how efficient the spell checker is? Well, unfortunately it’s not as accurate as you’d think.

The reason for this is that it can sometimes get confused between the use of certain words – especially if you are using the 2003 version. For example, sometimes you may type the word ‘there’ and use it correctly. However, the spell checker thinks you should use the word ‘their’ instead. In most cases it would have picked up correctly that you’d used the wrong one – but not every time!

Sometimes the spell checker suggests changing a word but it doesn’t need to be – it’s right in the first place. So if you completely trust your computer to make corrections for you, then you are leaving yourself open to be disappointed.

So don’t rely on the spell checker, and just use it as a layer or protection against an error. Always check it again numerous times yourself, and even ask a friend to do so too. A spelling or grammatical error is the number one reason for rejection, and the most common. So don’t fall into the same trap as so many other job seekers do.

It’s not all about what you did – but how you did it

Someone with lots of work experience will typically stand a better chance of getting an interview – and for obvious reasons. Years of working full time in a particular profession could mean less training for the employer when hiring, and a more assured guarantee that the employee will excel in the role. However, the employer is not just interested in experience.

So what are they also interested in?

The employer doesn’t just want to know what you did, but also how you did it. Your performance is extremely important to the employer, because let’s face it, anyone can say they did something – but it doesn’t mean to say they did it well!

You also need to demonstrate your abilities by providing results. And yes, this does mean actual numbers if it’s the best way to show your performance. Here’s an example of how to include performance in your CV:

I increased sales revenue

Or,

I increased sales revenue by 20% or £15,000

You can see from the first example that no figures are shown. This is a bad example to give on your CV as it doesn’t tell the whole story. It is also difficult to believe, and the employer could easily dismiss it.

The second example provides more information and makes it much easier for the employer to believe. Writing bold statements on your CV brings us on to the next most common mistake.

Don’t be a cliché

If you make a claim on your CV but don’t back it up with results, you are making a cliché statement. These baseless claims cannot be believed by the employer, and why should they?

A very old way of writing a CV would be to make these types of statements. It was accepted about 20 years ago, but now times have changed. The employer wants an indication of your performance, and will not take your word for it.

Here are a few examples of cliché statements to avoid:

I have great communication skills

I am a hard worker

My teamworking skills are exceptional

I am good at solving problems

None of the examples above provide any evidence that they are true. So avoid them at all costs and instead try to demonstrate your skills with examples. You do not need to state this when you can just show it. If your teamworking skills are exceptional, then detail a project that the team completed and explain your role within it – and also provide the results.

One size does not fit all

Are you someone who applies for more than one job but uses the same CV? Well, you are making a big mistake – and here’s why.

Second in line to spelling as the most popular mistake; writing a generic CV to use for every employer is the next big faux pas. There are lots of reasons why this would fail to impress an employer, and here are just a few:

  • It doesn’t address the job description
  • It fails to present the relevant work experience
  • Entire career history is of no interest to the employer
  • It lacks passion and recognition of the company’s needs

The best way to approach CV writing is to consider what the company wants to see. If you use the same CV over and over again you are likely to miss some key aspects of the role. Instead, you should look to re-write a brand new CV every time you apply. Take into consideration what type of candidate the company is looking for, and try to match as many keywords as possible from the job advert.

Don’t be a fibber

Your CV should be completely honest, and although you always want to make it positive and biased towards your awesome skills, this doesn’t mean that you should lie or embellish. The employer would always want to see an accurate and true reflection of your credentials, and anything else will just cause problems.

First of all, you might find that the employer can see through your lies and rejects your CV instantly. However, if you do make it through to the interview stage you are likely to get caught out when faced with tough questions. In some instances you could even get hired but then found out to have lied later. This would often lead to an instant dismissal, which the company is entitled to do.

Don’t write a novel

With over a decade of career history and a ton of skills it would be easy to write a lengthy CV. Two pages are just not enough, and you have a lot to show off to a prospective employer. But stop right there and listen! Three to four pages are too much and it will not impress the employer.

The hiring manager is very busy and only wants to know if you have the right skills and experience. Anything else is of no interest, and they do not want to see a detailed list of your entire career history. Your CV should be tailored to the role and focused upon what they want. Do you really think they would be interested in seeing your retail position from 15 years ago? Do you think they would want to see a list of tasks from that role? Certainly not, and it’s just taking up valuable space on your CV.

When faced with a three to four page CV, the hiring manager is likely to get bored looking for the good stuff and will quickly move onto another application. So even though you do have what they want, you are making it difficult to find and they just don’t have the time.

Employers don’t want a nomad

Hopping from one job to the next and never really settling for long is a big no-no when it comes to recruitment. The employer will often stay clear of someone who has a history of not sticking around for very long before getting another job.

Who wants to hire someone that is likely to move on within a few months or even weeks? All that money and time spent writing a job advert, reading all the applications, conducting interviews and training will all have gone to waste. It isn’t fair on the employer, and it isn’t fair on your own future.

If you’ve already fallen into this trap, then all is not lost. Before you do it again you need to consider what career you want to step into – and stick too! So don’t apply again until you are certain it’s what you want to do. You can then explain to the employer why you’ve job hopped in the past and why it won’t happen again. Use a cover letter or personal statement to discuss how you’ve now focused your career.

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