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How not to write your CV
With 40 years of experience, our recruitment consultants at Michael Page have seen countless CVs cross their desks. Amongst the hundreds of thousands of these, there are those which are exceptionally well written, and those which are full of an awful lot of nonsense.
That said, the number of poorly constructed, spelled or conceived CVs must run to the tens of thousands, and the most alarming thing is that they are getting worse.
If you lie on your CV, can’t be bothered to use a spell-checker or decide to use your personal email address ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, you are unlikely to score your dream job, or any other role you apply for. However the reality is that most candidates' CV errors are not this elementary, and are normally misconceived attempts to ‘stand out’, which actually results in being sifted out.
Irrelevant experience and skills
Many candidates, particularly in technical disciplines like engineering or IT, assume that all companies and recruiters rely entirely on ‘parsing’ technology and don’t actually read the CV. This results in vast lists of every process or package they’ve ever worked with, trained on, heard of or read on the job spec. This does the candidate no favours, especially when that CV hits an in-house HR manager looking to assess candidates on ‘softer’ skills and competencies.
While including a self-portrait photograph will not actively harm your application, in IT, finance, HR and the vast majority of professional industry sectors, jobs go to the person with the best looking CV, not picture.
Writing too much
HR and recruitment professionals are busy people. , your CV needs to reflect all of your selling points and nothing else. Keeping it clear and concise is key. You may receive advice to chop out hobbies or early jobs on the CV, both of which might have merit. However, a few hobbies to break the ice at an interview and a summary of early jobs to provide context does no harm. Cutting out the unnecessary ‘boasting box’ at the start of a CV, the executive summary, is where a word cull should start.
Top five reasons not to write an executive summary
1. It is often a total fabrication and hence will catch you out when a bored MD who hasn’t read the rest of the CV says, ‘I note Mr Smith you describe yourself as assertive, strategically minded and ambitious. How will that help you fry chips?’
2. It takes up space where you could be drawing attention to your genuine skill set, tailored to the job at hand. Focus instead, on crafting a well written cover letter.
3. No-one reads them. Apart from the unlucky scenarios described above, they will not be read. Not even the clever parsing technology used by recruitment companies can read adjectives.
4. It is normally just a list of management buzz words which will tell the recruiter very little about the suitability of the candidate for the role.
5. Following on from above, everyone is caught up on writing the ‘right words’ that they all end up reading the same. It is uncommon to find a CV which doesn’t include at least one of the following words or phrases:
- Proven track record of success
- Business enabling
- Blue sky thinking
- Thought leadership
While a CV needs to include all of your key selling points, by leaving out unnecessary adjectives and providing irrelevant skills which divert attention away from your core capabilities, you make it easier for recruiters to identify you as a suitable candidate. The art is as much about what to leave out, as what to include.
Now, you know how not to write your CV; view our CV template here.