Seven mistakes you can avoid on your CV

Avoid easy mistakes on your CV

Our latest guest post is from an Application Adviser at Royal Holloway, University of London. Application Advisers work in the Careers Service to provide a critical perspective on CVs and application forms.

Needless to say, after a year as an Application Advisor, I have seen my fair share of CVs. It can feel like I’m looking at the same one over and over as everyone seems to make the same mistakes. Students have dutifully followed a CV template, talked eloquently about their education, experience and interests and provided references. Where some of the major problems seem to lie is in the details and presentation of the information. While some may consider layout and presentation to be secondary concerns in the production of a good CV this couldn’t be any further from the truth. If a recruiter has 150+ CVs to shortlist down to 10 it is often something small and superficial that could get you thrown out at the first cut. We may be told not to judge a book by its cover but that doesn’t stop us all doing it.

Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Never put ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top.
  • Don’t make the font too big or too small.
  • Avoid big blocks of text. Write in short concise sentences, elaborate in your cover letter.
  • Don’t over format because it’s really distracting. Use formatting selectively to draw the reader’s attention to key information.
  • Be sparing with your bullet points.
  • Don’t try to squash too much information together, leave some white space on the page.
  • Proof read – proof read – proof read. Spelling and punctuation mistakes don’t make a good impression.

If you have a good CV layout then you increase the chance that someone will actually read it and realise how wonderfully qualified you are. There are a few other things you can do to improve your CV which people tend to forget:

  • Tailor every CV. Do not make one version and send it out to everyone (yes it is obvious!)
  • Use the job description and person specification to build your CV. Show that you understand the job, their requirements and make it easy for them to see how you fit.
  • Do not tell them how enthusiastic you are, how hard working, a quick learner, efficient at time management, etc. Show them. Demonstrate your skills through your experience by giving examples as evidence.
  • Always send a cover letter with a CV (unless they explicitly state not to). Elaborate on your experience and spell out why you are a good candidate for the position.

Finally, the last thing I would say is to show your CV to someone, either a friend, relative or take it to your Careers Service. I may see the same mistakes time and time again but importantly I am the person seeing them, not a potential employer, and myself and the other Application Advisors are able to point out ways to improve each CV before it gets sent to someone who has the potential to offer you a job or an internship.

Hopefully these few pointers are of some use to you – happy CV writing!

Check out our resources on CV writing on Careers Tagged.

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