Top 11 mistakes you’re making on your CV - and what to do instead

The world of CVs is constantly evolving. The days of the old CVs where we just listed our duties are well and truly gone.

Zeta Yarwood

Published: Updated:

If you’re looking for a job, having a great CV is critical. It might be the only chance you get to make a good, first impression. Produce an average CV and it could be your last.

The world of CVs is constantly evolving. The days of the old CVs where we just listed our duties are well and truly gone. Anyone who still has a CV that contains long lists of responsibilities will do well to note that their CV needs updating. What other CV mistakes are you making that could be stopping you from getting that job interview you want?

1) Too much colour

People often think the best way to make their CV stand out is to make their CV as colourful as possible. Yes, this could make your CV stand out but for the wrong reasons. Stick to a black font and if you want to sprinkle a little colour into your CV, go with navy blue. If you are in the creative industry or in marketing you might have a bit more flexibility with this, but don’t go overboard. Don’t let the colour detract from the content of the CV.

2) Boxes and borders

Make the recruiters life easier and ensure your CV is as easy to read as possible. Too many boxes and lines can make your CV look too busy and hard to read. Keep your CV simple, clear and clean with enough white space to allow the content to stand out.

3) Using multiple fonts

Different fonts can make the CV look disjointed and can break the reading flow. Stick with one font and go with a classic style such as Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri.

4) Typing in small font

I know trying to squeeze your career history onto two pages might seem like a challenge, but typing in a font so small the reader needs a magnifying glass to read it is not the way to go. Make their life easier and stick to font sizes 10 – 12.

5) Long lists of responsibilities and duties

Recruiters have very little time to spend reading each CV. In that short time all they want to find out is how good you are your job. Long lists of duties do not tell the recruiter how good you are. Instead of your duties, focus on your accomplishments. This is what will stand you out from the next candidate. The results you brought to the table. Quantify them as much as possible e.g. increased sales by ‘x’ % or reduced cost by $’y’ or increased efficiency by ‘z’%.

And whatever you do, do not copy and paste your job description into your CV. It implies sheer laziness and will get your CV thrown on the reject pile. The same with copy-pasting responsibilities from one job to another. Don’t do it. You have been warned!

6) Using paragraphs

Long paragraphs of text are tiring to read and can simply bore recruiters. Keep the information short and concise using bullet points. You want 2 or 3 bullet points for your responsibilities and 5 to 6 for your achievements.

7) Having a CV longer than 2 pages

Recruiters do not have the time to trawl through CVs 3 or 4 pages long. Keep your CV to one or two pages max.

Your CV is just a snap shot of your career. The detail can be left for the interview. To save space, only keep the experience, skills and achievements that are relevant to the job you're applying to and delete the rest. You also don’t need to give all the details of every job you’ve had since school. Focus on the jobs you’ve had in the last 10 – 12 years, only giving the company name, job title and dates for the jobs before that.

8) Including all of your personal information

The employer doesn’t need to know your full address, date/town of birth or what your dog’s name is. Keep it simple. Put your name at the top, and underneath your mobile number, location, LinkedIn URL and email address on one or 2 lines to save as much space as possible. You can state your nationality, visa status and languages spoken at the end if relevant.

9) Leaving gaps in your CV

If you took some time out of work, you will need to mention it on your CV. You don’t need to go into detail but something like “Career break to raise family – Jan 2012 – Jan 2016” or “Job-searching and furthering education after redundancy – Jan 2009 – Aug 2010” is better than leaving a gap. A gap will leave the reader thinking you’re trying to hide something, leaving them to question how honest you are. Not exactly the kind of first impression you want to make right?

10) Spelling and grammar mistakes

If your CV is full of spelling and grammar mistakes, messy or badly structured the reader could assume the quality of your work will be similar. If you can’t present your CV properly, then how will you present and manage your work? Note that many recruiters have admitted that just one mistake could get your CV thrown in the bin, so make sure your CV looks great and is free of mistakes.

11) Lying on your CV
I cannot stress this enough. Lying on your CV is a NO NO. If you get caught out, you could lose your job and your reputation. It’s just not worth it.