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Common CV mistakes and how to avoid them

Lots of good candidates miss out on an interview because of minor errors on their CV. There are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes, from formatting to facts - but a bit of care and attention can help you to avoid them...

Common CV mistakes
  • Too long: Employers don't have time to read long CVs. Make yours as short as you can - no more than two pages - and try to get the key information into the top third of the first page.
  • Spelling and grammar errors: Even a small mistake makes it look like you lack attention to detail.
  • Inaccurate information: Even if an employer doesn't notice inaccurate information when looking at your CV, it's likely to come up at interview, so make sure everything's correct.
  • Exaggeration: It's tempting to try to build up your skills, but employers can see through it. If you're applying for your first job and your CV says you're an expert in the field, they won't be convinced.
  • Missing contact information: Your CV should include your address, email address and phone number - accurately. Employers can't reach you to offer an interview without them!
  • Wrong file format: If you're emailing your CV, check to see if the job advert specifies what format to use. If not, .doc, PDF or RTF are the best choices. You could submit in two different formats to make sure that one will work.
  • Including a picture: This is common in some countries but not the UK, and could make it look like you don't know what you're doing.
  • Bad file names: An employer who receives 100 CVs called 'CV.doc' will be at least a little bit pleased to see one called 'John Smith CV.doc'
  • Not sending it: It's easy and embarrassing to forget to attach your CV to an email. One way to make this less likely is to avoid filling in the 'To:' field of the email until you have double-checked everything, so that you can't send too early.
How to avoid CV mistakes
It’s scary to think that one typo could mean the difference between your dream job and your worst nightmare. Follow these three golden rules to put your CV on the ‘yes’ pile.
  • Use a spell check...: Every computer has one, so make the most of it!
  • ...but don't rely on it: Remember that spell checkers won't notice if you write 'their' instead of 'there', and won't spot a mistake in your email address.
  • Read your CV more than once: You might have spent ages on it, but it’s worth leaving it a bit longer. Save the file, go and do something else, then come back later and re-read it with fresh eyes.
  • Ask a friend: Other people will pick up on mistakes that you may not have spotted. Get someone else to read your CV, and give you their honest opinion.
  • Attach the CV first: If you email in your application, attach the CV before you even enter the email address. That way you can't send the application without the attachment by mistake.
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