Top 7 things I hate to see in CVs

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.

Man_with_CVs300This 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 aboutConcept of lies. Lie detector with text. 3d 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?

7 thoughts on “Top 7 things I hate to see in CVs

  1. I just wanted to support everything you say here. As an ex HR Director these were my pet hates. As a Careeers Coach these are errors most often made by students – particularly the generic CV

    The other thing to do is to make sure you think about your transferable skills. If for instance you have travelled around Eurpoe you will have planning, budgeting and organising skills. Students often miss or don’t think about some of the great skills that they have demonstrated.

  2. I just wanted to support everything you say here. As an ex-HR Director these were my pet hates. As a Careers Coach these are the errors most often made by students – particularly the generic CV.

    The other thing to do is to make sure you think about your transferable skills. If for instance you have travelled around Europe you will have planning, budgeting and organising skills. Students often miss or don’t think about some of the great skills that they have demonstrated.

    • Thank you for your comments. Yes I agree there is a need to think about transferable skills and I am going to blog next week about some of the skills students gain from studying outside their own countries. They often fail to convince employers of the value of those experiences.

  3. Pingback: Top 7 things I hate to see in CVs | Rego's Media Page

  4. As a recruiter I agree with most of what is above, especially about CVs that aren’t tailored or that state “looking for a career in IT” when applying for a job that isn’t in IT.
    I also hate to see a long list of skills with no evidence. I look for where these skills came from rather than just to be told the candidate is a “potential leader with excellent attention to detail” Put skills with experiences not just on their own, or I wont believe them, its just too easy to say “great team player” with no evidence – I’ve had half a dozen today.

  5. As a marketing recruiter who looks at hundreds of CVs a day I definitely agree with your top 7 things. I work at Brand Recruitment who are a specialist marketing and PR recruitment agency in the Central and Eastern Region and we receive lots of CVs that are written in the third person – I would estimate around 10%!

    We like to tell ourselves (and our directors) that we are fairly intelligent, and yet our mind can’t come up with any ways in which third person is more effective than first. Although as Brits we sheepishly shy away from it, a CV is all about selling ourselves. We have to represent ourselves in a way that is accurate, positive and appealing to whomever ends up with the pleasure of reading it. Not an easy task. We all know that we have achieved some amazing things, and if asked at interview about them, we can reel off ‘this result’ and ‘that success’. So why on your CV would you write it in a way that takes the credit away from you? CVs are all about using your initiative to describe yourself in original, truthful words and really focus on the differences you have made for your employers.

    The honest truth is that both hiring managers and recruiters want a simple, honest CV and we get confused by anything else. Ultimately, hiring managers are using them to judge your suitability and whilst they may think you are quirky for using third person, more often than not, they will lean towards the candidates whose CVs are easier to digest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s