The most common mistakes people make on their CVs — and how to fix them

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Your CV is your marketing pitch to get a job interview. Photo: Getty

One of the most time-consuming and despised aspects of job hunting is writing a good resume. Not only is it hard to know what to include and how to format it before firing it off to a potential employer, there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there too.

First, there is a lot of pressure to get your resume just right as more often than not, it is the first impression a future employer will get of a candidate.

Resumes are also often subjective. Someone hiring for a creative role may be drawn in by a CV’s bells and whistles, another may just want the applicant’s information clearly and succinctly. Ultimately, your CV will depend on what kind of job you are applying for.

So what mistakes are you making on your resume – and how can you fix them?

Avoid making your resume too general

“Most CVs are rejected for one of three reasons. The first – and I see this every day – is that the CV is too generic,” said Victoria McLean, founder and CEO of CityCV.

“You’ve really got to think about what the hirer is looking for. What problem are they trying to solve?

“And then make sure your CV sells you as the perfect person to solve that problem, fill that gap or take that company forward.”

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Get the tone right

The second reason is about getting the tone of the CV right, obviously depending on what job you are applying for. Rather than simply listing what you’ve previously done, focus on how your achievements will benefit the potential future employer.

“If your CV reads like an old-fashioned job description with lists of ‘I was responsible for x, y, z’ it’s going to be boring,” McLean says. “It also doesn’t tell the hirer anything about what value you’re going to bring to them.”

Make it look good

This doesn’t mean going to town with fancy designs, but making sure you double check your resume for typos.

“Finally, many CVs are still rejected simply because they don’t look professional. They’re badly laid out, difficult to navigate and contain basic spelling and grammar mistakes,” McLean advises.

“You’re going to need to tweak your CV to make it directly relevant to each role you apply for – make sure you proofread it carefully every time.”

“You’ve actually got to change your mindset about what a CV is. It’s not just a job history,” she adds. “An interview-winning CV is a marketing document that pitches you as the perfect candidate and sets out your business case.”

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Think about the first few lines

The introduction on your CV is the first thing an employer will read, so it’s worth spending time on this section to make it stand out.

“It’s worth investing time in getting your pitch right. What makes you a really valuable hire? This has to sing out from your CV in the first couple of lines – recruiters take an average of six to seven seconds to decide whether or not to continue reading a CV, so don’t put your pitch half way down the page,” McLean says.

Focus on your achievements and strengths

Although the bulk of your CV is going to be about your current and previous roles, think about your achievements rather than responsibilities. Your CV should demonstrate that you harnessed your strengths and competencies to add commercial value in every role.

You can’t include everything in two pages, so it’s better to highlight roles or projects that demonstrate you have what the employer needs.

Include relevant information

“Most importantly always keep your CV focused on what value you can add professionally. You can still include hobbies, voluntary work or things you’ve done on a career break – but pitch them in a way that shows how your skills added professional value,” McLean advises.

“Serving on a charity board or PTA shows integrity, stakeholder management and negotiation skills; running marathons demonstrates energy, stamina and commitment. These are relevant to a professional role. But, be honest: if your hobby really isn’t relevant to the role, then leave it out.”

And finally, don’t include your date of birth, marital status or photo, as they don’t tell the hirer anything about how well you’ll do the job. Instead, focus on your commercial value in the role.

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