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Writing a CV – what not to do

Person working at a desk with coffee

When writing your CV, it’s always good to know what not to do. According to new research, you’ve got around 8.8 seconds to get the attention of a potential employer when applying for a job. In today’s job market, competition is rife. We’ve previously written about whether the traditional CV is still relevant . We concluded that it absolutely was. In a world of Linked In and other social media platforms, the traditional CV is holding its own and you’ve got to make sure yours is ready. 

Here, we take a look at what not to put on your CV if you’re going to have the best chance of success in the job market. 

BAD SPELLING AND GRAMMAR

Their instead of there, your instead of you’re – we could go on, but frankly it’s just too annoying. We live in a world of sophisticated spelling and grammar software (the first spell-checker was developed for IBM in the 1970’s FYI),  there’s really no excuse for mistakes when writing your CV. Once you think you’ve perfected your CV and read it 1000 times, read it again. Then read it again. Then get someone else to read it and check for errors. 

The level of care and attention you put in when writing your CV will permeate throughout your entire job application experience. Bad spelling and grammar signals laziness, carelessness and a lack of respect to the people who spend hours sifting through CV’s to find the right fit for their company. If bad spelling and grammar is a feature of your current CV, rest assured that it’s not likely to even make the bottom of the pile. 

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Perhaps you’re married with three kids, maybe you’re divorced. Maybe you’ve got some really promising leads on Tinder and are hopeful for the future. Whatever your personal situation, your employer doesn’t need to know. More importantly, your employer could really do without knowing this stuff. The law is pretty clear that employers are not allowed to ask employees certain questions about their personal circumstances, let alone hire them on the basis of the answers. Whilst looking for a new job isn’t easy for candidates, recruitment is also tough for employers. Don’t make it harder. 

Similarly, CV’s don’t require a photo. Sending a photo with a job application is a big no-no. Unless this is requested (by say, a model agency), then it just feels wrong and will be frowned upon at the very least. 

OVER THE TOP LANGUAGE AND BUZZWORDS 

When writing a CV, you might be tempted to use current buzz words and phrases. To use language in a way that might feel quirky and clever to you, but is in fact a massive bore to an employer.  Forbes wrote a great article dealing with annoying business jargon – we couldn’t help but cringe whilst reading it. 

When you talk about your ‘core competencies’, why not just say what your strengths are? Don’t say that you ‘move the needle’, or that you’re adept at dealing with a ‘burning platform’; just tell an employer why you’re right for them and that you’re good in a crisis. It’s admirable to want to try and stand out from the crowd. However, keep in mind that the harder you try, the more obvious it is. In fact, sometimes, applicants are so desperate to impress, that recruiters and employers can’t understand the point being made. We’re left completely discombobulated (that means confused). 

Also, remember that humour often just doesn’t translate that well onto paper. Unless you’re applying for a job at a joke book publishing house, humour shouldn’t feature when you’re writing a CV.

IRRELEVANT HOBBIES AND SKILLS

It’s always good to give a potential employer a flavour of who you are outside of work. But it has to be something fairly impressive and relatable to the job you’re applying for. Or at least the skills that the job requires. Do you run marathons? Have you ever done a skydive for charity ? Think about it; no-one’s looking to hire an employee who’s anti-social and illiterate. So the fact that you love to socialise and read in your spare time isn’t going to cut it. 

Whilst it’s never a good idea to be over-the-top, too personal or overly complex, the last thing you want to be is boring. There’ll be hundreds of people with the same qualifications as you, some with better. So how are you going to catch the eye of a particular company? You’ve got to show them your soft skills. Tap into the culture of the company and tell them why you’re the right fit for the job. This isn’t just important for getting the job, but for your ongoing happiness and satisfaction in the work that you do. 

Writing your CV doesn’t have to be stressful. But to keep it as pain-free as possible, follow the advice above, and take it back to basics. Keep your CV to a single page, certainly no more than two – any longer than that and you can wave goodbye to the offer of an interview. Ensure that an employer can get in touch with you by including your contact details, but ensure that any email address you use is appropriate and professional. 

You might also want to seek advice from a recruitment agency who can help find the right position for you, one that uses psychometric testing if you really want to get the right fit. Any decent agency will be willing and able to offer help and guidance when it comes to your CV. 

To see how we can help, contact Headway Recruitment now.  

Mark Gill

By Mark Gill

Recruitment Director with a proven record of providing world class hires at all levels of office and management positions within the Leeds Bradford region. We use our unique Headway Recruitment Platform incorporating psychometric testing to find the top candidates. If you want access to the full local talent pool get in contact with the team at Headway. We help companies achieve growth through our unique approach. This ensures the candidates we place are the perfect fit. Companies are then best placed to get the best from each individual as they understand their motivating traits. Proud to be recognised as preferred supplier for several businesses in the Sunday Times top 100 firms to work for.
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