The 10 most common CV errors to avoid

12 Aug 2019

The 10 most common CV errors to avoid

A polished CV helps you market yourself. Don’t diminish its power by making unprofessional mistakes. Our guides can help.

If you want to make an impact on an executive search firm and its clients, a faultless CV is step one. We see hundreds of thousands of CVs every year. We’ve gathered that experience into a series of guides with advice to help you, whether you’re early in your career, at a more senior level, or specifically after a NED position.

Here are 10 stumbling blocks to steer clear when writing your CV:

  • Failure to position yourself. Candidates for executive positions sometimes forget to make clear what they want and what they have to offer. Kick-off your CV by distilling your career highlights into three or four attention-grabbing bullet points that give prospective employers a good reason to read on. Think of this as a positioning statement or value proposition. After all, you are selling yourself.
  • Lack of evidence. If you claim to have great leadership skills, a track record of delivery and so on, back up these assertions with hard facts. What did you deliver and how? Be sure to demonstrate your achievements and substantiate with figures where appropriate. How big was the team you led? What was the profit increase achieved?
  • Unfocused content. Tailor your CV to the role whenever possible, prioritising your experience in line with the job description. A well-focused CV helps convince an employer you’re a strong match for the position and/or their organisation.
  • Cliché and waffle. Of course, you’re an “enthusiastic, results-driven go-getter and team player with a great eye for detail.” Isn’t everyone who goes for a top executive position? Don’t clutter up your CV with banal statements that are light on specifics and do nothing to make a compelling case as to why you’d be perfect for the job.
  • Inconsistency in your personal brand. Is your CV an accurate reflection of your personal brand? Does it convey your values and approach to work? Check for contradictions and inconsistencies with other representations of yourself visible to recruiters, such as your LinkedIn profile or bio on your current employer’s website.
  • Typos and bad grammar. Misspellings and grammatical abominations do get noticed. These are jarring for the reader and have a bearing on how you are perceived, possibly sending the message that you are slapdash and careless. So their…ahem, so there! Proofread assiduously. Ideally, involve a second pair of eyes belonging to a trusted individual with a talent for spotting howlers.
  • Overplaying duties and responsibilities. While employers need to be told about the scope and scale of your previous roles, what they really want to know is where and how you’ve added value. Point out your impressive accomplishments. What impact have you had on business outcomes? Quantify the performance improvements made by a team or function under your guidance.
  • Wacky layouts and gimmicky fonts. This is the wrong way to stand out. Stick to an easy-to-read, unfussy layout instead of trying to be quirky. And opt for a professional-looking font. Comic Sans isn’t amusing, especially if it causes your CV to be tossed into the wastepaper bin.
  • Outdated contact information. Simple to rectify, yet surprisingly easy to overlook. Make sure your mobile phone number, email address and other contact details are correct. And don’t forget to check your email and phone messages regularly so as not to miss out on an opportunity.
  • Badly-chosen words. Shun flowery language that is vague and wastes space. But don’t limit yourself to a small pool of verbs such as “managed” and “led”. Pick words that reinforce what you personally have contributed: “negotiated”, “initiated”, “created”, “designed”, “implemented”, “achieved”, “represented” and so on. Vocabulary can be a potent tool for underlining the value you’ve added.

Download a comprehensive guide to the CV in the digital age and how to manage your online reputation whether you’re early in your career, at a more senior level, or specifically after a NED position.

For more career advice, go to our dedicated Career Strategies page. To find your local Odgers Berndtson office and the opportunities they offer, click here.