Post-Uni Lifestyle

10 CV Mistakes I Once Made

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The first time I wrote a CV was for a Career Planning class back in secondary school. It wasn’t amazing, and it only had my compulsory work experience for the class on there, along with some volunteer work I was doing in my spare time at a museum. My CV is much closer to where I need it to be now, but there will always be room for improvement. I am definitely not the one you should be looking to for advice on this subject, but I hope this post will help you to avoid my CV mistakes. So, ten mistakes I have made on my CV at one point in the past – here we go!

1. Including actual references at the bottom of the page

You need a “References” section at the bottom of your CV, there is no dispute about it. But including actual contact details of your referees is probably not the best idea when posting a CV on a job board or similar site. It wasn’t the smartest choice to make, but I quickly amended it. Now I have a references section that just says:

References: Available on request.

Saves on space too.

2. Putting my “Key Skills” section on the last page

This was just a silly thought process in the first place. Your key skills should be on the first page, so employers can see what kind of person you are immediately. It also helps with online applications to get your CV through the automated system that scans it. It usually looks for keywords from the job specification and compares it to your CV. Having the right information on the first page may help stop your CV getting thrown out like a baby with the bathwater.

3. Using paragraphs to describe previous positions instead of bullet points

This may be linked to my love of writing and my need to explain things as clearly as possible, but I used to explain previous positions in full sentences instead of bullet points. It’s a case of employers not wanting to or not having the time to read an essay to see if you are a good candidate for a position. Keep things short and sweet, include relevant points like your duties and examples of your key skills in action.

4. Using bullet points as sentences

This was the transition between paragraphs and bullet points for previous positions in my work history. I even had the same problem with my “Key Skills” and “Hobbies and Interests” sections. I had trouble keeping my sections succinct and ended up with long bullet points as a result. It defeated the whole point of this type of format – to present information in a way that is easy to read and quick to pick up on. You should say what needs to be said and expanding on those points should be left for the cover letter or even for the interview.

5. Having seven hobbies listed in the “Hobbies and Interests” section

Hobbies are a great way to show you have relevant skills and experience outside of your work and education history. Having a long list of them is definitely a no-no. To be fair, they were all related to the positions I applied for in some way, expressing both creativity and technical know-how. It just seems a bit over the top because it gives the impression that you care more about your hobbies than getting a job. It makes it worse if your other CV sections are lacklustre and this is the only one that’s shining through. I’d say to have three hobbies that are as relevant as possible. Changing the wording in your description could help the same hobby apply to different positions.

6. Using the default font on Microsoft Word

There is nothing wrong with this per se, but some employers can see it as you putting the minimum effort into your work. Changing your font to something that is still easy to read but isn’t Calibri is generally a good move. It can help your CV stand out against the competition that may have opted for the default.

7. Not using text boxes to hold certain parts in place

The way I had listed the details of my previous roles was:

Job Title | PT/FT | Company _____ Dates (month and year)

The underscore represents the large space I inserted using the tab key.

I was constantly switching between Microsoft Word, Word Online and Google Docs to edit it, which made the formatting jump around the page. This made quickly editing my CV for a recruiter or an application a difficult task because I had to make sure it looked clear and professional in Word first. Stick to one program if you can, ideally Word, because that is the most common format that CVs are accepted in and you can easily export to PDF. I can only use Word Online at the moment my licence for Microsoft Office ran out. Google Docs is just easier for me to access, so it’s my go-to.

8. Not tailoring my CV different positions

No, a blanket CV is not a good look. There are parts of your CV that are useful for applying to some jobs, but not others. Knowledge of SPSS isn’t especially useful in a standard retail assistant role, but then again, it all depends on the company. Tailoring a CV shows the employer that you took the time to think about what they need and what you can offer. A tailored CV and an attention-grabbing cover letter; highlighting your qualities and interest in the role, are an unbeatable combo for getting to the interview stage.

9. Not getting someone to proofread it before submitting it

This seems like a silly mistake to make because it can be easily rectified. I wasn’t confident enough to ask someone I knew to read through, but I was confident enough to send it to employers far and wide. When I finally did get someone to read through it, a few obvious mistakes were uncovered and it just felt embarrassing that other people had seen them.

10. Not including an achievements section

I believe this is an optional section for some people, but everyone has achievements. If you look deep into your work and education history, you’ll find something that you completed well or an obstacle that you overcame, despite all odds. For me, I didn’t include my additional certificates from courses I had completed since finishing my degree. This was an odd move since I included them on my LinkedIn profile. I also didn’t highlight positive outcomes from previous jobs in a separate section. The HR employees skim-reading my CV may have missed them because they were just stuck at the bottom of a section.

Wrap-Up and Final Thoughts

So those were ten mistakes I once made on my CV. For some employers, small mistakes on your CV can put them off, which takes away your chance to impress them. Always get someone to proofread your work before you send it off. I think that’s sound advice for any important document that you need to present to someone.

I have had people praise my CV for its content, structure and clarity. But I have also had people rip into me for different things. It all depends on what preferences they have. Every person has a different opinion on what a CV should look like. The best way to get around the conflicting opinions is to listen to one voice that you can agree with and find industry examples to inspire you. Also, coming up with your own clear format that includes the relevant sections and has the most important information on the first page may be a good move.

I recently had my CV ripped apart by a representative of a free service that helps to get people into work. They gave me a new format which was the opposite of what I received from one of their colleagues. They asked me to rearrange complete sections, omit some information and remove all but two of my hobbies. Other than me being a great believer in the “rule of three”, this experience was a bit hard to get through because I thought I was doing well, at least on the CV front. It just goes to show that a document like this is a work-in-progress, even when you are between jobs. A format change may be all you need to make a difference in your journey into employment.

Thanks for reading. If you liked what you saw above, please check out my other posts. Consider following me on social media using the links in the navigation bar. If you are not a social media person, you can subscribe to my mailing list below or by using the link in the navigation bar. I hope you enjoyed this and I hope you have a great week of more hospitable weather if you live in the UK.

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By Ade

An aspiring creator in way too many areas, Ade loves to try something new, as long as it doesn't interfere with the balance of the universe too much. Trying to take each day as it comes, Ade edits videos for YouTube, occasionally records podcasts, and writes with strange mannerisms to entertain the world.