Recently, some friends and I were laughing at something I had stumbled upon online titled ‘resume bloopers.’ It was about funny documented mistakes that people have made on their curriculum vitae (CV), also known as resume, and job applications. Some were downright silly but others were very common mistakes. As hilarious as they all were, it made me realise that a lot of people, including me, haven’t taken the time to meticulously work on their CVs. Your CV is like your very own personal ad. It should sell you to your future employer. Just like an advertisement, it is supposed to persuade whoever reads it to take some sort of action, hopefully the first step in the hiring process, that is, call you for an interview.
While you may not list the languages you speak as ‘English and Spinach’ or say, “I have a bachelorette degree in computers,” as part of your education, like some of the people on the list did, there are numerous other mistakes that you may be making on your CV. It happens to the best of us. Here are several common mistakes you need to avoid:
Avoid spelling and grammatical mistakes: These are the easiest mistakes to make and also the most costly. Some surveys have shown that many human resource personnel disregard or trash CVs after spotting one or two typing errors. Typos reflect badly upon you. They show a lack of attention to detail. Take your CV seriously and carefully proofread it and eliminate all mistakes before sending it to your place of choice.
Have an appropriate email address: You have probably heard this one before. If you have an email that reads something like ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, do not include it in your CV. It does not look professional. Use an appropriate email address on your CV, preferably one with your name or initials.
Make your CV straight and to the point: Employers and human resource people usually have numerous CVs to look through and in most cases will not be reading them word for word. They will probably skim through them at best. Therefore, ensure what you write on your CV is brief and to the point. More is not always better. The fatter the CV, the less likely it will be picked up by busy human resource personnel.
Also, don’t list information that is irrelevant or not related to the job you are applying for. It may not be useful to state that you like knitting in your free time when applying for a job as an engineer. You may want to add some colour to your CV but have in mind that the person reading through it has numerous other CVs and will be looking for relevant details. When listing the skills you possess, start with the most relevant to the job you are applying for. Make your skills scream at the reader to draw his attention. A good CV should also be an easy read, so use bullet points to highlight important points instead of a block of text. Most people will not dig through your ‘wall’ of text to find the important points.
Concentrate on your achievements instead of responsibilities: A CV that clearly shows what you have achieved and states measurable accomplishments will catch the attention of the reader. Listing the responsibilities you have held such as internship, assistant director, among others, does not say much. Instead of saying, for example, three years experience as creative director at X magazine, it would be better to say, increased advertising by 30 percent by improving the outlook and layout of magazine X over three years as creative director. Make your CV achievement-based instead of responsibilities-based.
Don’t undersell or oversell yourself: Don’t devalue or make yourself look bad in an effort to look human. For instance, do not ask for a very low salary or appear desperate in a bid to get the job. It makes you seem unsure of yourself, or one who can’t be trusted with power or other organisational responsibilities. In the same breath, don’t brag about yourself or your achievements. Yes, you want to appear like a strong candidate, but don’t overstate your qualifications or make statements like: “You will not find anyone with my qualifications.” You will come across as obnoxious and arrogant.
Also, avoid use of the word ‘I’. Instead of saying ‘I increased advertising by 30 percent,” say: “Increased advertising by 30 percent.” This makes you a team player as you are acknowledging this achievement was not yours alone.