The 7 worst mistakes you can make on your CV

You've written your CV, you've proof-read it 300 times, you've made sure there are no lies (well, maybe just the one about being interested in macramé). But there are still ways to put employers off at first sight...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 08 Jul 2014

1. Jargon

Are you a comprehensive blue-sky thinker who, going forward, is looking to upskill so you can leverage key verticals? That’s marvellous, but we fell asleep at ‘comprehensive’. Jargon – even basic phrases like ‘going forward’ – makes you sound inarticulate. Avoid at all costs.

2. Over-formal language

Alright, so there are only so many times you can use the word ‘role’ before it starts to sound repetitive. But avoid the temptation to resort to the thesaurus: ‘I am passionate about my work’ may sound naff, but ‘I am concupiscent in my travails’ just sounds baffling. Employers aren’t impressed by flowery language: they’re impressed by people who can communicate well.

3. Weak language

‘I think, therefore I am,’ said Descartes. No wonder he spent all his time ruminating: with language like that, any employer would have rejected him. Avoid terms like ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’. Be confident in your achievements: go for more solid, definite phrases like ‘I am’ (which admittedly Descartes also used – but way too late) or ‘I do’.

4. Visual jazz

Obviously, there are exceptions – if you’re a graphic designer, for instance, a snazzy design will help you stand out. And if you’re applying for a job at Mattel, perhaps pink scented paper will be just the ticket. But if you’re applying for a mid-level management role, just go for the standard layout. Also, a cramped CV is an uncomfortable CV: there should be plenty of white space around the text.

5. A little less conversation, a little more action please

We can all list our duties – MT’s are, in this order: ‘making tea’, ‘drinking tea’, ‘obsessively checking Analytics’, ‘Googling itself’, and ‘sometimes writing copy’. But your achievements are more important than your duties, so don’t waste space listing how and when you made tea. Put your achievements first.

6. Filed under ‘lame’

You may have tailored your CV to the job, but have you changed the filename? ‘JimmyTescoCV’ isn’t going to look great if you’re applying for a job at Tesco. Equally, when an HR person has 200 CVs to look through, naming yours something vague like ‘CV2014.doc’ will make it hard for them to find yours. You can’t go wrong by putting your first name and last name. And maybe the company name, for good measure.

7. No numbers

If you’re some kind of art assistant, then fine – but in any other job you should be able to quantify what you’ve done. How much did you bring in for your company last year? How much did you increase web traffic by? How many times did you Google yourself? If you can show the hirer solid facts, that’s going to impress them more than anything. 

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