CV bloopers

CVs with mistakes will often end up in the bin.
CVs with mistakes will often end up in the bin. Photo: Cartoon: Mitch Walder

You don’t have much time to impress people with your CV. Usually it’s just those few seconds it takes for eyes to scan over the document and size you up.

But dazzling career history or not - when people make mistakes on their resumes - it will most likely land their job hopes in the garbage bin.

So how do highly skilled people end up sabotaging their efforts?

The Ask Annie column at Fortune presents a list of the biggest resume blunders, and they are beauties. They include the candidate who attached a letter from her mother, the one who used pale blue paper with teddy bears around the border, and the one who explained a three-month gap in employment by saying it was because he was getting over the death of his cat.

Leaving aside those stupid mistakes, it would probably be more constructive to look at what some people do because of carelessness.

Career coach Kenneth Johnson says the most common ones include typos and grammatical errors, incorrect or inaccurate contact information, putting up something that looks too busy and cluttered, leaving off relevant information, leaving out relevant numbers such as the number of people you have managed.

"Let the reader know that you managed a team of 5 sales reps and 2 administrative support staff. If your efforts directly saved the company 10% of the marketing budget; that is quality information, include it”.

And not using the right action words like: created, lead, resolved, saved, initiated etc. He also makes the point that in today’s world, CVs are scanned by computer software as well as people. That means you need to put in key words to jump out at them. Those key words come from tailoring your resume to the position description and including terms that are industry or position specific.

Recruiters cite other mistakes such as using hard to read formats and unusual, non standard fonts, failing to match your experience and skills to the job requirements, citing outdated technology experience, false information and outright lies, and negative information like layoffs and firings.

Other specialists suggest you need to present something that just looks right. Uniformity, clarity and flow of information are critical because an employer only needs to look at a CV for a few seconds before deciding whether or not to continue reading it, or discarding it.  

They say information also needs to be catalogued, put under clearly labelled sections, with education and employment history documented in reverse chronological order.

Contact details should always be clearly visible at the top of the CV. They say the best CVs come with bullet points, bold headings and underlining.

It’s also important to match yourself against the criteria of the role and to avoid large gaps in your employment history - which will only raise questions. There is nothing wrong with saying you spent time travelling or had a career break.

Alison Green at US News says other common errors include listing only your job duties and leaving out accomplishments, excluding volunteer work, putting in inappropriate information about - for example - your spouse or kids, and not sending a cover letter.

What are some of the worst CV mistakes you’ve seen (or done yourself)?