I’m sure most of us often find that our LinkedIn feed has been inundated with tips on how to write a great CV, understand the job description, get the basics right, use an appropriate font, etc. etc. etc.
But what exactly are the most offensive, and concerningly common, characteristics of a bad CV?
As a recruiter, I sift through hundreds of CV’s on a weekly basis – the good, the bad and the very, very ugly. So whilst it’s a well-known assumption that your CV needs to grab the attention of the employer that it’s intended for, you have to make sure that it’s catching their eye for the right reasons (because peacocking never really worked for anyone!).
I’m here to guide you in the right direction by identifying some classic red flags that have slid into my DM’s this week…
It might seem like an obvious one, but when writing a CV make sure you always start with your most recent experience first. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve received a CV from a highly experienced candidate who chooses not to let me know this until two pages in. Of course I think it’s great that you aced your GCSE’s, and most prospective employers would too. But, that Saturday shift at Charlie’s Chippy during sixth form really isn’t the first thing I need to know about you - unless you’re applying for a job at Harry Ramsden’s…?
Human beings in general have notoriously short attention spans, so it’s absolutely integral to include your most recent (and most likely relevant) experience on the first page.
Too much information
In the majority of cases, people simply update their CV as they move between jobs, in order to save time and preserve accuracy. And it makes a lot of sense, that is, until your CV becomes a contender for The Man Booker prize. Expanding on your CV is a good idea, but make sure that you also modify your work history to keep irrelevant information to a minimum.
Remember that short attention span I touched on before? Hiring managers are very busy people, who simply don’t have the time to plough through four to five pages of your greatest achievements. Generally speaking, your CV should never be more than two pages long and frankly if I’m not impressed by then, it’s unlikely that I will be after another three! In order to keep all information as applicable as possible, carefully read the description of the role you’re applying for and tailor your previous experience accordingly. That being said, there’s a difference between emphasising your attributes, and downright lying about them. Which brings me to my next point…
Lies, or ‘deliberately omitting the truth’, is just a big no-no! Obviously the purpose of any CV is to impress the person reading it, but make sure you don’t go about doing this by being economical with the truth.
Sure, it may be tempting to give your accomplishments, responsibilities and even university grade a little ‘boost’, but these things often have a way of catching up with you. Best case scenario? You get caught out early and manage to talk your boss into letting you keep your job, but have to live with the public humiliation. Worst case scenario? You land your dream job… for about a month, until it becomes blindingly obvious that you’re too inexperienced and unqualified for the role and you don’t make it past your probation period – ruining your chances of ever working for that organisation again.
It’s certainly not the most offensive crime in the CV hall of shame, but I personally don’t see the need to include a photo of yourself on a document for prospective employers. Although you might think you’re giving HR a helping hand by allowing them to put a face to the name, ask yourself the question; is it really necessary? Does it add any value to your skillset, qualifications or previous experience?
Most employers will use LinkedIn to suss you out anyway, so they’ll have a fairly good idea of your overall image without you assisting them in the process. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s essential to keep your CV as concise as possible without compromising information, so use the limited amount of space you’ve got wisely. And if you choose not to heed my advice - just make sure that the photo you use is professional, because honestly, no-one cares that you look cute with cat ears.
And last but not least…
When sending your CV to an employer, make sure that the document you send is actually your CV! I’ll never forget the time, about 10 years ago when I applied for a job and accidentally attached a copy of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Classic Carbonara’ recipe alongside my cover letter. Thank goodness Charlie’s Chippy managed to overlook this…