Sometimes a CV is a thing of beauty, smart, professional, with correct grammar and spelling, evidencing great work experience and acquisition of skills. A CV like these cries out “Employ me!” and sooner or later an employer will heed that call! Sadly I see a lot of CVs which don’t quite hit the mark, so here’s my personal hate list.
The space filler.
Sometimes students don’t feel that they have much to say in their CVs, so they set out to try to cover two pages with virtually no information. I have seen names in font sizes of over 60 (against the 14 I would normally recommend) and acres of white space. A CV like this doesn’t fool anyone. It looks as if you haven’t got any relevant experience! Instead of spreading out a few comments, why not look at the competencies for the job which interests you? Think through every area of your life and work out where you might have learnt the skills. You’ll probably find that you have much more to write than you thought.
The “pretty” CV.
Now there are jobs for which you need a really creative CV. If you want to work in art or design or marketing you’ll need a CV which stands out, so my comments here don’t relate to those sector areas. I don’t like the “pretty” CV which you’re using to try to get yourself a job in a very traditional industry. Banks, accountancy and law firms aren’t expecting you to use bright colours, borders or Peanuts cartoons and I’ve seen them all! Make sure that your CV stands out for the right reasons!
The CV riddled with errors.
This is the one we talk about all the time. Evidence shows that employers spend no more than 30 seconds deciding whether to consign a CV to the bin or put it to one side for further consideration. Over and over again employers tell us that they stop reading at the second mistake and bin the CV. We all struggle to proof read our own work. We tend to read what we thought we wrote, rather than what we (or autocorrect on the computer) actually wrote. Why not get someone to look through your CV before it goes off?
The scruffy CV.
These appear with surprising regularity. Often dates and headings don’t align. Sometimes the font might change half way through the document (probably betraying a bit of copy and pasting!) and the overall effect is scruffy. It’s likely to make an employer think that you can’t pay attention to detail. Try really looking at your CV to avoid this. Print it out. Get someone else to have a look at it and ask them for their honest comments. Find the perfectionist who’s going to be honest with you. When you’re applying for the dream job you don’t want to rely for feedback on the person who always proffers you praise and affirmation!
The cliché and hyperbolic CV.
My former colleague Helen Stringer has blogged about this before and I can only suggest that you read her excellent and amusing post. Are you guilty of this? It’s one thing to make sure that you use a few power words but avoid the cliché!
The lying CV.
There’s a world of difference between being very positive about your past experience and lying about it! If you over exaggerate, an employer is going to know that you are being (at best) disingenuous. When you did the vacation internship in HR you did not personally handle a redundancy selection process for 50 staff. You might have observed it and that would have been valuable experience for your future career – make sure your CV expresses what you actually did. If you embellish the truth, you risk being caught out at interview. Don’t be “creative” with examination marks either. When you get a job you’ll probably have to produce evidence of your performance and if you gave incorrect information you might find that the job offer is withdrawn.
The generic CV.
I see lots of these. My first question when I am asked to look at a CV is “What are you using this for?” Very often students put together a generic CV and use the same one for everything. It’s not a good idea! Each job calls for a different set of essential and desirable skills. If you’re using a CV to apply, then you need to make sure that you evidence all those requirements in that CV. You need to make it as easy as possible for the employer to see that you can meet the demands of the person and job specification so that he/she has to interview you. The generic CV is not going to “fit the bill”.
So this is my list of personal hates. I think they are shared by many employers. How can you avoid putting together a less than ideal CV? If you’re at Warwick have a look at our Moodle CV course. Generally careers services are able to help with CVs, why not take all the support that’s available to maximise your chance of making a successful job application?