7 classic CV mistakes to avoid (and how to fix them!)
Emily Reynolds, Octopus Personnel Office Administrator, and owner of one of the most impressive CVs and cover letters we’ve seen in a while, explains how to fix some of the classic CV mistakes.
The whodunit of the recruitment world
A bit like the classic game, Cluedo, there are some CV crimes which can be predicted and fixed by a good detective, whether you have the lead pipe in the kitchen or not! Octopus Personnel receive more than a 100 CVs a week– the good, the interesting, and the downright shocking! Which CV type are you, and how can you ensure you stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons?
Here are seven of the most common types we see, along with my advice on how you can improve your CV game!
You send the same CV to every job advert that seems remotely applicable, often multiple times a day. By the law of averages, you could strike lucky. But how can you find the job you really want with such a haphazard and indiscriminate approach? Do you even know what that is? Unfortunately, you are highly likely to be disappointed even if you secure the role.
Emily’s Advice: Employers want to feel as though the job they’re offering is the only one in the world you’d really love to do. Your Octopus Consultant will talk you through the key elements of the job, so you can use your CV to show you can do it better than anyone else who applies. A standard CV simply cannot do that. So stop the mass emailing, and start tailoring your CV.
You feel too embarrassed about promoting your achievements, so your CV swallows them up, hiding them so skilfully in an undercover exercise that would impress MI5. No one can accuse you of being arrogant. But they won’t find your key qualities either! Employers want to be told up front.
Emily’s Advice: Value yourself. If you don’t know what makes you a great candidate, how can you expect an employer to believe in you? Discuss your achievements with your consultant. Use their expertise to tease out the value of your achievements, so be bold and specific in your writing. Then highlighting your most notable skills and achievements in your CV will be a breeze!
You have had more jobs than we can count, resulting in an extremely long CV which says very little about your achievements! Your experience is definitely diverse and you clearly perform well at interview! However, you’ve haven’t ever stayed long enough in a role to reach your potential and prove your worth to an employer. You can appear unfocused and unreliable and you also won’t have many substantial achievements to detail in your CV.
Emily’s Advice: It’s time to work with your consultant to narrow down what really matters to you. Perhaps it’s time for some self-examination, to try to figure out what you really want to do before you apply for another job. In the meantime, consider a skills-based CV format, rather than listing your jobs individually. And be ready to explain in your cover letter why you’ve changed job so many times. After all, there may be perfectly acceptable reasons why this is the case.
Unfortunately, your CV is literally too good to be true. You have absolutely everything we could possibly want – with the credentials and qualifications to ‘prove’ it. What’s more, you have managed to run the London Marathon, meet the Pope and negotiate world peace in your spare time. There are no positives to this. Fraudulent misrepresentation isn’t something you want to have on your record.
Emily’s Advice: Take out the lies. You don’t need them. You’ll only be left feeling like a fool in the job interview when you have to justify yourself – or if you get the job, when you’re let go for not living up to expectations. Instead, try and value your real achievements and skills more highly. Most of the time, people falsify their credentials when they don’t think the real thing is adequate. Be open and honest with your Octopus consultant and talk through your experience with them. They’ll help you pick out your strengths and write an engaging CV based on fact.
You’ve just left school, with no work history beyond cleaning cars for the neighbours. Whilst you are big on dreams, you are unfortunately small on credentials. You are vibrant, energetic and grateful for a chance to prove yourself! We will always take that risk in meeting you and finding out exactly what you are all about.
Emily’s Advice: You need to make the most of your qualifications and achievements, no matter how small. Anything from extracurricular activities and hobbies to part-time jobs and volunteering can demonstrate a wide range of transferable skills that could prove you’re a good fit. Make sure your CV shows your positive mindset – showing you know what you’re aiming at and how you plan to contribute to the company is vital.
You want to move into a different industry or role type, rather than the standard upgrade from your current job. This can involve moving up a level, career shifting, or even down shifting. A career change isn’t easy, nor is it a spontaneous decision. We understand the thought and effort it takes to pursue something new, so we like your dedication, passion, and enthusiasm. The challenge here is your experience is unlikely to directly link to the role on offer so your CV may make it challenging to decide if you are a viable choice.
Emily’s Advice: To make this transition, your CV needs to be skill focused. Firstly, explain what has led you to a new path in your personal statement. Then, use your transferable skills to prove why you’re the perfect candidate for the role – always referring back to the job description where possible.
You’ve had lots of long break between roles, either by choice or necessity. This results in a CV with more holes than jobs. You only apply for roles when you really want them – so that’s a positive! But repeatedly leaving jobs without another to go to can appear at best unreliable, and at worst suspicious.
Emily’s Advice: Face this head on. Any employer will want to know ‘why the holes?’ You may have perfectly good reasons for them – whether it’s that you took on caring responsibilities, had an unexpected family crisis, or you had a one-off difficult experience in a company – which are all acceptable examples. But the worst thing you can do is try to hide them, because any experienced employer will sniff them out. So put the dates for the gaps in your CV and provide (brief) reasons for them, expanding further in your cover letter if necessary. It’s also likely that you’ve gained some valuable skills during those fallow periods – and drawing attention to these is a great way to make your gaps seem like a positive thing
Time for a refresh?
Unless you classify as ‘Newbie Nerys’, it’s likely you’ve had a CV which fits one of the characters above at some point in your working life. But whatever your current jobseeker status, it’s important to ensure you’re avoiding the most common jobseeking faux pas – whether it’s forgetting to tailor your CV, hiding your talents, being too creative with the truth, or applying for a job you don’t really want – which could firmly put you in the ‘no’ list for any role.
Remember: your aim is to stand out against the competition, not blend in; often all it takes is some extra care in your application to prove to employers you’re a good fit.
And no matter what, always check your spelling.
Need more CV advice?
At Octopus Personnel, we are experts at presenting our candidates to ensure the employer is able to see all the skills and experience you are bringing to a role. Years of industry expertise and outstanding relationships with our clients, and grasp of the needs of their business, means we are perfectly positioned within the market to guide you to your new role, be that through CV advice, interview tips or helping you make the most of your experience. You can sign up here and call the office on 01747 825568 to arrange an interview.
To find out how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, buy James Reed’s book: The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview.