I’ve reviewed a CV today that I gave a pretty low score of only 44/100, and the only reason it scored this well was that it was under 2 pages and fulfilled some of the basic section requirements of a CV.
The client rang me to talk through the review and I was genuinely shocked when she told me that she had paid £150 for it to be written by a “professional”. It looked like a CV produced by a job board where you fill in the blanks and choose some random sentences to string it all together! The grammar was appalling with parts of it making no sense at all and at least 3 basic spelling mistakes.
They hadn’t even included a full postal address (something she questioned only to be told “oh, you don’t need that nowadays”), seemingly unaware that recruitment software uses this as part of the mapping and search functionality that allows candidates to be identified geographically.
I often see CVs written by competitors and they generally have improvements that can be made in relation to layout or formatting and even grammar, but I have never seen such an appalling piece of work by a so-called professional CV business. They do have a lovely looking website though.
If you’re paying to have a CV written, please make sure they have a cast iron money back guarantee.
I see a lot of CVs (several dozen a week) and very few score more than about 60/100 in our free reviews and there is a common thread to the mistakes –
1/ It doesn’t say it’s a CV!
Blindingly obvious but so many people forget to put CV or Curriculum Vitae at the top of their CV. This may seem trivial but it’s supposed to be a professional document that sells you and you forget to put a title on it??
2/ Missing Contact Details
Whether it’s an email address, missing postcode or even no phone number, we see these mistakes every day and not just on CVs from relatively junior people. Without an email address or phone number you’re making the employer or recruiter’s job really quite difficult and a missing postcode often means they can’t register your details on their database.
3/ No Profile
A CV always needs to have a short profile that says what you are. Not a repetition of your CV, but 3-4 lines that summarises what you do. Make it easy for the recruiter to see that this is a CV they need to read as it fits the basic requirements of the role they’re short listing for.
4/ No Key Skills
This is perhaps the most missed out part of a CV and even when it’s there it’s often just a collection of key words that can confuse a recruiter. This is the part of a CV that you can tailor to suit specific applications to highlight why you match what they’re looking for – make sure you get it right and it’ll save a lot of time and get you more interviews.
5/ Dense Text
Have you ever picked up a Charles Dickens novel? How far did you get? Most people get about one third of the way down page 1 and put it back down again because it’s just this solid block of dense text that is way too difficult to commit to reading. Your CV is no different. But death by bullet points isn’t the answer!
Of course we see lots more mistakes than these 5, but if you don’t get these basics right then you’re making your search for a new job an awful lot harder.
This is an area of a CV that is very easy to get wrong and the vast majority of CVs that we see contain some basic errors when describing job roles. The area I’ll cover in this post is the Header.
You need to put yourself in the recruiter or employers shoes and consider what they’re looking for in order of importance.
As an example of this lets look at a salesman working for a BMW car dealership.
As the employee the most important thing to you as an individual is that you work for a BMW Dealer; in Sales; and you’ve been there for 3 years.
But a potential new employer with a job vacancy to fill is looking for someone who works in Car Sales; has 3 years experience; preferably with a prestige brand.
So the way you need to present the information on your CV is:
- What do you do?
- How long have you been doing it?
- Who do you do it for?
So it needs to look like this:
Car Sales Executive 2012 – date
This may seem a minor point but it’s all part of what makes it easy for an employer or recruiter to quickly understand what you do and whether or not they want to interview you.
In my nest post I’ll cover what comes after the header in more detail.
I often hear this idea bandied about and the answer is No…and Yes!
There are certain aspects of your CV that you can’t really change. Your education, training, memberships, age, interests and your career. They are what they are.
But, you can slant your CV to appeal to a recruiter or employer for a specific role by having a properly written and constructed opening to your CV. This needs to consist of a Profile and and a Key Skills section. The former should be a précis of your career in 3-4 lines stating what you are and what you do, and the latter should highlight your skill set.
These 2 sections can then be modified to fit different job adverts and appeal directly to what the recruiter or employer is looking for in a candidate. If you don’t know what they’re looking for in their ideal candidate then you’re not reading the advert properly!
So, get these 2 sections done properly and you can easily and quickly have an application specific CV.
Recently I have noticed the prevalence of the word “Successfully” in CVs to describe an achievement.
Why do people use it? Probably because they’ve read a list of “Power Words” to use in a CV that they believe will give it more impact, but this doesn’t really work. Why not? Well it’s just too generic and without substantiation it doesn’t really mean a great deal.
A good (read poor!) example would be:
(A) “Successfully implemented a new system of quality control in widget production”
Great, but what did it do? – that’s what interests an employer.
A much better version would be:
(B) “Implemented a new system of quality control in widget production that reduced defects from 5% to 2%”
Even better would be:
(C) “Reduced manufacturing defects from 5% to 2% in widget production by implementing a new system of Quality Control”
And even better still:
(D) “Saved £50,000 per annum by reduced manufacturing defects from 5% to 2% in widget production with the implementation of a new system of Quality Control”
In that last example the word “Successfully” would actually be hard to include!
As you can see we have initially moved the focus to the outcome of the implementation by putting in the fact that a reduction from 5% to 2% was achieved in (B).
Then we change the emphasis again by putting the outcome at the beginning in (C).
Finally, we really beef it up by putting a monetary value to it in (D).
So you can see that the effect of taking out “successfully” and quantifying the outcome (in 2 ways) has taken this achievement to a whole new level.
We’re not just a CV Writing Service!
There’s more to writing a CV these days than just putting your education and career history onto 2 sides of A4 with a Personal Statement at the beginning.
Gone are the days when the only time you applied for a job was when an advert appeared in the jobs section of the Telegraph or the Grauniad (that’s a deliberate error!) asking you to send in your CV with a covering letter. Nowadays you’re much more likely to see a vacancy on Monster, CV Library, Reed or one of the other seemingly myriad job boards and apply on-line.
At the other end of that e-mail your CV will be looked at by someone who is under a great deal of time pressure and hasn’t got the time (and possibly inclination) to dig through the details of all your career to find the nugget of information they’re looking for. If your CV is hard to read – it won’t be read.
Your CV needs to actively sell you and be specifically aimed at the role you’re applying for. That’s why we don’t just write a CV for you, instead we create a document that you can easily edit and tailor to suit those job applications and we’ll advise you on how to do that.
The whole process starts with getting the free review we do as a starting point for all of our CV Services, just click here and upload your CV along with a note telling us about the type of job roles you’re looking for.
The other aspects of our CV services cover some of the newer aspects of recruitment such as LinkedIn and CV Optimisation for on-line recruitment – we’ll cover those in another post!
Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But, it’s probably the commonest mistake we see when we review CVs.
Ultimately a CV is about you, but you’re not writing it for yourself but rather to achieve your career objective. Whoever reads your CV will, in all probability, have never heard of you or met you and just wants to know that you meet their objectives and requirements.
You really need to make sure that when a recruiter or employer is reading your CV that it is clear what you do, what you bring to the role and what your motivation for applying is.
Remember that prior to interview a potential employer is thinking of only 2 things:
1. Do they have the experience to do the job?
2. Do they enjoy the job?
The final question can only be answered at interview, namely “Will we like working with this person?”
So, make sure that your CV is clear and understandable to someone who’s never met you.
If you can’t spell Curriculum Vitae then don’t put it on your CV – just use “CV”.
Then latest incorrect spellings we have seen are:
- CURRICULAM VITA
- Cirriculum Vitea
- and Curiculum Vitae.
The commonest cause of the incorrect spelling is using CAPITALS which don’t get picked up by the spell checker in Word.
So, if you are writing your own CV and spelling is not your strong point, make sure you have the spell checker on and that you don’t use capital letters for full words.