• Kathryn Foot

CV Writing: 6 Mistakes to Avoid


Recruiters see hundreds and thousands of CVs a week; I won’t attempt to quantify the amount, but we all know that CVs are commonly used in the first stage of the application process, or for speculative searches.

Having worked in Careers, giving advice on CVs and been on the other side as a recruiter, I get so frustrated when I see silly mistakes that make a candidate stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Here's what you should avoid:

Curriculum Vitae as a heading:

I know it's a CV, please don't tell me.

Not tailored to the role you are applying for

You’ve heard it a thousand times and I am sure you have said you would NEVER do this, but I see it time and time again.

Make sure your CV is relevant to the role/the company/the industry. Make sure your skills match, or are transferable to the job you are applying for.

Never send out the same CV, tweak it for each role. You need to show recruiters you really want this job, that you have taken the time to research who they are and what they do, and how your skills meet what they are looking for.

This goes a long way. Make them feel loved!

Hiding amazing information

Reading CVs sometimes frustrates me no end.

So many of you have done amazing things but fail to capitalise on them. Freda has raised £4000 for a charity and it gets a brief mention in the interests section. Johnny has won 2 scholarships at University for achieving the highest grades for 2 years running and I spot this a third of the way through page 2.

Do you get the gist?

Shout about those achievements and give them the prominence they deserve (i.e on the first page and clear to see).

Making your work experience a job description:

Aaaargh! I hate this. It is so boring and kind of patronising.

So what that you have worked behind a bar and served customers, collected glasses, handled money and stocked-up. We all know what the job entails, so don’t treat the reader like an idiot (oooh that’s so harsh!).

Tell me about your transferable skills that you have developed as a result.

Tell me about any significant achievements (maybe you always get great customer feedback, or have been given extra responsibility, or received a fabulous appraisal).

That’s what I want to read.

Boring, clichéd personal statements:

Do you use a personal statement? If yes, what does it say?

Are you "an ambitious, hard-working and motivated individual looking to secure XXXXX in XXXXX?"

Then you’re one of too many.

Avoid doing this at all costs.

Make your personal statement PERSONAL. Highlight your key skills and qualities, but make it concise - no more that 150 words and 4/5 lines, oh, and it needs to be interesting. This is the hook that WILL want the reader to continue. There is lots of inspiration on-line, take a look but DON’T copy - yours needs to be original remember.

If you are just starting off in your career, you might be a student or a school leaver then I’m going to suggest you don’t need one. You may be better off looking at your key skills, attributes and achievements and bring them to the top of the document under a heading such as key strengths (you’ll need to back your statements up with evidence); 3 or 4 of these will really capture the attention of the reader (trust me, it will). Or what about adding a reference from LinkedIn or from a recent job (get someone else to sell you!).

Whatever you choose, make sure your opening is headline grabbing and personal.