Avoid these top ten CV howlers

Even the most senior professionals make mistakes on their CV. Recruitment and talent management expert Vicky Dodd gives her advice for selling yourself well on paper

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Last Updated: 12 Aug 2016

1. Keep it concise

If you’ve held a number of very senior roles, it’s likely that a one page bio or resume overviewing your career and current role will be more appropriate than a CV.  A senior level CV shouldn’t be any longer than three sides of A4.  Don’t fall into the trap of adding to it as your career progresses but make sure it’s regularly reviewed for relevance and if appropriate tailored to the specific role you’re applying for.

2. Focus on your current role

Make sure the responsibilities and tangible achievements of your current role constitute at least half, if not all, of the first page. 

3. Don’t leave gaps

Compress your early career where possible but without leaving any gaps, which can leave unanswered questions.  

4. Sell yourself up front

Don’t blindly conform to format.  If you have a brilliant academic background - a first class Oxbridge degree, for example - position it up front, not on the last page.

5. Don’t include your age

Legally you don’t need to put your date of birth or date your education.  However, in some cases it’s worthwhile if showcasing that you’re particularly young to be managing director, for example.  

6. Leave out your early education

Only refer to degree and post degree qualifications.  It’s surprising how many senior level CVs still feature O’ level results or ‘school prefect’!  Certainly include an MBA or relevant professional qualification but avoid listing every executive or management course you’ve attended.

7. Personal summary statements aren’t essential

It’s become quite a common feature of CVs but if it’s just a repetition of what comes after, leave it out.  However, if you’re applying for a job outside your experience profile, this can be the right place to explain the motivations behind your change of direction.  

8. Keep hobbies and interests brief

Do include them but not at length unless they’re relevant to your job.  Stay neutral and avoid adding personal details such as the names of your family or even your pets!  Don’t be tempted to highlight your passion for ‘medieval sword fighting’ because you love it.  Others may not share your views.

9. Don’t include your home address

The only contact details you need on your CV are your mobile number and home email address.  This is particularly important if you’re applying for a role located some distance from your home.  Unless you state that you’re prepared to re-locate, you may risk being relegated regardless of whether you fit the role.  

10. Don’t put referees

Never attach written references or include the names of referees. These will be followed up if you get to interview stage.


Vicky Dodd is head of executive search at Independent, a people services business.

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