Do you know what the first step is to writing a great CV/résumé? Avoiding these 11 mistakes that graduates and other job applicants often make.
Graduate Career Tip #3: Avoid these 11 mistakes on your CV
1 – If you write your CV using Microsoft Word, don’t put your contact details in a header. CV processing software can’t read header sections, and on a computer screen headers are greyed out and easy to miss by a real person also. And if that person has to double-click the header to copy any of your details, that’s…well.. irritating. So don’t get fancy with headers – simply type your contact details in the main document.
2 – Including your photo on your CV isn’t a terrible mistake – in fact, in most countries you have to attach one. But not in the UK. International students seem to either be confused by this or to attach their photo ‘just in case’. Please don’t, a photo is not wanted on CVs in the UK. The ‘no photo’ practice is supposed to prevent discrimination – negative or positive – based on how you look. Which makes me think…this of course doesn’t stop employers from checking you out online.
3 – Make your name easier to spot by using a slightly larger font size but don’t emblazon it as if it were a movie title. If you’re using font size 11 or 12 for your CV subheadings, try 14 for your name. Make it visible, not overwhelming.
4 – Why do people still recommend that you include a profile or objectives statement in your CV? Really, don’t. No one reads them as they’re usually full of empty, generic adjectives and nouns. Plus, they often focus on the candidate’s objectives rather than the company’s and that’s not the right way to do it. Save your time and space on your CV – ditch the profile.
5 – Most CV templates list education first, but I’d recommend starting with your work experience. Unless you really haven’t got any that’s even slightly relevant. Don’t give too many details about your degree as most of the time employers aren’t interested. And, you only need to list your degree(s) and senior school leaving qualification – not your entire schooling history.
6 – Avoid funny formatting and indentation as they can make your CV messy and difficult to follow. Use a table if you like to organise your information in columns and rows – but I’d recommend hiding all the borders. A simple, clean format, with no visible grids or colours seems to be the preferred format by real people and machines alike.
7 – Unless an employer is looking for very specific qualifications, your work experience is always going to be what they’re most interested in. But don’t simply give a boring list of your responsibilities, which is what you do when you use the ‘-ing’ form (answering, photocopying, etc.). Write about what you’ve done, listing specific and where possible measurable achievements. By the way, there’s no need to say how many hours you worked per week on your part-time job.
8 – Don’t make the mistake of relying on a spell checker to spot all errors in your CV. Spell checkers recognise wrong spelling and obvious grammar mistakes but most of the time they won’t flag up that you’re using the wrong word in the wrong place. Would you hire an office assistant who’s turned into an ‘office assailant’? No psychos, thanks.
9 – You’re confused by this one: Should you or shouldn’t you list your hobbies / interests in your CV? I personally would say don’t list them. Unless you can use your hobbies to tell the employer something very impressive about you. For example, never simply say ‘running’ or ‘martial arts’, but use your interest in sports to tell the employers about your determination, discipline and ability to push past your limits.
10 – Here’s the deal: Microsoft Office was an important feature on your CV in 1999, but today employers just take for granted that as a ‘digital native’ you have decent knowledge of the common applications. I’m not saying you shouldn’t include an ‘Additional Information’ section in your CV. Do it, but use this section to add impressive achievements, not to list things that are just ‘normal’. Above all, don’t say what everyone else says – you need to stand out, remember?
11 – When space is so limited on your CV, why waste it on an empty phrase such as this one? Rest assured, the employer will ask you for your referees’ details when they’re interested enough in your application. If the job advert says you need to provide references with your CV, attach them to your CV on a separate sheet of paper. You may want to do this anyway if you have really impressive or important references. Otherwise, don’t mention references at all on your CV and wait for the employer to request them.
These aren’t of course the only mistakes you can make on your CV. For example another one is making your CV too long, though as a fresh graduate you’re still building your resume and can resist this temptation quite well.
Any recruiters reading this who are willing to share their insights with us? Leave your comments below on what is your graduate CV pet peeve.
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