We’ve got some CV no-nos for you today. If you’re used to the job hunt, you might well have heard some of them before. But we like to think that a reminder can be good. Perhaps it could be worth giving your CV a read to make sure it’s not falling into these traps?
Oh dear. This might seem like a very simple one – you’d have to be willfully trying to ‘cheat’ in the job hunt to lie on your CV, right?
Actually, it might not be that simple. We’d say that you actually have to take an active attitude towards banishing inaccuracy if you want to ensure that crucial balance where your CV is as impressive as it can be and also accurate.
If you read through your CV now, you could well find that it has something in it that, when you look at it more carefully and think through the facts, is not quite true. This can easily happen when you’re writing from memory, for example. Take this opportunity to clear the mistake up and spend a session ensuring every fact on your CV is watertight – it’s a good exercise in accurate writing.
Being arrogant is not going to look good on your CV. it’s about finding the right balance so that the reader can see you know your worth, but that you don’t seem overly entitled.
Yup, another one you hear every day if you’re a job hunter, we’re sure!
Let’s be realistic: One or two spelling mistakes are probably not going to make the difference between getting the job and not getting the job in most industries, but they are an unprofessional move.
It’s important to care enough to check and double check. Here are some things that could have slipped through the net: American spellings, the names of companies and the name of the person you’re writing to apply to.
Too much irrelevant information
Or any at all, ideally. Your CV should be exactly what it needs to be, and no more. If you do have something in there that seems like it’s might not be relevant – for example, the odd joke or two – only keep it in if you can say what the point of it is.
Poor design work
If you know how to make a visual design stand out, feel free to be imaginative – although this might be less relevant in accountancy and finance than if you are applying for something like a graphic designer position.
However, it’s probably best not to stray from a basic visual template unless you know you can pull it off well. And avoid typographical techniques such as using all capitals for a paragraph – if you want to make it stand out, bold would be better.
Your CV is not a chat with a friend or a diary, nor is it a super-serious government report. If you’re not sure about what tone to take, it will usually work if you keep it serious and brief, although there are other options.
Writing about the work you’ve already done is one of the most important aspects of your CV.
CV readers will find evidence of any past work useful, but will be especially looking out for signs that you have experience that will serve you well in the post you may be about to start.
Here are just six of the many things you may well need to think about when you’re writing up your career section.
Use detail where it’s needed
Don’t limit yourself by thinking every job in your list needs the same amount of detail. As a rule of thumb, your current or last job will need the most detail (though this isn’t always the case) following which you should let yourself be led by whether details will be relevant to the sorts of job you’re applying for, when it comes to allocating space.
So don’t be afraid to offer only a couple of lines on a job that has little link to the industry you’re making applications in, and two paragraphs on another that gave you lots of great skills for that sector.
Order things to your advantage
When listing things you did in a job, try to lead with the most pertinent, impressive and relevant – don’t let these slip to the middle or bottom of the list, where they might not be spotted as easily.
Talking about parts of the jobs that you enjoyed or got things out of sounds a lot more engaging than simply dryly listing duties – although you may end up doing that for some jobs you aren’t as concerned about highlighting.
It’s all about accuracy on a CV. That means reminding yourself of accurate dates, job titles and company names so that you don’t make any embarrassing errors. Sometimes you might struggle to find the exact day you started and finished a job – in general, you’ll be fine with just the month and year, especially for jobs you were in for a long time.
There’s more to be talked about on a CV than simply jobs, so don’t allow this part of your CV (normally one of the first sections) to outstay its welcome, or you’ll risk not showing yourself off in all your variety.
Choose your words carefully
The only way to ensure accuracy on a CV is to choose your words carefully, to ensure they do not mislead, while selling you as well as possible.
Every statement you make should be subject to consideration, especially because some of the things you’re writing about may have happened a long time ago, which means it’s easy to end up being inaccurate without realising.
Ask yourself whether what you’re saying is actually true, or whether it might be an exaggeration (or even under-selling the facts) and amend accordingly before you send the CV off.
Fonts are another element that will make a big difference to the look of a CV. One thing’s for sure – if you try and follow the two page rule by using miniscule text, you could well simply irritate a reader. Use a nice, normal sized font such as size 11, remembering that different fonts work well at different sizes.
Look at how the CV looks both on a screen and printed off – if you struggle to read it fast, someone else might do to.
The style of font to choose is also an interesting question. Letters are like little artworks, the style they have can convey different meanings. Something streamlined and elegant is usually a good way to go, unless you’re really sure that you can create a positive impact with something a little less conventional. Minimalism is also a safe look – so don’t mix fonts, but rather use bold or underlined versions of the same typeface if you want things like headings to stand out, or a font size that’s a little larger.
General tips to keep in mind are that when text is too dense, it can be harder to read. Paragraphs of three or four lines will make it clear you know how to control your writing so it’s in easily managed sections. Start a new paragraph when you change topic in some way – but remember that too short can look as bad as too long when it comes to these bodies of words.
The white space created when you use paragraphs well will help make the document look like less of a chore to take-in. For the same reason, use well-sized margins around you page.
The top of your CV should make it clear who you are and what the document is – don’t just leap into your experience without this.
State your name, and provide some basic contact details – making this stand out from the rest of the text.
Under this, it’s possible you might want to provide something of a summary, to make points in your CV stand out all the more. A list of three stand-out features, such as your most relevant experience, a prize you’ve been awarded and something about your enthusiasm for the role you’re applying for, could help.
If you see yourself as something of a graphic design whiz and want to align text in a slightly unusual way – to the centre, or to the right, for example – then go ahead. Otherwise, the safest bet might be to stick to aligning text to the left, so it creates a straight edge towards the left hand side of the page.
Job hunting does not have to be a chore. Improve your CV and you may find that a whole load of jobs are right round the corner.
RK Accountancy and Finance provides specialist advice and support to help you find the perfect role.