Writing a good CV should be easy right? After all, it’s just one page of text, and there are a million examples online of what a good CV looks like. How could you possibly go wrong?
Your CV is one of the main tools in your arsenal for landing your next job. It’s your chance to expand on your resume, make a powerful impression, and explain why you’re the best person for the job. This is easier said than done.
On average, each corporate job attracts 250 resumes, and of those candidates, only four to six will get called for an interview and one will get the job.
A CV is how you stand out (Yes, it’s still relevant), but too often, CVs end up bland, useless, or cringe-worthy. There are so many landmines you have to avoid to write a CV that actually works for you, and if you miss even one step, you could be in a world of hurt.
To help you out, here are five things not to put in your CV.
1. Don’t Use a Generic Salutation
No one wants to read “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.” This greeting is so non-specific and basic that it immediately gives the impression that you didn’t try at all. It might be harsh, but most hiring managers will pass on this type of greeting because it comes across like you don’t really care about working there.
Instead: If you have the name of the hiring manager, then that is always who you should address your CV to. If you don’t have a specific name, then get generic, but the right way. According to Zety.com, 40% of managers prefer “Dear Hiring Manager” to any other salutation. You can also decide to be a little more specific by including the company name, “Dear Hiring Manager at XYZ.”
Also read: How to Maximize Your Job Search Productivity
2. Avoid Buzzwords and Clichés
The next item that hiring managers will look for is if you’ve filled your CV with buzzwords and clichés. They’re overdone and used a million times. This means that they’re cheesy, and frankly, annoying to read. Saying, “I’m hardworking, reliable, and a team player,” is like saying you’re human. It’s meaningless.
The same goes for jargon and acronyms. Unless technical insight is vital to the role, keep your jargon to the minimum so that a layperson can read it. In many cases, the HR team will be the first to look over your CV and they won’t have the expertise needed to dissect role-specific terms.
Instead: Use your CV as an opportunity to show your skills rather than just talking about them. Don’t say you’re a team player—if that skill is vital to the position—take the opportunity to provide a solid and quantifiable example of when you were a team player and how that benefited the company and team. Then, have a friend or family member go over your CV with a fine-toothed comb to ensure it makes sense to someone with little to no job knowledge.
3. Keep Away from Personal Details
You might be tempted to get personal in your CV to demonstrate who you are as a person to your potential employer, but that’s one of the biggest things not to put in your CV. Your employer doesn’t want to know about your family situation, your hobbies, your mailing address, or political affiliations. All of this is just filler information that you’re wasting time on when you could be focusing on the important details.
And if you think adding a photo is a good idea? Think again. 88 percent of managers will automatically reject an application when a photo is included. They want to avoid potential accusations of discrimination.
Instead: Keep your focus on the details that matter. Use the limited space you have to tell the reader about recent work successes, hobbies that relate to your work, and experiences that relate to the job at hand. And remain as professional as possible, even when it comes to your email address, since 76% of CVs are ignored if the email address is unprofessional.
4. Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself
It’s tempting to put the cart before the horse and starting offering your potential employer extra details you think they’ll want in the future. For example, you might include “references available upon request,” but this is unnecessary and very off-putting to hiring managers. Of course, references are available upon request. It’s a regular part of the recruitment process, so there’s no need to mention them. There’s also no need to start talking about interviews, salary, start dates, or anything else. That all comes later in the process.
Instead: If you have extra space on the bottom of your CV that you need to “fill,” go back through what you’ve written and see where you can include more quantifiable achievements and skills. Do your best to inject tangible figures and to really detail the impact of your work. This is valuable information instead of worthless filler.
5. Stop Going Overboard
It’s tempting to try and take your CV to the next level by overloading it with information, including all work experience (even if it’s irrelevant), and getting creative with the facts. The truth is that recruiters spend just 5-7 seconds looking at a CV. So you need to think of it as your chance to show off your communication skills by slimming down your information to the important details instead of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink.
Instead: Carefully read the job description and decide what information is actually relevant to the role. Then, write down a list of key phrases, skills, projects, and jobs you’ve worked on that match the job and fill in the gaps. Your ultimate goal should be to keep your CV to one page with normal page margins, a font size between 10 and 12 points, and line spacing between single and double-spaced.
Writing a CV looks easy at the outset, but the writing process can get you in trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing. A few final dos and don’ts to make sure you’re on your way to success.
- DO check for grammar and spelling very carefully. No one likes a sloppy CV.
- DON’T repeat everything you already wrote on your resume. Instead, expand on the details in your resume that need more insight.
- DO use active voice for a more powerful impact. This includes using words such as increased, maximized, modified, fostered, generated, spearheaded, etc.
- DON’T use negative words even when talking about something positive. For example, “I have an aggressive passion” is not appropriate. Avoid words like bad, fault, mistake, problem, etc.
- DO keep it simple and straightforward with aligned headings, a simple classic font, and a structured layout.
- DON’T try and get creative with images, distracting text (such as underlines, bold, or italics), or trendy job titles.
By following all of these tips, you should be well on your way to writing a CV that hiring managers want to read.