CVs are never easy to write. With limited space to demonstrate how amazing you are to an employer, it’s easy to resort to clichés that will immediately lower your chances of getting that all-important first interview.
Whether you’re a ‘fast learner’ with ‘strong attention to detail’ or you’re a ‘results-driven individual’, there are some phrases and mistakes that set all recruiters on edge. We asked experts to share some CV pitfalls that any hopeful applicant should avoid.
1. Avoid being too generic
It can be tempting to borrow from CV jargon you find online, but it’s best to avoid sweeping statements that are so overused, they’ve practically become meaningless.
“A common mistake we see when reading CVs is generic phrases such as ‘I have a strong work ethic’ or ‘I am able to work well as part of a team and individually’,” says Simon Bell, director and founder of Careermap.
“Yes, these are good qualities to have but how does the recruiter know you actually possess these? We want to see examples of how you have used these skills previously and why they are a good fit for the position you’re applying for.”
Mr Bell says he looks for key skills used in the job description being implemented in your CV. “Not only does this show that you’ve read the job description, but it evidences that you’ve applied because you’re a good match for the job.”
2. Axe irrelevant hobbies
While it’s great that you like taking long walks with your dog, the recruiter or employer probably won’t be all that interested in this, unless of course, it’s relevant to the job you’re applying to, says Mr Bell.
“Adding your hobbies and interests is completely optional and when used to their full potential can actually help you to sell yourself, but they need to be skills related.
“For example, if you play for a sports team, this shows commitment, teamwork and leadership. Have your own blog? This highlights your communication skills.”
3. Spelling mistakes and bad grammar
A lack of attention to detail could outweigh your otherwise perfect CV. Spellcheck doesn’t always spot errors and is unable to detect misuse of incorrect words, such as ‘diary’ being mistakenly spelt as ‘dairy’, so it’s always worth asking a fresh pair of eyes to look over and find any last typos for you.
Grammar can be tweaked by reading your CV aloud – if it doesn’t sound correct, it’s most likely that it won’t read very well either.
Mr Bell says: “While having close attention to detail is important, you’d be surprised how many applicants say this, yet their CV is packed full of grammar and spelling mistakes.”
If you’re going to use the phrase ‘close attention to detail’, make sure you’re not one of the many who fall into the errors trap.
4. Avoid cliché phrases such as ‘hard working’ and ‘team player’
Being hardworking is arguably the least a potential employer will expect from you – and employers are more concerned with productivity, says Stephen Warnham, Jobs Expert at Totaljobs.
Instead, Mr Warnham advises showing the results of your hard work. “Say something tangible, along the lines of, ‘I consistently delivered above target throughout a 12-month period, working directly with clients across a range of channels to ensure customer satisfaction’.”
The same goes for the phrase ‘team player’. “When talking about aspects of your personality, make sure to highlight how you use your enthusiasm to motivate colleagues,” says Mr Warnham. “Give examples of how you have used these skills in the past, rather than just telling people that you possess them.”
Using terms such as ‘good communicator’ and ‘positive attitude’ without substantiating them with facts or examples will add very little (if any) value and whoever is reading your CV will just tune out. Snap out of using jargon and highlight specific key skills backed up with valid examples to give your CV credibility.
5. Focus on achievements not duties
Hiring managers don’t want to read about your day-to-day activities in your past jobs. They will get the idea from your job title and information so don’t bore them with details of duties.
What they do care about is what you achieved in your various activities. So, highlight your achievements within your day to day duties. For example, a supermarket checkout clerk could say ‘I scan an average of 25 items per minute which sits above the target of 20’.
Quantifying your achievements with numbers like this tells hiring managers how good you are at what you do, and it can be just what sways their hiring decision to your favour.
6. Tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for
“When a hiring manager or recruiter reads your CV, they’re comparing it to the job posting or the job they’re considering you for,” says Biron Clark, founder of Career Sidekick. “They’re thinking, ‘Does this person have the skills and experience needed to step into this job and succeed’?”
Tailoring your CV shows the hiring manager that your experience and qualifications match the job requirements.
It’s also essential for passing through applicant tracking systems, which scan your CV for specific keywords that match the job requirements. If it doesn’t fit the bill, it’s quickly discarded, before human eyes even see it.
When was the last time you updated your CV? Are you currently seeking employment?
– With PA
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