Top ten CV mistakes to avoid at all costs – part two

We spend nearly half our waking lives at work and most of us aren’t that happy about it.

We all know CVs or résumés are a crucial weapon in our bid to land the jobs we crave – that’s why it surprises us how bad some can be.

So for want of anything better to do, the kindly folks at CV Specialists have put together our top ten CV mistakes to avoid at all costs.

We ran through the first five last week, so it’s just getting towards the interesting stage.

OK maybe interesting is pushing it but here’s our top five anyway. Dust down the edge of your seats chaps – I’ve got a feeling you’re gonna need them…

5 Focus on your achievements and avoid vague like the plague

Time and time again we see CVs that are full of meaningless woolly rubbish like “I am a conscientious, hard-working team player who delivers results…”

You want your CV to stand out so if you do genuinely deliver results, prove it. With facts.

Don’t say “I was in charge of a large team and managed to improve profits” say “I was in charge of 20 people and increased profits by 50% – £5m”. Now we’re talking.

Which brings us on nicely to…

4 Read the job advert carefully and push the right buttons

It’s easier to just have one generic copy of your CV that you can send to various different employers.

It’s also easy not to wash and to sit in front of the TV all day eating ice cream but that doesn’t make it right.

For the best chance of success you should identify four or five specific requirements or buzzwords listed in each job advert you respond to and make sure you have covered those bases in your CV and cover letter.

A sharp and focused seven- or eight-line profile at the top is one area you can customise to highlight experience that is particularly relevant for any given job.

3 Look and feel: make it user friendly but don’t try too hard

Funky infographics tend to be inappropriate unless you are applying for a job in a creative industry like graphic design. Don’t worry though, your CV can still look stunning.

We tend to find clear, simple and elegant CVs work best so don’t overcomplicate things with too many fonts, sizes or inconsistency over bolding, underlining or italics.

We also see countless CVs that include various unnecessary sections. Less is often more. Everyone is different but give us a call if you’d like to discuss what might work for you.

2 Make sure your writing style packs a punch – but don’t overdo it

You can’t put a price on powerful phraseology. Strong, expressive verbs and adjectives really help and impact starts are a massive winner too so try and grab the reader’s attention before it’s too late.

“Award-winning customer services professional with a proven track record at [insert relevant job-specific skills / facts here]” might make a good start to your profile, for example.

Bland, meaningless, over-the-top drivel like “I’m a very influential person who works especially well with all types of people” – an example we saw recently – wouldn’t.


Sorry to get all shouty on you but this old favourite has been a permanent resident of No.1 spot for as long as CVs have existed. And it isn’t about to get shifted any time soon.

Any typos or poor spelling, grammar or punctuation in your CV are criminal. Also check your caps / font size / boldness / italics / underlining is consistent throughout.

The same applies to other stylistic issues like the use of dates and which form of percent / per cent / % to use.

While you are at it, keep an eye on poor formatting – right down to the length of dashes and the amount of spaces you use.

If the job advert is asking for someone with a slapdash attitude and no eye for detail then ignore this section. If not, get it right!

We had someone this week who spelt the name of her previous employer wrong. It was a pretty well-known organisation so we spotted it in about five seconds.

I’m guessing potential employers did the same. Then filed her application in the bin.

However, this week’s mistake of the week goes to a gentleman who got his own phone number wrong on his CV. No prizes for guessing why he didn’t get the interview he wanted.

Summing up – give yourself long enough to get it right

There is, of course, much, much more to writing a successful CV than these tips but we hope they help.

A half-decent professional CV writer won’t come cheap so there’s no point using one if you don’t need to.

We’ve seen plenty of great home-made CVs so if you know what you are doing it’s perfectly possible.

Whatever path you choose be careful – if you spend any less than a couple of days on your CV the chances are you won’t have done yourself justice.

If you are in any doubt about what you are doing feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to look at what you’ve got and see if we can suggest any improvements. Either way, good luck!

Careers Advice, Top Tips