Above all else, a CV or resume is a serious document. Getting a job is a serious undertaking. And when you submit a CV, recruiters, hiring managers, or other decision-makers assume that you “get” the dos and don’ts for crafting a document that follows certain norms and formats. That said, there are some common things that many candidates do wrong. You can avoid these 10 errors.
1. Too Much Personal Information
Years ago, candidates were expected to supply name, full physical address, and phone number. In many instances, including date of birth, marital status and number of kids was also appropriate. This was because potential employers were looking for stable individuals who were “settled.” Marriage sort of indicated that. This was all before the days of Title IX and other anti-discriminatory laws.
If you include more than name, phone number and email address, you are making a mistake. And never a picture, please. You may have been voted “best looking” way back in high school, but it is totally irrelevant now. Many CV readers will throw out one with a photograph because they don’t want to be accused of making a hiring decision based upon looks.
2. Irrelevant or Old Employment
The fact that you worked for 3 fast-food restaurants and worked for a lawn care company during your summers of college – not so much. If you want a potential employer to know that you worked your way through college, save it for the interview, if you are asked, and use it as “proof” that you are a motivated person. But on a CV? Never. Do include:
- Any unrelated work experience that does show development of important “soft skills,” like leadership or supervision
- Any internships you may have had in college even though they might not directly relate. Internships indicate that you were selected above competitors and that says something.
3. Exaggerating Job Titles or Responsibilities
Waste management sounds far better than janitor, of course. However, you cannot bend the truth here. If you worked in a medical lab as pretty much an assistant without much responsibility, then you can’t embellish that to look like you were doing research – even if it fits nicely with the research position you are seeking now. Eventually, these things get revealed. People in far more responsible positions (CEO of Yahoo) have lied and been caught several years later.
4. Any Instance of Bad Grammar, Spelling or Punctuation
The chance for errors is greater on a CV than a resume, because for certain positions, CV’s are in paragraph form, as opposed to bulleted phrases. When you allow English errors to slip by, here’s what the potential employer is thinking.
- You don’t double-check your work
- You don’t pay attention to detail
- You are lazy
- The job is just not that important to you
Better to have an English expert review all of you paperwork, even if you have to pay for it. You cannot rely on basic spell and grammar checks.
5. Hobbies and Activities that are “Fluff” or Political
Being in a bridge club, being a proud member of the NRA, being a deacon at your church, or playing basketball with a group on the weekends are big No-No’s. If you have nothing better to include in this type of a section, leave the entire section out. Do include a section if your activities include such things as the following:
- Non-political and non-religious charitable work – e.g., Big Brothers & Sisters
- Board member of a business, educational, charitable, etc. organization
These types of activities demonstrate commitment to your community.
6. Even a Hint of Negativity toward a Former Position or Boss
Obviously, if you are going to put a “Reasons for Leaving” at the end of each position description, you can’t say, “The job sucked.” You have two options:
- Don’t put that section in at all – you can cover reasons in an interview, but even then, never speak negatively
- Find a more positive way to state a reason
7. Design/Formatting Errors
The layout of your CV should follow an acceptable format, and focusing on creative appearance that veers from that format a lot is probably not a good idea. If you want to add some flair, make it tasteful – maybe a gray background with a dark navy print and border. Adding glitz, fancy fonts, and an ornate border will make you the subject of an office joke.
8. Silly or Questionable Email Address
Sparklelady@yahoo.com or Studmuffin@gmail.com are not suitable, and hopefully you know that. The best solution of all is to get a separate email account just for professional purposes – either through your Internet provider or through Gmail. You can keep the old one for friends – problem solved!
9. Not Using Bold Headings
Your CV will get about 8-10 seconds for its first “read.” The reader is simply scanning down the page looking for some specific items – keywords/keyword phrases, possibly job titles. You want him or her to see those, so they must be in bold and possibly one font size up from the rest of your text. This makes your CV scannable in that 8-10 seconds.
10. Phrasing Errors
The job you seek had a description. If you do not use some of those keywords in your CV, you are missing an opportunity to be singled out. And, as stated above, try to place them in headings in bold.
The other error is to us vague phrases about your skills or strengths – “high level of organization,” “strong work ethic,” “good team member.” These are trite, overused, and, frankly meaningless.
Featured photo credit: Flazingo Photos via flickr.com