7 CV red flags that scare recruiters

CVGetting inside the mind of the recruiting manager gives you valuable insight. It enables you to create a CV which appeals to them, and secures the all-important interview.

Here we reveal 7 CV red flags that scare recruiters, leave them with too many questions or concerns, and therefore may prevent you being shortlisted.

Remember, recruiting managers are frequently inundated with CVs for each vacancy. They need to the narrow the field.

1.    Gaps

It’s rare not to have any gaps on your CV. For professional women, particularly, it’s almost inevitable if they have taken time out for maternity and to raise a family. The important thing is how you handle these gaps positively, rather than try to hide them.

Your goal should be to acknowledge the gap and frame it in a positive light.

Action: Be clear with the chronology of dates. Include the gap with a brief explanation.

2.    Tasks not achievements

It is absolutely vital to use the minimal space available on your CV to demonstrate why you are the ideal candidate. As a professional, don’t list the tasks of your previous roles. This says nothing about what you’ve done. Instead, focus on the successes and achievements you’ve brought.

Action: Look at the advert or job description, and consider examples of where you have evidenced these requirements. List these under your career history; not the duties and tasks of the job.

3.    Being vague

Don’t leave a recruiter guessing; they don’t have the time. In light of point 2 above, you need to be very clear with your statements of achievement. Steer clear of language such as ‘helped the business to…’ or ‘familiar with…’

Instead use powerful and assertive language such as ‘Delivered Project X within budget on time, which resulted in Y’.

Action: Use clear statements which show your evidenced involvement, showcasing definite experience and success.

4.    Career slides

It’s common for careers not to follow a linear path. However, recruiters can be left with questions when seeing this in black and white.

Check that your CV doesn’t read as though there has been a backward step at some point. If it does, then make sure there is a good reason for this, and that it is explained clearly.

Action: Be objective when reviewing your career history, and try to front-load your experience, giving greatest weight to your most recent employment.

5.    Clichés

Recruiters read dozens of CVs a day. They’ve seen it all before. It’s important to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate there’s a little more to your CV than simply plucking generic sentences off Google.

Clichés such as ‘dynamic’, ‘innovator’, ‘forward-thinker’ and ‘proactive’ place you in a box, limited to preconceived ideas. Instead, think about what you are truly like, and again, showcase it with evidence.

Action: Let the facts speak for themselves. E.g. If you explain that you researched and implemented a new system or protocol, that demonstrates that you are proactive.

6.    The basics

In the professional arena, it’s simply not acceptable to send out a CV with typos, grammar mistakes or which don’t follow the basic rules of good CV writing. At the same time, make sure that your CV and application address the requirements of the advert or job description. It’s an easy way to show that you are attentive and follow instructions.

Action: Demonstrate your professional communication skills by ensuring your writing style is concise and clear, as well as free from error.

7.    Customisation

When applying for professional roles, the recruiter needs to believe that you care about getting their particular job, in their particular business. They don’t want to feel that you’ve taken a scattergun approach of emailing out your CV to every job vacancy available.

It’s important to take some time to customise each CV (and cover letter) to the individual role. This demonstrates interest and commitment.

Action: Look at the advert or job description, as well as the company’s website. Use this information to tailor some elements of your CV.

If you avoid these red flags, then you position yourself ahead of other candidates. This will ensure that the recruiting manager is enticed by your CV, which stands out from the crowd.

andrew-fennell-headshotAbout the author

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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