Before you even get to meet a human being, someone has already judged you by this piece of paper.
Applying for a Job
Your CV is the first impression you give to a potential employer. Undercover Recruiter found that 59% of recruiters reject a CV because of poor grammar. It is easy to make a mistake, everyone does it. In a study conducted by Grammarly, a typical CV has an average of five potential errors.
It is a shock to see how many mistakes are on candidate CVs. You'd expect them to be outstanding considering how valuable they are. Our recruiters scan through hundreds of CVs daily and always see the same mistakes. All it takes is one small error and the CV could be rejected.
Writing a CV
When applying for new jobs, writing your CV can take a long time and need a lot of effort to get right. In a competitive labour market, having a good CV is crucial. It needs to reflect everything about you as a professional in an easy to digest manner.
We want to help more candidates make it past that first CV screening. Here is some of the biggest job application mistakes to avoid when writing a CV.
You can also Create a LinkedIn Profile which acts as your professional online CV.
Biggest Job Application Mistakes: Grammar
Typos, missing words or spelling errors are one of the most common mistakes found in CVs. It seems obvious but they happen all the time. These mistakes can be a major red flag to employers. It shows you lack attention to detail and do not particularly care about quality. Many hiring managers or recruiters will think you rushed through your application. You could be perfect for a job, but if your spelling is not on point you will get overlooked.
Contractions like can’t instead of cannot help your CV to sound more familiar and informal. This can help to coax the reader into a more relaxed and understanding mood. Unfortunately, if you aren’t sure of the rule’s apostrophes follow, they can often be wrong.
If you use a contraction, it’ll need an apostrophe. If you are indicating possession, there is no need for an apostrophe. Learn more about how to use apostrophes with Grammarly.
Capitalise job titles when you’re listing your experience. Also remember to capitalise the companies you have worked for. But, if writing about truck drivers as the profession, do not capitalise the term.
You want to minimise capitalisation because it demands importance. Capitalise the names of courses, schools, and subjects. Do not capitalise when you are making a general reference.
“A fragment is part of a sentence that is punctuated as though it were a complete sentence.”
To combat fragment sentences, read through each sentence on its own. Does it make sense standing alone? If not, merge it with another sentence to become complete. Good writing skills is important in every profession. It can also be what catches the hiring manager’s eye.
Proofreading Strategies to Avoid Grammar Mistakes
LEARN THE CORRECT GRAMMAR
- Advice is when someone is giving guidance, opinions or recommendations (e.g. My advice would be…)
- Advise is to provide suggestions or information about the best course of action (e.g. I advised him to…)
- Affect is a verb and it means to have an effect on or make an impact or change (e.g. The new office affects employee morale)
- Effect is a noun that is a result of an action (e.g. The effects of the change in the procedure)
- It's is the contraction of 'it is'
- Its ‒ without an apostrophe ‒ is used to show belonging (e.g. The business and its benefits)
- There is used to describe something that exists like a place (e.g. There is a new vacancy)
- They're is a contraction of 'they are' (e.g. They're in the middle of an interview)
- Their is used to show something belongs to them (e.g. Their jobs)
- Your is used to describe something associated with or owned by you (e.g. your experience)
- You're is the contraction of 'you are'
DON’T RELY ON SPELL CHECK
Yes, spell check can be a great help. It can help to pick up basic typos and punctuation errors. But it doesn’t underline every error and it’s not always right. It’s a good tool to use when initially writing your CV but ensure you complete further checks. It may point out possible problems, but it doesn’t catch everything. There can always be contextual errors. It’s a good place to start but you shouldn’t rely too heavily on it.
You could print it out and read it aloud to catch anything you may miss while scanning through on the computer.
Once you’ve completed your CV DON’T proofread it there and then. You’ve spent a lot of time writing it and rereading it. Get a fresh pair of eyes on the text. You may spot something you hadn’t before. Wait at least an hour or even a day. If you do it immediately you may rush through it.
READ BOTTOM UP
When reading through your CV, you may rush through because you ‘know’ what’s coming next. By reading the document sentence by sentence from the bottom, you can catch more errors.
READ THROUGH THREE TIMES
A common practice used by proof-readers is to read through it 3 times. In the first read-through, pay attention to the content. Does it make sense? Does the writing flow? In the second read-through, pick up on any typos, punctuation or grammatical errors. Read through each sentence carefully. A third read through should check the formatting e.g. paragraphs, bullet points, etc.
READ IT OUT LOUD
When you read your CV out loud, you will pick up on things you may have missed when reading it silently. It makes you focus more on each individual word. It’s also a great way to recognise any awkward sounding sentences.
EDIT WITH A FRIEND
After spending hours writing (and rewriting) your CV, you can become blind to your mistakes. It would help to ask a friend or family member to look through your CV. It is a good idea to have someone proofread your CV to help prevent unnecessary mistakes. They will have a fresh set of eyes as they have never read it before, so they may spot mistakes you haven’t.
Rushing is likely to mean more errors. When you write your CV, take your time. Pay attention to what you’re writing. You also need to ensure you leave plenty of time for editing, amending and proofreading.
Tools to Avoid Grammar Mistakes
Grammarly - A writing app to help make your copy clear and effective. It’s an extension you add to your internet browser. It automatically highlights any mistakes in your writing. It works using artificial intelligence and natural language processing.
Hemingway Editor – An online app which recognises common errors and suggests ways to improve your text. Simply cut and paste your text into the editor and it will highlight the inconsistencies. It uses different colours for different types of grammatical error. It even gives you a rank!
Biggest Job Application Mistakes: Appearance
A three, four, or ten-page CV won't get read in detail. A focused CV demonstrates ability to prioritise and convey the most important information. Your CV is a tool that gets you a first interview, it should not detail your entire life experiences. Once you're in the room, the CV doesn't matter much. Cut back your CV. It's too long.
Unless you are applying for a job as a designer, your focus should be on making your CV clean, clear and legible. Keep it simple. If you don’t put time and effort into your CV, people won’t put time or effort into you. Your text may seem inconsequential, but it can be a big turn-off to recruiters if they cannot read your CV without having to squint.
- Your font should be at least ten-point
- Choose an easy to read font such as Arial or Calibri
- The margins should be at least half-inch
- Use white paper, black ink and avoid using colour as it looks unprofessional
- Have consistent spacing between lines
- Align columns
- Use bullet points to describe experience
Formatting can get garbled when moving across platforms. To make sure your CV stays looking pretty, saving it as a PDF is a good way to go. It is very off putting trying to read disjointed, cut-off job descriptions and dates. View some examples of well-structured CVs on My Future Role.
Biggest Job Application Mistakes: Content
TAILOR YOUR CV
It’s imperative that you research the organisation at which you’re applying. You need to know what it does, how it’s structured, and its mission, values, and goals to determine how you fit in. It's vital that you understand the job description. Learning the responsibilities should allow you to tailor your CV to show compatibility. If you do not amend your CV, it shows you don’t understand what the employer is looking for. You shouldn't hope that your CV fits some of the criteria.
People who tweak their resumes often are especially vulnerable to this kind of error. They often result from going back again and again to fine tune your resume one last time. In doing so you could make very simple errors. A subject and verb don't match up, or a period is in the wrong place, or a set of dates gets knocked out of alignment.
Obviously, your name and contact details need to be at the top of the document. After this should come a list of skills. Include keywords and phrases that are found in the job’s description.
After this, you should write about your work experience. Focus on the last 15-20 years of your employment history. Consolidate anything beyond 15-20 years into a heading such as Additional Related Experience and don’t include dates.
Finally, include your education. If you have completed courses or learning development recently, include these achievements in your CV. Prove that you are always willing to learn.
If you want to include Interests & Hobbies, make sure they're relevant to the job role somehow...
Always begin your ‘Work Experience’ section with your most recent employer. Recruiters want to see your current experience more than what you did years ago. Putting your oldest employer at the beginning may cause your CV to get overlooked. This is because the reader may think you’ve not worked for a long time.
Dates are very important. Every employer wants to know how long you’ve worked for previous employers. If you feel that your CV looks a bit ‘hoppy’, why not put reasons for leaving? Giving a reason for a long gap in employment is always a good thing to do. You’re letting them know that you’ve been doing something worthwhile with your time.
Always state your education with grades achieved in a separate section of your CV. What employers will want to know is 1. What school you attended 2. When you attended 3. What you studied 4. Your grades.
A lot of people don’t put the correct contact details on their CV. Your name and contact information should be on every page of your CV. Make sure your phone number and email address are correct before sending your CV. My World of Work has a great video explaining the do's and don'ts of CV writing.
What Not to Include in Your CV
Putting a lie on your CV is never, ever, ever, worth it. Everyone, up to and including CEOs, get fired for this. People lie about everything including their degrees and where they went to school. People lie about how long they were at companies, how big their teams were, sales results, etc.
There are three big problems with lying: (1) You can get busted. The Internet and reference checks can all reveal your fraud. (2) Lies follow you forever. Fib on your resume and 15 years later get a big promotion? Fired. (3) Our Mums taught us better.
“References available upon request” or statements that say “I want this job” aren’t adding to your CV. They instead only serve to take up valuable space on your CV.
A complete job history usually doesn’t equal a history of relevant career experience. Job seekers will often list every position they’ve ever held to prove they’re employable. This hurts your chances of employment because job seekers don’t draw connections. It renders the CV generic and unfocused.
Even the most qualified candidate can be rejected if they haven't got the right vocab. Many CVs are screened by software before they even land on the recruiter's desk. If you haven't got the right keywords in there, you're unlikely to make the cut. To determine which keywords to pick, take the job posting and translate this into your CV.
A survey found there are words people don’t want to see on your resume, including: Best of breed, go-getter, think outside of the box, synergy, go-to person, thought leadership, value add, results-driven, team player, bottom-line, hard worker, strategic thinker, dynamic, self-motivated, detail-oriented, proactively and track record.
Skip these buzzwords! Instead include specific accomplishments and results to prove value added to hiring managers.
CVs Have Changed
They used to include information on their CV such as marital status, date of birth and nationality. Laws prohibit employers from seeking this information out. You cannot base a hire on their age, race or relationship status.
Also, in this digital age, when sending your CV on email, or uploading it online, your file name is visible to all. An appropriate name would be Your Name’s CV e.g. John Smith’s CV.
Do You Need a Cover Letter?
A study suggests that 56% of employers want applicants to attach a cover letter.
CVs are always required when applying for jobs. But businesses sometimes don’t request you submit a cover letter along with your CV. Cover letters are used to highlight your most relevant skills for the job you are applying for. It allows you to show your personal side and demonstrate why hiring you specifically is a smart move. It is important that you remain professional and polite, but it is good to offer insight into your character.
How to Write a Cover Letter
When you write a cover letter you should focus on the following points:
- Explain how you will bring value to the company
- Touch on what’s most important to the hiring manager
- Tailor a few skills and achievements to match the desires of the hiring manager
Cover Letter Template
If you know the name of the person you are sending the cover letter to, it is best to use this. If not, use Dear Sir/Madam.
Why are you writing to them?
To begin with, include a few sentences explaining that you are writing to them to apply for the job role. You can also include how you came to hear of the vacancy. Don’t go too in-depth, you want to keep them interested!
Why are you suited to the role?
Once you have informed the receiver what your letter is about, you can now expand on the details listed in your CV. Use this paragraph to link your own skills to those needed in this job role. Make sure you are indicating how you are fully equipped to succeed within the role. Remember, where experience may lack, attitude and motivation can make up for it. Illustrate your enthusiasm and willingness to learn throughout your application.
Thank the employer/hiring manager in advance for their time and consideration for the job role. Tell them that you're looking forward to hearing from them in the near future. If you want to stand out from your competition, maybe include a sentence stating that you will call them on Friday to discuss the role in more detail.
If the letter is addressed to a named person end the letter with Yours Sincerely, if not use Yours Faithfully.