Some CVs get shredded on arrival, while others lay claim to the manager's desk. Wouldn't it be nice to know why? Well now you can. From poor presentation to unsettling hobbies, we examine the top ten pathways into the Harrowing Hall of Curriculum Vitae Shame—plus some practical tips to help you avoid them.
Starting With a Whimper, Not a Bang
We've all read novels that take forever to get going, that insist on recounting every single trivial detail of the protagonist's existence before finally getting to the heart of the story. This isn't a luxury afforded to your CV—it's imperative that you ignite the reader's attention within thirty seconds or less. Remember, a recruiter may have dozens of other applications to evaluate in addition to yours, and limited time in which to do so.
What a prospective employer really needs to know—and know fast—is why should you be called to interview. This is why a career objective or personal profile should be placed right at the top of your curriculum vitae, as well as a (brief) list of your greatest achievements to date.
lBuying a One-Way Ticket to Uglyville
Beauty, they say, is only skin deep. Tell that to an ugly CV, whose Frankenstein looks may lose you the job. Your content may be mind blowing, but if the layout is cramped, then so are your chances.
To address this issue, use plenty of white space in your curriculum vitae, along with headings in bold and breaks between each section. Prepare your CV on a computer, not a typewriter, and print it on heavyweight, premium paper. A word about coloured paper and fonts—avoid them like the plague; they're a surefire way to make you appear 'unconventional'.
lOrganising Your CV Like a Spaghetti Junction
A curriculum vitae that lacks narrative structure (often the case in functional CVs) makes it harder for the reader to learn who you are, where you're coming from, and what you want—even when those details are included.
The best way to combat this problem is to approach your CV as though it were a short story—something with a definite beginning, middle and end. For inspiration, take a look at some our curriculum vitae format samples.
lWriting an Autobiography Instead of a CV
Although roughly translated as 'Course of Life', your curriculum vitae is not the appropriate place to include detailed descriptions of that time as a five-year-old when you used to eat fluff. No one but you is interested in your life story—even as it pertains to your career. Deliver the facts that will get you the job; everything else must go.
For optimum results, your CV should be no longer than two pages in length (a single-sheet curriculum vitae, correctly prepared, can have an even more dramatic impact). If you're unable to make the necessary cuts,
ask the assistance of a friend or relation—they'll be quick to inform you about what needs to be binned.
Similarly, if your sentences and (heaven forbid) paragraphs are overblown, it will prevent the recruiter from scanning your CV. Make their job easy: keep your writing short and snappy, and use bullet points (sparingly)
to break up stubborn chunks of text.
lDoing a John Wayne
Director John Ford's 1954 epic romance, The Quiet Man, saw Hollywood legend John Wayne being, well, quiet.
Though Johnny's silence got him the girl, it's unlikely to do the same for you. Many job seekers, when faced with the prospect of creating their own curriculum vitae, freeze up at the notion of writing about themselves. They fail to acknowledge their talents and accomplishments, and produce a CV that sells them severely short.
A simple solution: Let CV Ireland do it for you. A more complex solution: Try to describe your work experience, educational background, significant strengths and major achievements in as much detail as you can.
lMaking the Speling and Grammars Erorr
A single typo can destroy your career. We mean it—check and recheck your curriculum vitae for spelling and grammatical errors prior to sending it off to employers. Small glitches make a big (and bad) impression, silently implying that you are careless, linguistically challenged, or both.
Since it's hard to spot your own mistakes, enlist the aid of your family nitpicker—their pedantic ways are certain to come in handy.
lSpaking in Ye Olde English
Yes, your CV is a business document. And yes, it should be relatively formal. But business formal doesn't have to be boring, and a curriculum vitae isn't just a business document—it's a marketing pitch. If it fails to excite the employer's enthusiasm, it has failed in every way that counts.
You want your CV to be full of vim and vigour. You want it to express your personality as well as your skills. In particular, you want it to communicate your major strengths and achievements in a way that resounds with the reader's requirements. Think modern, think active, think positive, then convey those qualities in your writing.
lTraining for a Year, Then Forgetting to Say So
The only thing worse than presenting a piece of pertinent information incorrectly, is neglecting to present it at all. Taking a training course and then omitting it from your CV is the career equivalent of buying a new car and then driving it into the canal. You're smart enough to save the car, so do the same for your curriculum vitae.
Training courses impress employers because they imply that you are self-motivated, able to learn new skills, and unafraid of hard work—even when it's on your own time. If you received some kind of award or qualification at the end of your course, make sure to say so. Trust us—your CV will thank you for it.
lBeing Blind to the Beauty of Professional Bodies
The same people who keep mum about their training courses tend to leave out their professional affiliations—membership of bodies such as the RIAI, IEI and IAI. Perhaps it's something in the water.
Being affiliated with a professional association related to your chosen field can be a real bonus for your curriculum vitae, so make sure to list your membership of, and activities within, all such professional bodies.
l Revealing Your Soft Spot for Belly Dancing
Personal hobbies are nobody's business but yours, so why do you need to include them on your CV? As a matter of fact, you don't (and, in certain professions, such as law and medicine, shouldn't). The purpose of mentioning them is to:
(a) make you sound like a real human being; and
(b) convey personal qualities applicable to the job for which you are applying.
This is why accountants should never list their lifetime membership of the International Belly Dancing Federation in the Hobbies and Interests section of their curriculum vitae, and why security personnel would do well to keep their love of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music to themselves.
What should you say, then? How about something that backs up your career objective? The accountant could disclose his affinity for chess (indicating mathematical prowess), whilst the security officer might mention her voluntary social work (indicating strong interpersonal skills).
The bottom line: Hobbies and interests, just like every other aspect of your CV, should support—not oppose—the rest of what you have to say.
How to Write a Career Objective Statement
How to Write a Cover Letter That Wins Interviews