Top 5 most common CV mistakes - and how to avoid them

6 min read | Hayley Scott | Article | Job searching | CV & Cover letters

common CV mistakes

Job hunting can be a very time-consuming task, but are you making it more arduous by falling at the first hurdle if you’re not presenting yourself in the best way?

Your CV will be your potential new employer’s first impression of you, so steer clear of these common mistakes to make sure you don’t get overlooked for a role you could be a great for.


1. Your profile is too generic

Are you recycling the exact same profile for every job you are applying for? Your profile is the first detail that will be read when you apply for a new job, so this should be in line with the role you’re applying for. If you’re using the same profile for each job application, then chances are you won’t come across as entirely relevant for the role. Plus, you can bet there are multiple candidates going for the same position, who have taken this extra step to demonstrate their relevant skillsets.

However, don’t waste time starting from scratch for every application. Be efficient, and create a master profile that can be tweaked accordingly depending on which job you are applying for. Add in any experience you have that is a key requirement for the role and omit anything irrelevant. As well as your experience, also mention various soft skills that could be transferrable to the role you’re applying for. Similar rules apply for writing a cover letter, so read our guide on how to make your cover letter stand out.


2. There are spelling/grammatical errors

Spelling and grammatical errors on your CV must be avoided, even if you are applying for a role where written communication isn’t a key aspect of the job, as it’ll still give the impression you lack attention to detail. Spellcheck will pick up most errors, but it’s not completely foolproof as some mistakes will not be picked up, such as writing ‘form’ instead of ‘from.’ You should always proofread your CV, and utilise AI - ask ChatGPT to proofread your work and make recommendations for improvements, especially if spelling and grammar aren’t your strong suits.


3. You’ve got unexplained gaps

Gaps in CVs are common, but it’s unexplained gaps than can cause an issue, so make sure to include the dates and reasons for any times you weren’t in employment or education. There shouldn’t be any element of confusion when reading your job application. You’re not in the same room as the hiring manager when they read your CV for the first time, so it’s important they don’t have any unanswered questions.

If your job application is successful, it will be time better spent discussing your valuable experience during the interview process, rather than speaking through the reasons for unexplained gaps. This may still be mentioned, but the interviewer will likely not focus on this line of questioning too much if they already have some of the required information. If you aren’t sure how to best answer questions about any gaps during the interview process, then have a look at our guide on how to explain common CV gaps.


4. There isn't the appropriate amount of information

Not including enough detail on your CV will risk you presenting yourself as having less experience than you do, thus selling yourself short. Make sure you’ve included important job responsibilities, as the hiring manager should have a clear view of your job experience and key achievements.  

Conversely, including too much information on your CV is counterproductive, as your CV will almost definitely be skimmed through rather than read word for word, so key points could be missed among the unnecessary information. One study tested how long recruiters spend looking at CVs and what impacted this timeframe. This study found that the worst-performing CVs tended to have an overcrowded appearance, with long sentences and a lack of whitespace. It also determined that keeping your CV to around two pages is most effective, as recruiters generally spent just as long looking at the first and second pages, but any additional pages were typically granted less time.


5. You haven’t been specific enough

Always include quantifiable data on your CV, as this will give a much better indication of the scale of your responsibilities and the impact you’ve had. Being vague will make you more likely to blend into the competition, whereas demonstrating impressive data will ensure you stand out from the crowd and demonstrate the value that you could bring to your subsequent employer.

Be detailed about the experience that you have, for example if you’re applying for a management position and have had previous line management experience, then you should be specific about how many staff members you have managed in each role. There’s a big difference between the job responsibilities of having one direct report compared to 20, so having this stated on your CV will give the hiring manager a clear picture of your experience, so they can easily determine if it’s in line with the role you are applying for.

Other quantifiable data to add to your CV includes stakeholder management; which internal and external stakeholders you have worked with, productivity; the volume of work delivered in a set timeframe, project management; how many project you managed and to what degree of success, and personal development; number of promotions and new skills/qualifications you have gained.


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About this author

Hayley Scott, Head of Talent Acquisition at Hays

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