Your CV needs to be perfect. If it’s not, then who knows how many jobs you’re missing out on? You only have a matter of seconds to gain the attention of the recruiter, and the selection process is tough. In today’s market, your application could be one of over 200 that the recruiter sees. This means the elimination process is ruthless, quick and focused on the most professional, easy to read, targeted and relevant applications. So what do they look for?
Whilst writing your CV, make sure you put yourself in the seat of the recruiter and think about how your document is going to be perceived within that first 30 seconds. What information have you put at the top of your CV? Does this truly reflect what you consider to be relevant in terms of what you can offer the role and the organisation? If you value your marital status, date of birth and nationality higher than you place your strengths, key skills and achievements then this is all the recruiter will learn about you.
So what are the common mistakes responsible for the rejection of a CV application?
Spelling and Grammar
Possibly the most common mistake is failing to proofread your writing. Relying on spellcheck will only get you so far, as there are too many variations of words, phrases and technical jargon. Never rely on your computer alone for errors. Reading your work aloud will help you to identify any places where commas need to be added, sentences which are too long etc. Reading aloud also helps with word choice and flow.
Once you’ve looked at it yourself, get someone else to proof your CV as it’s often difficult to spot your own mistakes. People tend to read their own work as they intended it to be written, skipping over glaring issues.
Don’t feel embarrassed about asking someone to do this for you. We promise you’ll feel more embarrassed when you miss out on your dream job over a silly spelling error.
Layout & Content
Another error people make is the layout of their content. Each section should be carefully placed for maximum impact. If you put your key information on the second page of your CV, don’t expect it to be read.
Lead your CV with relevancy and key information. Recruiters are looking for easy to read and digestible chunks of information about you, not who in your family was ill in 1991. The top half of your first page should include a ‘highlight reel’ of your career.
Keep your content relevant to the role you are applying for and always consider how it will be perceived. No-one wants to hear about how you were a prefect for a term in Year 8 because it isn’t relevant to the role of an accountant. The first job you list should be the one which is most relevant to the role you’re applying for. Chronology doesn’t matter here.
Another thing people overlook is the visual side of any documents you send a potential employer. Before submitting an application, ask yourself ‘does it look aesthetically pleasing?’ ‘Is it easy to pick out the keywords and phrases?’ ‘Does it sell my skills and personality?‘
Quick tips on the do’s and don’ts of writing style:
- A CV should hardly contain the letter ‘I’ anywhere.
- Where you want to use ‘I’ use ‘A’
- insert action verbs to compliment your achievements
Don’t write “I am a highly resourceful, pragmatic and professional Project Manager.”
Instead, try “A highly resourceful, pragmatic and professional Project Manager.“
A list of action verbs for use in your CV:
It is no longer necessary to include personal information in relation to your
- Date of Birth
- Marital Status
- Birth Place
In fact, including them could very well damage your application as they are deemed a CV faux pas. Your application needs to be judged on your ability to carry out a role and provide a value to the organisation you are applying to. All information outlined above is of no relevance – do not include!
You also shouldn’t include a picture of yourself, unless you’re working in very select industries such as modelling or film. Including a picture may give away personal information and get your application thrown out for being unprofessional.
Key Words and Phrases
Get technical with your CV and directly reference the role in your application. If you look at any job vacancy there will be a set outline of essential and desirable criteria that a recruiter is looking for. You need to have these keywords and phrases in your CV for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, your details may be found in a database search and be matched to a recruiters requirements. Being headhunted for a job is the goal of passive job hunting, and having a company seek you out for a role can be a sign that you’re a great match.
Secondly, when the recruiter quickly scans your CV they will see a ‘match’ to their list. Your CV may not be initially seen by someone who knows your role; they may well simply be looking at a list of words and trying to match them in a CV. Using these keywords helps indicate to them that you’re right for the role.
Make sure you’re including industry-specific terms and knowledge, to show you really know the role and are keen.
Targeting your CV
A common failing is that a CV is submitted without any thought as to the relevancy for the role being applied for. Look at the vacancy, then look at your CV. Are you the person in the advertisement? Show it on your CV. Again, repeating the exact keywords used in the job description is the best way to make the recruiter feel as though you’re the perfect match for the job.
If you’re applying for a Project Manager role and your CV says you are an IT Manager, change it! Recruiters like to see an application that looks as though it has been prepared in direct relation to the vacancy they are looking to fill. List your relevant roles and experiences, even if you haven’t held that job title before. You never know, it might be the perfect role for you!
Lastly, remove the date on your CV. It could show the last time you updated it was 3 years ago! Check each and every application very carefully.
Job Descriptions and Quantifiable Information
Anyone can write a job description. All you need to do is look up a job title on the internet and you have a description of the role and its responsibilities. However, this approach to CV writing will not allow you to stand out from the other applicants. You need to show what you have achieved from carrying out that role and what you brought to the company to date. This ensures you stand out from the other candidates. Quantify your experience.
If you claim to have improved sales then say how and by how much. Keep your details to highlights so it can spark an interest in the recruiter. This allows a recruiter to find out more in an interview setting. Facts, figures and statistics are a great way to quantify your worth to a company.
Another thing to note is that if you’re listing activities as part of a team, don’t say ‘we’ or ‘our’. Only list your roles in the team and how you contributed to the final product. List the achievements of the team by all means, but don’t talk about others who have no relevance to your job application.
Reason for Leaving
Never include why you left each role on your CV; it’s not relevant at this stage in the application process. Recruiters like to see how an applicant has developed their career. They can spot promotional and progressive moves so don’t waste valuable space outlining them.
Additionally, if your reason for leaving was in anyway negative then you do not want this to be known at this stage. Any areas of concern can be raised, if asked, in an interview. This gives you the platform to explain in full and answer any questions. Your goal is to get an interview, not to scare off any potential employers by bad-mouthing your boss!
Number of Pages
Do not try to cram all your information into 1 page, but don’t spread it out over 6 pages. Keep to a standard guide of 2 pages. Depending on your role and industry this can be pushed to a maximum of 3, but this is rare. Ensure plenty of information is contained across the page. Don’t fill the first page with information and only include 2 lines on the second. If using the right format, layout and content structure, your CV should flow across 2 sides.
Remember your CV will change over the years of your career. As a school/college leaver your focus will be on your school exams, participation, work experience, leisure interests and career aspirations. As a Senior Sales Manager, your CV will focus on your strengths, skills, abilities, experience and achievements. The amount of space you use will stay the same even though your content will change.
The purpose of a CV is to gain an interview. It is a document that you need to spend time and energy on to get it right, even though it may only be read in a matter of seconds or minutes. Any time you can spend on your CV is never wasted. If you don’t spend any time on it then the application process itself could well be a waste of time.
Your CV, at the end of the day, is only as good as the recruiter perceives it to be. You will rarely appeal to all recruiters, but what you want to ensure is that you appeal to most recruiters. Job searching can almost be a full-time activity and it takes energy, willpower, and strength to overcome any rejection. Keep pursuing the next application opportunity and not to give up. Good luck!