Five of the biggest CV bugbears (and they’re not what you think)

A list of five of the worst habits in CV writing that’ll make even the most seasoned of recruiters wince.

CV - Via Shutterstock
CV – Via Shutterstock

Recruitment is a real minefield for any business owner. Having been employing staff at my search engine marketing agency since 2012, I genuinely believe that finding the perfect person for a role that is vital to the growth of the company is one of the trickiest things to pull off.

One of the most tried and tested ways to gauge the initial suitability of a potential employee is of course the humble Curriculum Vitae. To me, a CV is more than a list of pros and cons – it acts as a window into the applicant’s psyche. Subtle indicators, such as the font used, the layout of the document or a neat little graphic or border, can say a lot about someone’s personality – and, perhaps more importantly, their conscientiousness. But similarly, there are certain CV no-nos that can conjure up all sorts of red flags from an employer’s perspective, too.

Here, I’ve listed a few of my biggest CV bugbears. I’ll be interested to see if you’ve come across any of them, and whether you find them just as infuriating!

1) Top line typos

Listen – I know we’re all human. I know we can sometimes become so absorbed in our writing that we struggle to spot even the simplest of errors, despite reading over the text hundreds of times. But I simply can’t forgive a glaringly obvious typo in the very first line of your CV.

I certainly won’t let it slide if you’ve spelled your address, or even your name, incorrectly (yes, some poor soul once fell at the very first hurdle).

2) Lower case titles or names…

Maybe I’m just being excessively fussy, but if I see a CV peppered with lower case headings, titles, names or locations, I find it more difficult to read. And it just screams ‘lazy’.

Similar feelings of disappointment are evoked when I spot someone who hasn’t capitalised their name on their LinkedIn profile. Why not? Does your name not deserve due attention and respect?

3) …closely followed by Excessive Capitalisation!

At the other end of the spectrum we have The People Who Like To Capitalise Every Single Word. Oh, and those who prefer to give undue attention to Words that don’t Normally need a capital Letter.

As a copywriter who really enjoys the uniformity of language, excessive and unnecessary capitalisation plays with my emotions and makes my head sore. It also makes me seriously doubt your written communication skills. Avoid at all costs.

4) ‘Socialising’

I really think this is one of the most irrelevant phrases ever to be placed in front of a prospective employer. We all like socialising – I’d be a little concerned if you didn’t enjoy engaging with other people from time to time – but the very use of this word, to me, implies that most of your free time revolves around propping up the bar at your local and spending the majority of your weekend hidden under a duvet working your way through a deep-pan pizza. We all like to party every now and then, but I’d rather find out about your wild ways AFTER you’ve impressed me with your initiative and enthusiasm during the 9 to 5!

The interesting thing is, many agency recruiters tend to disagree with this viewpoint and will consistently reiterate to me that a candidate has an “active social life”. That’s nice. So do I. Burning the candle at both ends is not necessarily going to help me grow my business, though.

5) Teenage email addresses

Anyone lucky enough to hit adolescence during or after MySpace’s heyday probably set up a pretty cringeworthy account when they were younger (back in the days when a snazzy email would be enough to catch the attention of that guy you used to stalk on MSN or AOL Messenger). That’s fine – we’ve all got a dark digital past – but leave it in 2005. I’m going to feel a bit weird about sending a formal interview invite to Xo_Lovely_Lisa_oX or JimBobJaffaCake93. (Sorry if these IDs actually belong to any of you).

It takes two minutes to set up a new email account with a clean, straightforward ID that will make you appear professional as opposed to pre-teen.

Do we place too much importance on CVs?

Some, if not all, of my reflections on bad CV habits may border on neurotic. But I know that when I’m searching for a star employee, I’m looking for someone who has their eyes firmly on the finer details. I want to be able to trust this person with important business communications; I want to know that they are going make an amazing impression on clients and colleagues.

In my opinion, the CVs that stand out don’t just tick all the right boxes when it comes to skills and experience – they are clear, concise, well-worded. They represent the package I can expect to receive. Brilliant CVs are packed full of enough information to grab my attention, but they also leave enough unsaid to convince me to invite the applicant in for a chat.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the state of a CV truly reflects the value of a worker, or should they be given the benefit of the doubt for small mistakes?

This blog was contributed by Danielle Haley, co-director and search consultant at FSE Online and its flagship brand Freelance SEO Essex.

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