Your average recruiter will sift through thousands of CVs every month, spending just a few seconds with each. With such competition, an otherwise good resume can find itself in the rejection pile for mistakes that can be easily avoided.
This guide walks you through the most common mistakes that recruiters see in job applications and what to do instead. While this doesn’t guarantee employment, it will ensure your CV is not rejected for irrelevant reasons, giving you the best chance at landing the job.
Poor layout and design
This CV has poor font choice and a disjointed layout, making it difficult to read.
A poorly-designed CV is one of the biggest mistakes job applicants make. Your layout, formatting, and font should enhance the clarity of your CV and not work against you.
Single page CV
An impactful, single-page CV does far more than two pages filled with fluffy writing. At this stage of the recruitment process, conciseness is king. Recruiters are typically looking for specific skills and experience. They don’t have time to read a CV the length of a novel to check that you have the relevant skills.
The right font
As much as Brush Script captures your personality, it’s not suitable for a CV. A poorly chosen font is a red flag to a recruiter. It shows you have not considered their end of things and has derailed more than a few good applications over the years.
Specifically, avoid these fonts:
- Futura: too decorative.
- Brush Script/Mistral: hard to read.
- Papyrus: avoid graphical fonts such as this.
- Comic Sans: unprofessional.
Instead, choose typefaces that are legible and professional:
More Structure tips
- Don’t centre align everything – it makes it difficult to read.
- Avoid too much colour – some colours can be included sparingly, the inclusion of too much will look gimmicky and unprofessional. Oftentimes CVs may be printed in monochrome anyway and your carefully chosen colour scheme will be for nought.
- Make headings bold – Section titles are better distinguished from the body text of your CV by making them a different font, boldness, or size.
Spelling and grammar errors
This CV has spelling mistakes and unnecessary apostrophes.
A study conducted in 2019 (Adzuna.co.uk) found that the vast majority of CVs contain both spelling and grammar errors. Only 1,134 out of the 20,000 resumes analysed were free of mistakes and more than 12,000 had more than five errors.
Glaring errors come across as amateur and give recruiters the impression that you lack attention to detail. While we all fall afoul of the spellchecker from time to time, when it comes to your CV, you want things to be perfect. This means using your word processor’s built-in spelling and grammar checker as well as conducting your own proofreading.
One of the most common mistakes is the inclusion of unnecessary apostrophes. An apostrophe is used to indicate possession but is often found in CVs used in unusual ways.
- GCSE’s ✗
- GCSEs ✓
- KPI’s ✗
- KPIs ✓
While your spellchecker may catch obvious mistakes, it won’t catch everything, especially similar sounding, valid words. Look out for the following frequent errors:
- “Insure” instead of “ensure”
- “Affect” vs “Effect”
- “Manger” instead of “manager”
- “Definately” instead of “definitely”
Your spelling and grammar checks may also overlook word misuse. Be wary of yourself making these mistakes:
- “Bare me in mind” ✗
- “Bear me in mind” ✓
- ” … a perspective candidate” ✗
- ” … a prospective candidate” ✓
Tip : Avoid writing your CV on your phone as you will often find yourself battling against the autocorrect feature.
Exaggeration and lying
Exaggerating your career roles and stretching the truth will do more harm than good.
Whether you’re simply embellishing the truth a little or completely misrepresenting yourself, an inaccurate CV is both unethical and is potentially disastrous for your career. Assuming you do get the position based on false information, the gap between where you said you were in your career and where you actually are will grow wider. You may find yourself unable to complete tasks and deliver to the level you said you could.
Pushing people to lie on their CV is the idea that everyone else is doing the same thing. Getting a job can be a difficult process and people feel that if they don’t at least exaggerate their accomplishments they are putting themselves at a disadvantage.
Sticking to the truth will ensure you are employed based on your own skillset, not a false one. This will mean your employer will know what to expect and can offer learning opportunities too. Bigger lies such as made-up employers and elaborate job titles are also routinely scanned out early during the application process for bigger companies anyway. You won’t hear anything back and you may gain a negative reputation.
The most common “deviations from the truth” include:
- False grades
- Exaggerated qualifications
- Employment date alterations
- Magnified previous pay
From the recruiter’s perspective, exaggeration is widespread and to be expected. People are looking to highlight their achievements and their CV is a chance to make themselves stand out. The problem comes in drawing a line between exaggeration and deception. Too little information and your CV looks lacking. Too much overstatement and it will appear disingenuous.
Being dishonest with your CV is not worth it. Hiring managers are not stupid and are skilled at testing your knowledge. Instead, honesty really is the best policy. While you may think a recruiter wants to hear how you have the ambition of becoming the company CEO, most would rather hear a genuine answer. You might not currently be interested in climbing the corporate ladder, for example, and, instead, want to see what opportunities this role would lead to.
Irrelevant info & not tailoring your CV
Recruiters will only look at your CV for a few seconds, only include what’s important.
Most people make a single CV and then proceed to use this to apply for several different positions. While your core key skillset, education, and career aren’t changing between applications, tailoring your CV means putting the relevant skills front and centre.
The difference between a tailored resume and an all-purpose one is that the former will allow a recruiter to quickly identify your suitability for the position. It is useful for both human recruiters and automatic stages of the application process, such as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that are used by the majority of the world’s biggest companies to filter out CVs.
Your CV should be considered a highlight reel tailored for the specific job you’re applying for. Being bold and removing irrelevant experience is, therefore, more beneficial than including information a recruiter would not interested in.
Both ATS systems and recruiters will consider the relevancy of your CV based on the position’s job description.
Matching skills and keywords from the job description in your CV is a surefire way to score highly in this early recruitment stage. Mirroring the language and common word use of the job description will be a green light for the recruiter.
Read through your CV line by line
This will often mean picking your CV apart, line by line, word by word, and ensuring it includes mention of as many of the skills and responsibilities required for the position as possible.
Your skills and accomplishments are one thing, but showing you know how to use them is another. Try and find ways in your CV to show how you’ve used your skillset to achieve goals, therefore. Give real examples of how your skills landed a specific contract, saved time, made more money, or fostered company growth.
Tip : Using bullet points to list relevant skills and qualifications will make your CV more "skimmable." This is appreciated by most recruiters and will help you highlight your suitability for the role.
Other CV pitfalls
Aside from these four major CV faux pas, there are some other mistakes that can be easily avoided:
- Your full address is unnecessary. A city (or town) and region are enough.
- Always submit your CV as a PDF. Word documents may appear differently depending on what version they are running and are not compatible with some CV parsing software.
- Include an interests section. A brief (and honest) hobbies and interests section is not only an insight into your personality but a welcome break for recruiters reading the phrase “strong communication skills” for the hundredth time that day.
- Use real metrics. If you can say how your skillset saved your previous employer a certain amount of money in pounds, dollars, or euros this will look a lot better than generic assertions. Measurable results are a great way to prove your effectiveness.
- Templates are a great base for your CV, just be sure to customize them using our guide on Making Your CV to Stand Out (https://www.teg.london/how-to-make-your-cv-stand-out/). These templates can be found within Word, Google Docs, or sites such as Canva (https://www.canva.com/resumes/templates/).
- Good CV examples can be found on Prospects.ac.uk (https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/cvs-and-cover-letters/example-cvs), tailored for different industries.
- If English isn’t your first language there are some great guides online (https://www.cavendishprofessionals.com/writing-a-cv-in-english-as-a-second-language/) to avoid common mistakes such as writing informally.