The top 10 CV mistakes

Writing a CV is challenging at the best of times, but by avoiding some of the more common pitfalls, you’ll find you’ll end up with a pretty good CV.  Go for quality, not quantity, by checking your CV isn’t harbouring any of these common errors.

Person emerging from behind a stack of scrunches up paper

1. Not all first impressions are good

When a recruiter sees your CV for the first time, it can fill them with joy or fill them with dread. By using a large enough (11+), business-like, simple font, with consistent formatting of headings and subheadings and sensible use of space around your writing will help them feel good about what they see. So, reflect on the heart-shaped bullet points and give the slick templates that can leave you saying very little about anything the elbow!

2. Inappropriate account names

Nothing makes someone question your judgement like a strange email account name. Does ‘’ give you the right impression?

3. CVs that go on and on and on…

A huge, lengthy CV can provoke a big sigh from a recruiter with little time on their hands. Most CVs should be two full pages in length. Some specific investment banking and strategic consultancy roles may look for a one-page resume style CV in the first instance and then may ask for a two-pager afterward. Some organisations such as the UN may have their own template for you to use and academic CVs for those finishing PhDs may start to be a bit longer (as much as three pages) if you have been fortunate enough to get published and present at conferences and so on. Even mature students can get their experience onto two sides with a bit of advice and practice.

4. Zero tailoring

Your CV should make it easy for the recruiter to connect between your experiences and their criteria, so do the work for them in your personal profile, education section, work experience descriptions, and even your activities and interests. Focus on what they want to hear, without lying, and use vocabulary that resonates with them.

5. Education one-liners

Writing one line about your degree is seriously underselling it and yourself. Dissertations are project management. Modules and assignments convey knowledge, technical skills, and transferable skills. Use real titles to bring it to life. It is not unusual to see six-eight lines on your degree.

6. Claims not backed by evidence

‘I’m great at teamwork, I can give great presentations, my ability to organise my time is superb.’ That is all very well, but unless these comments are connected to firm evidence and examples, the recruiter won’t shortlist you.

7. Dense text

Big expanses of text can also draw sighs from recruiters. Hold your CV at arms-length: what stands out to you? Use bullet points to create structure. Use headings and subheadings to draw attention to what is in that section. The recruiter can then scan your CV and be drawn in to read more.

8. Give extraneous information a miss

For graduate jobs and placements in the UK, avoid sharing information about age, gender, marital status, nationality (unless you feel you need to be really clear about it), and omit photographs. Your full name and a clear way of contacting you are all you really need. If you are looking for part-time work your National Insurance number may be useful. For overseas applications, head to the Prospects study abroad section for some country by country CV insights.

9. Not briefing your referees

Add your references at the bottom or say “Referees details available on request” but don’t add a referee without getting their permission and briefing them first. Would you feel like giving a good reference if you weren’t given the courtesy of being asked?

10. Grammar and spelling

Woteva you do, make sure you chek it carefully. Spelling and grammar mistaks are the worst thing you can make and show you don’t really care about your aplication. My spell checker hated that sentence!

So heed these ten simple warnings and you should have a superb CV in no time.