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Avoiding rookie mistakes on your CV


Writing a CV is a frequently daunting task. It’s hard to think of what to include, what format to use, what layout, in what order and so much more to consider.

As someone who’s shortlisted for countless roles – reading them is just as daunting. Over my years of experience in recruitment and in shortlisting candidates, I found the same mistakes on CVs time and time again.

I wanted to share them with you, so you can be smart when you apply for roles, and avoid these errors.

  1. Grammar

I cannot tell you how any CVs I’ve put in the ‘No’ pile due to some very ba
sic grammar mistakes. Some wonderful examples of mistakes that myself and my colleagues collected over the years:

  • I’m an accurate and rabid typist
  • Responsible for ruining my own project during my placement year
  • My hobbits include …
  • I hope to hear from you shorty
  • Work: Chinese restaurant, Skills: severing customers

These, and many more, are reasons for you to be rejected for a position. So please spend the time making sure your grammar is up top scratch. Sometimes, getting someone else to read through your CV is a great idea, as when you’re too close to it – you may not spot the errors.

  1. Colours

It’s perfectly okay and even encouraged to personalise your CV and make it stand out from the crowd. However, you should not be tempted to do so using colours. There are 2 reasons for it. Reason 1: if an employer prints off your CV, it’s likely to be in black and white (because it’s cheaper), so your colouring will therefore be lost. Reason 2: your choice of colours (say electric pink) is your taste, but may not be the employer’s – so they could reject you based on that.

This principle does not apply as much if you’re creating say an artistic CV or a graphic design one- this is more general guidelines for standard CVs.

  1. Irrelevant information

It’s tempting to include the whole of your life story on your CV but you have to remember that the document should be concise, to the point and professional. 100% attendance at Nursery school when you’re a final year at University may not be as relevant as you hope.

Make sure you think about your audience and therefore only mention facts about your relevant to that audience. If you’re a football captain now, and have been since 11, applying for a coaching role – yes, include it, it’s relevant. If you have an amazing postcard collection of cute cats and you’re applying for a position of an accounts executive – perhaps it’s less relevant.

Also, remember not to include personal information, such as National Insurance number, date of birth, race, marital status, nationality, and more. A CV should contain your contact details to enable the employer to come back to you and should state your skills and what you’ve got to offer. Your race or age have nothing to do with your ability to do a job – your experience and skills do, focus on them.

  1. Space

A CV should be no more than 2 A4 pages. I’ve seen CVs which range from 1 line and to 16 pages in Calibri 60.

  • Be smart with your space. Make sure your first page is super eye catching and makes the employer want to carry on reading.
  • Use bullet points and smart layouts to showcase your experience. Huge blocks of essay text are less likely to be read than concise bullet points.
  • Allocate your space according to importance. Expand more on experience relevant to the job and allow less space for activities less relevant. Make sure those 2 pages tell the employer all they need to know to want to select you.
  • Use smart headings that tell the reader exactly what is in that section, such as ‘Work Experience’ or ‘Key Skills’.

Final thought: think of your audience when you create/change your CV. They are busy, they want to know if you are that solution to their ‘missing staff member’ problem – show them you are, in a clear and concise way. Do not give the employer any reasons to say no to you – give them every reason to say yes!


Kristina Tamane is the Careers Adviser for the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the Joint Honours Programme. You’re welcome to follow her on Twitter or Pinterest for varied job posts and general advice and updates.

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