How to avoid the seven most common CV mistakes

Your CV is your ticket to interviews and job offers, so it needs to be immaculate from start to finish. It only takes one mistake for a recruiter to start doubting your credibility, so you must ensure that your CV is error-free. Here are the most common mistakes recruiters see, and how to fix them:

Not doing your research

Before you write a single word, browse through plenty of relevant adverts and compile a list of the most in-demand candidate requirements. Then you will know exactly what skills and knowledge will grab the attention of busy recruiters.

Poorly-structured job descriptions

Your recent roles will be heavily scrutinised by recruiters, so it pays off to make them easy to read and understandable. A role that is presented as one huge chunk of text, with no logical structure, is unlikely to impress readers or describe your work properly.

Start your roles with a brief intro that describes the company you work for, where you sit within the hierarchy and what the overall goal of your role is. Then bullet point your responsibilities to show the work you carry out and showcase your skills and output. Finish your role off by highlighting some impressive achievements you have made during your time in the position.

Not showing your impact

It’s important to show the work you carry out, but it’s even more powerful to show the impact your work has on your employers. Without highlighting the results you have achieved in your previous roles, you are missing a big opportunity to prove the value you can offer an employer.

For example, a sales candidate may list skills such “relationship building, cold calling and networking” but without results, those actions are pointless. They should elaborate to explain that these activities “have led to growth in clients, sales and profits” for their employer. By using results to prove your impact, you will give hiring managers tangible reasons to hire you.

Generic cliches

“Hard-working team player.” “Innovative forward thinker.” “Go-getting people person.” These types of cliched terms may sound impressive, but they are damaging to your CV. The problem with cliched phrases is that they are hugely overused and they don’t tell readers anything about you.

If you want recruiters to know that you are a hard-working team player, then prove it by using examples of the results you have achieved in team settings. This method will add more context to your message and give readers a much better understanding of your work.

Too much information

Recruiters read scores of CVs every day and work to tight deadlines, so they are often pushed for time. If your CV is seven pages long and crammed with every detail of your career, it will not be appealing to read.

Limit your CV to two pages in length and only include information that is relevant to the jobs you are applying for. If your CV is coming in too long, check each point and ask yourself: “Will this persuade a hiring manager to interview me?” If the answer is no, then remove or reduce that point.

Lots of candidates have periods of unemployment, it’s not necessarily a negative. However, if you don’t explain the reasons for a gap in employment, it will leave recruiters with the impression that you simply haven’t been doing anything. If you’ve taken some time out between roles, be transparent and explain why. Maybe you’ve done some travelling, maybe you’ve been studying or even working on a personal project. Show employers that you are pro-active and haven’t been wasting your time. If you’ve had any long periods of time out because of sickness, don’t be embarrassed to include it; a good employer will not discriminate against you.


A third of job seekers lie on their CV – but embellishing your achievements, such as fictitious work experience or improved exam results, is not advised. Diligent recruiters will investigate facts that don’t add up, and if you get caught telling fibs you will be out of contention for that role, and probably all future roles in that person’s remit. Even if you do manage to trick your way into a role on the back of an exaggerated CV, you will probably struggle to perform to the expectations you have set once you start.

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter, founder of CV writing service StandOut CV and author of How to write a CV.