Top five CV mistakes

Top five CV mistakes

At The CV & Interview Advisors, we provide job seekers with free CV appraisals and as a consequence, we see hundreds of CVs each month. Seeing so many CVs, you can’t help noticing trends, and the same mistakes are being made time and time again.

People’s attitudes towards their CV are a funny old thing; we all accept that things in life progress such as corporate brochures becoming websites, letters becoming email, cash becoming debit cards (the list goes on) – but why is it that the average person is still using the same CV format that they stumbled upon when leaving school, college or university?

Below is a list of the top mistakes typically made by job seekers:

1. Creating a Personal Profile that is full of clichéd behavioural competencies such as “working well in a team”; “working under pressure”; “honest, reliable and trustworthy”; and “excellent communication skills”.

2. Failing to include achievements in the CV. A CV should be at least 25% focused on achievements, providing tangible evidence that you are good at your job.

3. Being too brief! A CV shouldn’t be War & Peace but it should provide enough information for the reader to be able to ascertain what you have been doing in your career. For example, I see many CVs that would say: “Supervising staff”, whereas what they should have written is “Manage a team of 20 IT specialists with 3 direct reports including 2 Helpdesk Managers and Infrastructure Manager, overseeing all resource planning, recruitment, training and performance management".

4. Creating a list of duties and responsibilities in random (no particular) order. The flow of information in a CV must be well thought out. Random lists are difficult to follow so start with a description of the company, follow that with a summary of the role, then describe how your role is measured, and if appropriate include a bullet point to describe the structure and size of your team. You can then hit the reader with your other bullet points.

5. Failing to understand what a CV is! A CV is not a boring list of jobs - it should be an evidence based document communicating why someone should hire you; it should be a business case that explains where you can add value; it should be a personal sales document that sells you as a potential employee; it is your window to the outside world in the same way that a website promotes a company.

I have met so many people who are struggling to find a job and yet they have a cobbled together home made CV which even they would admit is a bit of a rush / bodge job. They just haven’t put two and two together and realised that it is the CV that’s the problem. There are nearly 3 million unemployed and probably an equal amount of employed people applying for jobs; that’s a lot of competition.

* Matt Craven is founder of The CV & Interview Advisers. He will be offering in depth advice on making your CV work for you in today's competitive job market in an hour long webinar on 18th June 2012. Book your place today. To read more about what is covered in the webinar click here.  If anyone reading this article would like to enquire about the other services which The CV & Interview Advisors offer, then please feel free to contact them on 01274 408 222 or info@cvandinterviewadvisors.co.uk.

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This is really useful, as people often rush CVs desperate to get their applications in and they don't give enough thought to what they are telling their potential new employers. Fully agree with all the advice here. No.2 is vital as you need to show what you are capable of as this is the employers' first impression of the person applying for the job so they only have that to go on.

Anonymous | Report this comment

Although, I had a very good career before I had my son, I now find it difficult to write my CV as there is an 8 year gap from my last job. I have done some courses through the Jet programme and have done voluntary work but just feel that I can't move forwards. I look forward to any comments.

Anonymous | Report this comment

To the second poster (Hi). I would recommend a skills based CV that front loads the CV with the good things you have done and de-emphasises the chronology of your work history. This will be covered in more detail in the webinar mentioned in the article.

Anonymous | Report this comment

I have found returning to work after a long career break very hard. There is no extra money for childcare or study and I do not qualify for financial help, but have no income of my own. It seemed to be easier to study or work when they were a nursery (wrap-around-care), but there are no good jobs that you can find in school hours and it's hard to try and coordinate studying for the same reasons. Until my son goes to secondary school (three years still) I don't see myself being able to go back to work or study.

Anonymous | Report this comment

I agree with comments above and find myself in the same situation. I think I may have to wait until my son starts secondary in 2 years' time.

Anonymous | Report this comment

I agree with the comments above. I have had lots of trouble trying to find work after taking a break to have children. I am really really finding it difficult. It's much harder now than ever.

Anonymous | Report this comment

I agree too! Many years of study and career experience seem to go out of the window when having children. I've now had to bite the bullet and go back full time. Not ideal, my daughter is not happy sometimes with the long days in childcare, but if you leave it too long it's even harder to get back into a career.
We need more flexible working and jobshares please!

Anonymous | Report this comment

What is long overdue is the respect that being a Mother/Parent/Carer requires. After all, what role requires such great flexibility, commitment, sacrifice and a wide skills set as being a Mother? As a society we need to have the dog wagging the tail and be more child-centred with money, profit, secularism and greed in its rightful place!

Anonymous | Report this comment

I need 16 hours a week ideally over 2/3 days locally and am willing to do anything, but there isn't anything available. I am a single parent so don't want to leave my little one for too long. I have a wide skill set mostly admin based. I find it a struggle to get a happy medium between home and work. I have just finished a sales job after 7 months and most people don't understand the need for part-time work, but they are children for such a short time! I will keep looking and good luck to you...

Anonymous | Report this comment

Getting back into work after after 4 years being a full-time mum hasn't been easy. I just cannot find the hours that would be suitable for myself and family. Ideally I wanted part-time, but I now feel I have no choice but to look for full time. Which will not benefit us financially as you don't receive any help in benefits. More job shares and flexi hours are needed.

Anonymous | Report this comment

I fully agree with all the above comments; trying to juggle childcare/family commitments and finding work is extremely difficult. Once you are out of the job market even for a short while you find yourself at a disadvantage getting back in the saddle. There is so much competition for jobs that employers may prefer to employ persons without family commitments.

Anonymous | Report this comment

It's even harder for me as childcare for twins is impossible to afford even with help from working tax credit. At local nursery fees standing at £36 per child per day, working is something I'll need to defer until the twins start primary school.

Anonymous | Report this comment

Employers don't appreciate us mums. Some of us were full time hard workers in good jobs before we gave birth to our children and wanted to take time off to take care of them. We are now being penalised. Being a mum is much tougher than people think and we are given a rough deal. Most of us want to work, but I think employers think we would not be a suitble candidate because we have been out of the scene for too long! We are labelled differently once we are a mum. Mother of one who has been looking for two years for a part time job. Good luck to all you wanting to work mums!

Anonymous | Report this comment

It's not just mums although I appreciate your comments above. I am looking at your website and I do not even have children. I need flexible working such as working from home due to disability reasons as I am no longer allowed to drive and there are no specific agencies etc for us. I put in work from home and this one came up I assume because I don't have children I am not allowed to apply for anything. But there are few work from home posistions for people in similar situations to myself.

Editor: Of course you are allowed to apply for any job on our site.

Anonymous | Report this comment

I have just discovered your website. Due to disability I am unable to walk so I am trying to find ways to use my teaching and craft skills from home. I also ran a market stall successfully for five years. I have noted the self-employed sales opportunities on your website. I feel inspired by the Workingmums website even though my family are all grown up. I think women of all ages still face the same challenges to find flexible, rewarding well paid work.

Anonymous | Report this comment

Some very important issues being raised in the above comments: Staggeringly difficult for women of all ages, caring for children or otherwise, to find meaningful work which fits in with our lives, which, in the long run, would help us with our self-esteem, confidence and increase our already huge skills sets. Being a mum does block our ability to make a contribution to society, the economy; yet employers are blinkered despite government initiatives etc. aimed at getting everyone who wants to work into work. Personally, I would put age into this pot, too. I'm 52yrs old, have worked since I was 15yrs old, have a wealth of work experience in three different sectors, qualified up to the eyeballs and still, upon returning after five years overseas, unable to get any kind of work. Good luck to all you, in your endeavours to find suitable employment.

Anonymous | Report this comment

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