Your CV is what sells your skills, education, work experience, and accomplishments, and shows a potential employer that you’re the right person for the job.
And yet, creating a compelling CV is easier said than done.
Chances are, you're making one of the 23 most common CV mistakes that can cost you the job.
In this article, we’re going to teach you what these mistakes are (and how to prevent them from happening).
Let’s get right to it!
23 Top CV Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
#1: Bad Spelling and Grammar
If your CV has spelling errors, typos, and bad grammar all over it, you might be seen as a lousy communicator, careless, or uninterested in the position.
Here are some grammar rules and tips to follow when writing your CV:
- Use platforms like Grammarly to check spelling and grammar.
- Use apostrophes when showing ownership of something, e.g: client’s needs, company’s blog.
- Use quotation marks when using quotes.
- Talk about old jobs in the past tense and your current job in the present tense.
#2. Poor Formatting
On average, a recruiter spends no more than 6-8 seconds reading a CV. If your CV doesn’t catch their attention in these brief seconds, they’re simply going to skip over it and move on to the next candidate.
So, it’s very important to format your CV well so that the recruiter can find the information they’re looking for fast and easily.
As general advice, we’d recommend you:
- Avoid paragraphs of unbroken text. Use bulleted points instead.
- Choose a specific color theme and font, and stick to it throughout the entire CV.
- Use white space to clearly divide your CV sections. Do this by keeping the line spacing in between texts from 1.0 to 1.15.
- Use a CV template (instead of creating a CV from scratch). You’ll save a lot of time you’d otherwise spend on formatting, layout, etc.
For more tips on how to properly structure your CV, check out our CV format guide.
#3. Making your CV Too Long
When writing your CV, you might be tempted to write down every one of your experiences and achievements (especially if you have extensive work experience).
A CV isn’t supposed to be your life story.
Rather, it should be a short and concise document tailored to the job you’re applying for. So, aim for 1-2 pages max.
Only mention the work experiences that are relevant to the role you’re applying for. The recruiter doesn't care about your experience as an accountant, for example, if you’re applying for a marketing role.
Having trouble fitting your CV into a single page? Try one of our free one-page resume templates!
#4. Not Tailoring Your CV to the Position
A CV isn’t supposed to be a one-size-fits-all document. Rather, it should be tailored to each type of position you’re applying for.
It may take a little bit more work, but tailoring your CV to each application makes you stand out in the eyes of the recruiter, and shows them that you’re applying for their job (and not just reaching out to every company you find on the web).
On that note, here are some tips on how to tailor a CV to a position:
- Research the company and the job to find out what their perfect candidate looks like.
- Carefully read the job description to highlight the duties, skills, and experiences they mark as important.
- When writing your CV, make sure that it covers all these essential skills & experiences that were mentioned in the job description.
- Don’t list all of your skills & work experiences. Rather, opt for the ones that are relevant for the role you’re applying for. E.g. If you're looking to get a job as an accountant, you don’t have to mention your graphic design skills.
#5. Including References
Many candidates think that adding references to a CV makes them seem more transparent and reliable.
However, that’s not true. A CV is only the beginning of the job application process, and references are usually explicitly requested further down the recruitment.
So, in a CV, references are really nothing more than a list of names that take up space (which can be better used if you include other experiences like skills, projects, etc).
#6. Not Including Hobbies & Interests
This one’s not exactly a CV mistake, but hear us out.
Hobbies and interests, while an optional section of your CV, can actually help you stand out from the rest of the candidates.
Namely, this section helps you in 3 ways:
- You can establish rapport with the hiring manager by showing them who you are outside the work.
- You might have something in common to talk about with your interviewer.
- If the hobbies and interests are somehow related to the role you’re applying for, they can show that you’re truly passionate about the job. E.g. Applying for the role of a creative writer? Having Dungeons & Dragons listed as a hobby might help you stand out.
As such, while having a hobbies and interests section won’t get you hired on its own, it can be a helpful addition to your CV.
#7. Not Focusing on Your Achievements
Your work experience section is the core of your CV. This is what shows the recruiter that you’re a skilled candidate, as well as the right fit for the job.
[work experience section screenshot]
That said, there is a right and wrong way to handle your work experience section.
When listing your work experiences, instead of talking about your work responsibilities, focus on achievements instead.
- Drove 100,000+ traffic to the website in 2021, which resulted in 3600+ sales.
- Responsible for driving traffic to the website.
See the difference here? The first example is an achievement. It includes the exact information on how the candidate performed in their role.
The latter example, though, is a responsibility. Sure, the candidate was in charge of driving traffic to the website, but were they good at their job? How much traffic did they drive, and over what period of time? How did this reflect sales?
If a recruiter had to pick one of the two candidates to invite for an interview, they’d always pick the first.
#8. Using Cliches (Without Backing Them Up)
CV cliches are overused words or phrases the majority of people include on their CVs. They make you appear unoriginal, lazy, and lower your chances of scoring an interview.
Some of the most popular ones include words such as good communication skills, fast learner, attention to detail, creativity, passion, and so forth.
Way too many job-seekers use these terms in their CVs, and frankly, they don’t really mean anything on their own.
When mentioning such skills in your CV, you want to back them up with experiences.
Instead of just inserting “Communication” as part of your skills section, add something in your work experience section that backs this up.
- Managed a remote team of 5 via online tools such as Slack, Google Meet, ClickUp, and others.
#9. Not Including the Numbers
Want your CV to truly stand out from the rest? Always include numbers and data.
Instead of saying something like:
- Improved Sales
- Improved sales by 20% over a 6-month timeframe by implementing new marketing strategies.
The first example is very generic - the hiring manager has no idea what your impact was, nor how you managed to make it happen.
The second, on the other hand, shows what exactly you did, and how impactful your work was.
So, for any type of experience or accomplishment that you mention in your CV, always explain:
- What kind of results did you achieve? Explain in numbers when possible, e.g: Increased annual sales by 35%.
- How did you get these results? Go through the main actions taken, e.g: Added a new marketing channel and improved customer service response.
- When did you achieve the results? Mention the time period, e.g: for the year 2021.
#10. Using the Wrong CV Template
Not all CV templates have the same effect. Some are visually appealing, easy to read and stand out from a pile of other applications.
Other CV templates? Well, not so much. They have unnecessary and distracting graphics, unprofessional fonts, lack of consistency, strays of blank spaces, and so on - which makes them a nightmare to go through.
So, look for templates that:
- Have clear section headings.
- Have an easy-to-read font, such as Ubuntu, Arial, Roboto, Overpass, Helvetica, etc.
- Are pleasing to look at. Look for templates with bulleted points, a pop of color, consistent design, and white space around the margins.
- Stand out. Black and white CVs are outdated - go for something that catches the recruiter’s attention.
Don’t know where to start looking? Then check out our templates!
We have free, customizable, ATS-friendly CV templates for all types of positions.
#12. Inputting an Inappropriate Email Address
If a recruiter gets a CV from “firstname.lastname@example.org’, they most likely won’t bother to open the attachment at all.
Make sure that your email address is both professional and presentable. We recommend following this format:
[First name] [Last name] @gmail.com
Speaking of, do go for Gmail over more outdated email platforms like Hotmail. This shows that you’re relatively tech-savvy.
#13. Putting the Wrong Contact Information
Imagine spending hours crafting the perfect CV, and then not getting hired just because the recruiters can’t contact you.
Sounds like a nightmare, right?
Well, that’s why you should always double-check your contact information to make sure everything’s correct and updated.
In addition, in your contact information section, make sure to include:
- First and last name
- Phone number
- Email address
#14. Exaggerating the Truth
Exaggerating the truth can make your CV stand out, but that’s about all of the good it brings.
If you make it to the interview process, recruiters will likely perform a background check on you, and the exaggerations will catch up.
It takes just a few minutes for them to have a phone call with your previous boss, and you’ll end up dealing with a stained reputation, no job, and a whole lot of stress.
Even if you manage to slip past the background check and get hired, you’ll be overstressing about working a job you’re not qualified for (and eventually get fired or quit).
#15. Ignoring Employment Gaps
Having employment gaps isn’t a break dealer. The issue begins when you give no explanation for them.
It leaves recruiters with plenty of room for imagination, and they will always assume the worst (e.g. you got fired, you’re lazy, and so on).
So, make sure that in-between your work experience, to always address any employment gaps. Here’s an example:
08/2021 - 09/2021
Had to take a medical leave due to health complications.
Lying in your CV is a big no-no.
Although you could possibly get away with it, it’s really not worth the risk.
If you get caught, lying costs you your job and reputation as a future employee. And to make matters worse, in cases where a qualification is legally required to carry out a job, lying is considered fraud. Legal action could be taken against you.
#17. Including Your Headshot
Unless you’re applying for a modeling or acting job, in which appearance matters, we’d recommend not including a photo on your resume or CV.
The point of a CV is to assure the employer that you have the relevant skills, experience, and qualifications for the job. A picture is irrelevant to the application and your ability to handle tasks and challenges in the workplace.
Moreover, a headshot could result in discrimination, whether that’s because of race, age, gender, or other factors. In fact, in countries like the UK, US, and Ireland, pictures in CVs are prohibited, due to the strong anti-discrimination and labor laws put in place.
#18. Not Writing for ATS
Did you know that you can get your CV or resume discarded before the recruiter even lays eyes on it?
Over 70% of job applications get disqualified by Application Tracking Systems (ATS) without being read.
If you don’t know what’s an ATS, here’s a rundown:
An ATS is a type of software used by larger companies around the world that screens your CV looking for specific keywords and experiences. If your CV doesn’t mention the right words, then it’s automatically discarded before a recruiter has a chance to read it.
This helps employers filter through thousands of potential candidates faster, even though sometimes, qualified candidates can also fall through the cracks.
So, it’s important to optimize your CV for applicant tracking systems by mentioning the key requirements for your role.
Want to learn more? Check out our comprehensive guide to creating an ATS-friendly resume!
#19. Mentioning Salary Details
You should never mention salary details on your CV. Rather, salary negotiations are something you do at a later stage in the interviewing process.
By mentioning your salary requirements in your CV, the recruiter might look at it as a red flag that you’re too focused on the money.
#20. Using Passive Voice
Using an active voice, as opposed to a passive voice helps deliver a clearer message.
Take these two sentences, as an example:
- Sent 150+ cold emails on a daily basis
- 150+ cold emails were sent on a daily basis
Despite meaning the same thing, the first alternative is easier to understand and is more concise than the passive voice.
#21. Writing in the Third Person
Your CV is a document created by you, from a personal perspective. Hence, you should make sure you’re not separated from the experiences and accomplishments written inside it.
By talking about yourself in 3rd person, you come off as pretentious, artificial, and a tiny bit creepy.
- Communicative barista seeking a position at Coffee Place XYZ.
- Josh is a skilled barista seeking a position at Coffee Place XYZ.
#22. Including Personal Information
Your name, phone number, email, and address are all the personal details a CV needs to have.
You’re not obligated and shouldn’t include any other personal information, as it’s irrelevant and can open the recruiter up to unconscious bias.
Some things that you should never include in your CV are marital status, religion, political views, etc.
#23. Not Proofreading
Proofreading is the last step in making sure that your CV is free of error and ready to send. The most common mistakes you should look out for are spelling mistakes, wrong sentence structure, typos, punctuation errors, and bad grammar.
And that’s a wrap on the most common CV mistakes you should avoid at all costs! We hope you enjoyed the read, and that it helped take your CV to the next level.
If you need help with the rest of your job hunt process, you can check out some of our other job-search resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to Job Hunt
- 40+ Best Job Search Sites in 2023 [For Every Industry]
- How to Write a Cover Letter