Stack of CVs and job applications on a blue desk

CV overview

off to a winning start; ensure you get the fundamentals right

A recent survey revealed candidates are missing out on their dream job because of easily avoided CV blunders.

The study found that poorly presented and written CVs are more of a turn-off to 73% of employers than a candidate showing up late, wearing inappropriate clothes or even swearing in an interview. It found that the most irritating mistakes for employers were in many cases, the most easily avoided.

These include spelling mistakes (67%), grammatical errors (89%) and including irrelevant information (65%). The research found that just one simple error can make a huge difference and prevent a candidate from being shortlisted for interview.

Don’t forget the simple things
    • Ensure your CV is typed in a standard, business-appropriate font. Avoid fancy typefaces, borders and graphics. This will help with legibility and presentation and reduces any ambiguity in understanding key messages.

    • Use ‘MS Word’ or ‘Rich Text’ format. This soft copy format will not only give you the flexibility of keeping it updated but also allows the CV to be accessed by software packages used by recruiters and potential employers as well as enabling it to be sent by e-mail.

    • Ensure you check your spelling and grammar. Do not rely purely on spellchecking tools to do this for you. Proofread the final version carefully; often a fresh pair of eyes can pick up previously undetected errors.

    • Remember to keep your CV relevant and updated.

Keep it concise but informative
    • Keep your content short and to the point but not at the cost of diluting important messages that sell you and your accomplishments.

    • Aim to keep to 2 sides of A4. Only move to additional pages if you have a lot of relevant previous experience.

    • Strike the right balance between brevity and quality of information.

    • Avoid large paragraphs. Instead, use bullet points so information can be easily digested or scanned by the hiring manager.

Make every word count
    • Sell yourself using clearly written language and keep it compelling.

    • Use action verbs to emphasis your accomplishments such as ‘managed’, ‘developed’, ‘established’, ‘identified’, ‘launched’…Avoid passive constructions, such as ‘was responsible for managing…’ It's not only more efficient to say ‘managed’; it's stronger and more active.

    • Keep things factual. Avoid declarative sentences such as ‘I undertook the...’ or ‘I developed the...’ Don't use the word ‘I’ any more than you have to.

    • Remember that different people assimilate information in different ways. Some prefer to read prose; others absorb lists, stats and facts. Aim for a good balance between the two.

    • At this initial stage, you should leave out details of referees, particularly concerning your current employer.

    • If you have not provided details, then a reference cannot be taken up before you have accepted a position, thus avoiding a very rare but potentially embarrassing situation.

    • References can easily be provided as and when they are necessary.

​Target your CV for specific opportunities
    • By all means, tailor your CV to suit any specific job you may be applying for as this will significantly improve the chances of ensuring a good match between the job requirements and your skills profile.

    • However, remember to keep a record of each version and track where it has been sent.

    • Our recommendation is to only have one version – but be sure to explain to your recruitment consultant your specific suitability for each role that is of particular interest to you.

    • We can then market your skills appropriately depending on the job for which you are applying.​

Supporting information
    • Unless requested, do not include copies of certificates, letters of commendation, reports, your latest personality profile or photographs of yourself.

    • Do not make statements referring to your honest and diligent nature - that should be taken for granted and serves more to raise the question.​

    • Finally, ensure you can substantiate all points made on your CV at interview.

    • Be honest; there is a difference between making the most of your experience and exaggerating or falsifying it.

    • A falsified CV can be easily spotted by an employer, and if it doesn't prevent you from getting the job, it can cost you the job later on.

    • If you secure a position on a misrepresentation of a verifiable fact, you will not only be dismissed but may also be prosecuted – so stick to the facts.​

Keep your CV up to date
    • Reviewing and updating your CV keeps it fresh and helps you give an employer the most relevant information for the job they have to offer.

    • ​Make sure that you update your CV every time you:

      • ​apply for a new job.

      • change your personal details (for example, your address or phone number).

      • gain new skills or qualifications.

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