BusinessConsumer Advice

My Top 10 CV Fails

By June 25, 2015 August 11th, 2015 No Comments

It’s that time of year again where many people of school or college age are coming to the end of their courses having just sat exams, and start prepping their CVs to apply for jobs – either a summer job before University or the next year of school/college, or for a long-term job if they’re planning to go into employment.

With competition at an all-time high just to get an interview (be sure to check out my other post – How to Fail a Job Interview – for what not to do) your CV is your one-and-only chance to make a good first impression. Don’t waste that precious opportunity!

With that in mind, here are my Top 10 things to avoid when updating – or creating for the first time – that killer CV.

1. Send it in a format other than PDF

PDF is a universal file format, the idea being that anyone, on any system anywhere can open the document and it will look how you want it to look. Your CV needs to look how you intend it to look, and also the non-editable nature of PDF makes it feel like the finished product.

2. Typos and Spelling Mistakes

I so often read CVs of people applying for jobs which say things like, “I enjoy taking a pride in my work and I have great attention to detail.” Yeah, great. Except I’m reading this in a CV which is full of mis-spellings and other typos?

3. Plagiarism!

Yes, CV plagiarism is a thing. Really. This (thankfully) applies more to the younger applicants, for whom it may well be the first time they’ve written a CV or applied for a job, but for Pete’s sake don’t just Copy & Paste the “ideal” sample personal profile/statement you’ve been given and pass it off as your own.

When an interviewer is reviewing CVs, especially if there are several of you from your school/college/whatever applying for jobs at the same company… it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb and be visible from a MILE off when CV after CV has word for word an identical 6-line paragraph as its introduction (and yes that did happen to me recently).

If that happens I might as well just tippex out that entire section and ignore it for all the relevant it holds… that’s if the CV doesn’t go straight in the shredder.

4. Write a Personal Statement full of Clichéd Crap

It’s incredibly easy to produce a CV that looks absolutely excellent on paper. That’s not what I want. I want to know about you, I don’t just want to hear what you think I want to hear. “I have the ability to work independently, taking initiative to get the job done, and I also thrive working as part of a fast-moving team.” – yyyyyaaaawwwnnnn….. next?

If you really want to impress and make your CV stand out, include a cover letter where you make it clear you’re writing the cover letter specifically for this job and showing that you’ve researched the role and the company to the extent that you know at least as much about our company and products/services as our average customer does. Constructively critisise, compliment, ask questions, say how you’d help to improve things, probe a bit… make an impact!

5. Exaggerate your Achievements

I want to believe you… but if you say “I achieved excellent GCSE results…” and then on page 2 of your CV they’re listed and you got a couple of Cs then mostly Ds and Es… hmmm, how should I say this? I’m sure you tried… but that’s not “excellent”. The scale goes all the way up to A*. Be honest.

Where else have you been economical with the truth?

6. Scrape the Barrel

When I was at primary school in the early ’90s, I had violin lessons for a couple of terms or so. I’ve even still got my violin (it was a family hand-me-down) up in the loft. I know where it is and everything – next to the hot water tank under a pile of crap. I’ve got 2 guitars, too, and I can play E, Em, A, C, G, D, have a go at some bar chords, and do a pretty good rendition of Auld Lang Syne. I wish I’d had more time over the last 13 years to teach myself the guitar properly. Aaah well…

I don’t put any of that on my CV though, because that would make me look so desperate for good stuff to say if I was having to resort to such unimpressive boasts. It would also undermine any of the other properly good things I’d have to say, because it would give the impression that I don’t feel confident or proud enough of those and I feel I’ve got to think of yet more to say.

So don’t bother telling me that you’re highly proficient at using Microsoft Word. You might as well say you’re good at breathing.

7. Tell Me You’re Great at Everything

Please don’t tell me that you have great communication skills. Firstly, I’ll be the judge of that. Secondly, anyone can write that on a CV. Does that make it true? Hardly. Rather than tell me you’re such a fantastic communicator, let that shine through in the interview – then I’ll really believe it.

8. Write your Phone Number as One Huge Long Number


9. Waffle on For More Than 2 Pages

I’ll get bored.

10. Over-Egg your Previous Jobs & Experience

If you fall prey to the temptation to add a bit of extra shine to your previous job title, role or experience, don’t be surprised if I see right through it when talking to you about it in the interview or following up your references.

For example, the first job in my illustrious career was when I spent some time working in media distribution (yeah, I had a paper round aged 13).

Paul Freeman-Powell

Paul Freeman-Powell

Paul (@paulfp) is the main presenter of the award-winning Switched On Network YouTube Channel, which covers a variety of interesting topics usually relating to his love of technology and all things geeky. He also founded and runs Innobella Media, where he leads in all aspects of video production, video editing, sound & lighting. A father of 3 children including twins, his hobbies used to include photography, playing the drums and cycling. With a degree in Modern European Languages, Paul speaks French, Spanish and a little bit of Italian, and holds dual British & Irish citizenship.

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