The Harrison Sands mega list of CV errors

As a busy recruitment agency we get to see a huge volume of CVs, directly submitted to us in application to the jobs we advertise or located through the various job boards we subscribe to. And it’s true to say, there really is quite a range when it comes to quality. Some CVs are excellent; really tailored to the individual application or target company, well-written, well-designed and delivering a perfect balance of background information, skills and education, responsibilities and achievements.

But for every one of these we see, there are a handful of CVs that have basic errors in them. And in this day and age with spelling and grammar checkers, and a little time invested to read and re-read the CV before sending it out, it really is unforgivable. So take a look at our guide to some of the basic CV errors we see… and make sure you avoid them in future when drafting your updated CV.

Typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors
Errors of this kind are unforgivable and for many recruiters and hiring managers will just mean your CV will be binned. It can signify a basic lack of attention to detail at best, and at worst show that you’re just not that interested in the business you’re approaching. With computers helping out massively in this area, there really is no excuse for submitting a CV with any of these types of errors.

No social media
Apart from in high security industries and some very exceptional cases, the majority of people have social media accounts of some sort these days. When a CV appears with no social media accounts, it can raise questions about what the person has to hide; why haven’t they developed a professional network; and really, it just looks odd. Professional networks are predominantly LinkedIn based in the UK, so even if your Facebook account isn’t something you want to share with prospective employers, a basic LinkedIn profile that at least tracks your recent career history is essential.

Lack of specifics
Your CV exists to sell you, your experience and skillset to future employers. Ultimately they’re buying in to you, what you know and what you can do – so your CV needs to explain this in some detail. If you had responsibility for a specific project then explain what it is you did and what the outcome was. Focus on achievements and outcomes and explain the impact you had, particularly in real monetary terms.

Too much detail about your education
Don’t go into too much detail about your education, because in reality no one’s that interested in your individual GCSE subjects or the modules you studied at University unless they have a direct bearing on the role you’re applying for. Do give educational highlights and accomplishments, like the degree you studied and your overall qualification. More recently any on-the-job training will probably be more relevant to share too.

Claims with no basis
It’s your CV, not a Facebook post… so claims like “salesperson of the year” that you’re unable to substantiate should be left off your CV. It’s fair enough if you’ve been recognised for something either in your business, or in the broader industry – but you must be able to substantiate and explain what this means.

Unprofessional email addresses
When you registered your first email address you may have picked something you found humorous at that time. But what was funny when you were a teenager, may not be as well regarded when using it on your CV that’s going to be potentially seen by prospective employers. If you do have an unprofessional email address, then our advice is to use a free service like Google Mail and create a new, more professional address to include in any CV-based applications.

Share your social accounts strategically
As with unprofessional email addresses, you may have a beautifully curated Twitter account sharing the latest memes, or airing your very contentious views – but all we’d caution is to think twice about whether you should share these with prospective employers. As we’ve recommended earlier, maintain a  good, professional LinkedIn profile and in our view, think strongly about whether you share your other social media accounts on your CV. In most cases, the other accounts may be better off as private accounts altogether.

Poorly structure / written job descriptions
When you’re actually drafting your CV, take the time to think about and explain clearly what you did in your previous roles. Failing to do this reflects badly on the overall CV and can taint a recruiter’s view of you. Structure your job descriptions so that it clearly depicts what you did, what you were responsible for, what your team environment and structure was like, and what you achieved.

Incorrect contact information
You want a recruiter or hiring manager to contact you if they like your CV, don’t you? In that case, it’s essential that you get your own contact information correct. It sounds surprising, but it happens more often than you’d expect. A simple typo will mean a phone number or email address won’t work… so check and double-check this fundamental part of your CV.

Detailing unrelated skills
Space on a CV is at a premium as you’ve got to sell yourself to the recruiter, and do it quickly. They shouldn’t have to hunt around on your CV to find the information they need. So long lists of skills that have no bearing on the role you’re applying for is just wasted space and a distraction.

Concentrating on responsibilities not accomplishments
There’s a clear distinction between the responsibilities you’ve had in a previous job and what you achieved in that role. The achievements or accomplishments show a recruiter what you actually delivered in a specific position. So for recruiters, think about your GP milestones, number of clients won or retained, key contracts or PSL agreements secured, etc. All too often we see CVs focusing more on the responsibilities of a role, rather than the accomplishments they secured.

Too much jargon
In most instances, jargon should be avoided on CVs because it assumes that the person reading the CV understands what it means. And a common issue we see is terminology that’s common in one sector or even in a specific business meaning something completely different (or meaning nothing at all) when viewed afresh by somebody else. So wherever possible, we’d recommend avoiding jargon.

Too much information
Different people will give different advice, but ours is to aim for around two pages of A4 with your CV. We’ve seen some CVs come in with six or more pages and there is no way that recruiters are going to read all of that. In a time-poor environment, a recruiter is typically going to scan through a CV with a view to drawing up a shortlist of potential candidates without spending half an hour going through each CV. So focus on the key information that’s pertinent to the role you’re applying, and/or sells you and your experience and skills in the best way.

Not doing your research
If you’re applying for a specific role at a company (rather than registering with an agency) then not doing your research and failing to tailor your CV or covering letter to the role you’re applying to is another faux pas best avoided.

Using a one size fits all CV
If you’re applying for a specific role, try and tailor your CV to specifically address the requirements of the vacancy advert. Don’t make recruiters hunt around for the information they’re looking for, or try and deduce whether you’re experienced in specific areas. Lay it out clearly and concisely, and if a role is requiring a particular skill or accomplishment and you can demonstrate this, do so.

Keyword stuffing
With many CVs now being uploaded to job boards and searchable by recruiters, a practice we’ve come across is for people to stuff keywords on to their CVs – probably with the hope of appearing in more searches and increasing their visibility on the platforms. This might work in the short term, at least until the recruiter opens up the CV, but it’s a false economy and your if your CV isn’t strong enough to be a contender once it’s reviewed, then it’ll be rejected.

Excessive detail for older positions
Going into expansive detail about the part time jobs you had while at school or University is really unnecessary, and a waste of that valuable CV real estate space. Waitressing roles, retail positions and part time jobs… unless they have specific relevance to the role you’re applying for, are probably best left off your CV.

Use relevant hobbies to your advantage
If you’ve been involved in team sports, led a team, or undertaken some memorable activities that can support your application, by all means share them. But then again, all too often we see people explaining their love for computer games, the gym, socialising or travel – and in the vast majority of cases, these really don’t merit being on a CV.

Too short
We explained earlier how an overly long CV is definitely not recommended, but then so is a short CV. If you’re too brief explaining your previous roles, responsibilities and achievements, then a recruiter or hiring manager won’t be able to understand your suitability for the role you’re applying for. Make sure you focus on the right things and avoid the easy errors we’ve listed here.

A CV that’s too creative
There are lots of online tools and templates that can help you craft a visually creative CV, but our advice is to not get carried away. Creatively styled and/or laid out CVs might look impressive, but they can be difficult for people to scan through and the automatic CV parsing software that many recruiters and websites now use, typically won’t be able to cope with them. Apart from creative industries where it might be expected more, the majority of professional sectors will appreciate a CV with good quality content and clearly laid out and presented, rather than an overly creative one.

Not proof reading and checking everything… twice!
Finally, and it may seem painfully obvious, but make sure you thoroughly check your CV – and check it twice. Ensure that everything is spelled correctly, that the grammar is right, and that you’ve updated everything that needs to be updated. If possible, ask a friend or colleague to proof check it for you as fresh eyes are important… they can often spot something you’ve missed.

Most recruiters will take your CV and incorporate it into their branded templates anyway, so you need to make it easy for them to find and grab the content they need.

So, we hope you’ve found this list helpful. If nothing else, it’ll hopefully help serve as a checklist for those things you should be thinking about when creating your CV. Of course, the team at Harrison Sands are happy to help with further advice, so please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss any of this in more detail.