5 common mistakes to avoid when creating your CV

There you are, staring at a job description which is perfect for you (or at least a job that will do for now!)…you click ‘Apply’ hoping to upload your CV and get through this application quickly as the deadline is at midnight… when you suddenly remember that you never quite got around to writing that CV. Or perhaps you did, and it’s saved on a USB stick somewhere, but you cannot remember the last time you updated it…you realise you are in for a long night <<groan>>

Before you start, take a look at these 5 common pitfalls to avoid when drafting your CV.

Mistake #1: Maybe we have been thinking about CVs all wrong

Most of us see CV writing as a chore, and fall into the trap of starting from an online template, or copying a friend’s CV, without too much thought.

But what if you flipped this process around and allowed your creative juices to flow? Why not start by asking yourself the question ‘What is it that I want a prospective employer to know about me?’

One way to do this is to forget about your laptop or CV template for a moment and grab some post-its (yes actual paper!) and write down those things that you would want an employer to know about you. They might be things like

I studied abroad and now I find it easy to connect with people from different backgrounds’

‘I have done a variety of customer service roles and I’m really good at dealing with awkward customers’

‘I am great at…?’

Only after brainstorming what you want your CV to say about you do you then think about where these would go on your CV by sticking the post-its on different sections of a template.

Another way to do this is to ask a friend to write down things they think an employer should know about you as it’s often easier to big up your friend than it is yourself. Which leads nicely on to the next point which is…

Mistake #2: Not blowing your own trumpet

Why do some of us find it so hard to let others know about our own achievements? Whatever the reason, your CV is not the place to be shy. You got a First? Then make sure you say that in your profile. You have the SALA award from Hope? Make sure it goes on there.

If you find it uncomfortable, then use the Careers Advisers here at Hope as your ‘critical friend’. We can talk to you about what you’ve done to get a full picture of your achievements and uniqueness and then review your CV to check that you are doing yourself justice and that it truly reflects the value that you bring to an employer.

Mistake #3: So what?

I am a team player and can also work on my own.

I am a people person.

I am hardworking and quick to learn.

So what? If you have any of the above or similar statements on your CV, do they pass the ‘so what’ test? These statements have become clichéd and overused. They take up valuable space on your CV and add nothing if not backed up with evidence.

Another example of failing to pass the ‘so what’ test is mixing up responsibilities/what you did/job description with actual achievements/skills. For example, which of these following statements would come across well to a prospective employer?

A I worked as a waiter in a restaurant and delivered food to the tables and cleaned the kitchen.

B I worked as a waiter in a restaurant in a customer facing role where I dealt with members of the public in a fast-paced environment, delivering excellent customer service whilst ensuring that quality and health and safety guidelines were adhered to.

Both are true but clearly B illustrates more of the transferable skills gained.

Re-read your CV applying the ‘so what’ test after each statement. If it doesn’t pass, then rewrite or delete!

Mistake #4: Matching (alternatively known as the ‘Jedi Mind Trick’)

When you get busy or under time-pressure it is easy to just send off a standard version of your CV and hope for the best. What this means is that you miss the opportunity to tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.

The purpose of matching is not simply to engage in buzzword bingo on your CV, mindlessly throwing in the words that are in the job description. Instead, this is about making it easier for the employer (and any recruitment software they might use to screen your CV) to see that you are a match for the job, at least on paper.

Using the same job title on your CV as in the job description (if appropriate) can help, as can identifying key action words from the job description and using them in your CV.

Mistake #5: Not using the right CV format for you

Did you know there is more than one type of CV? From a chronological to a creative CV, and everything in between, it is possible to choose the format which provides the best showcase for your experience. Trying to land a job which is unrelated to your degree subject? Then maybe a skills based CV will work for you. Looking to start a career in the creative industries? A specific creative CV for your sector or even a visual CV might be the best way to showcase your portfolio.

Whichever format you choose, try to avoid the above pitfalls. You have (according to research) about 7 seconds to impress a prospective employer with your CV. How will you do it?


For help creating your CV, use Hope’s CV Builder on MyCareersCentre here https://mycareerscentre.page.link/CVbuilder  Once you have a draft and would like feedback, drop into Careers Express in the Hub on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, or book a 1:1 career consultation by contacting the Careers Team at careers@hope.ac.uk

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