Trust us – you're not fooling anyone.
Recruiters see hundreds of CVs each year, so they'll easily spot areas of your CV where you're attempting to avoid the bare facts. Our advice is to be fulsome and accurate in describing your career journey and experience, turning areas where you may be less confident from negatives into positives.
Here, we'll help you weed out any bad online or anecdotal advice you may have picked up so you can create a CV to be proud of.
Visuals and graphics
The vast majority of medium and large businesses use applicant tracking systems to scan and sort CVs, and these programs often react unfavourably to any quirky fonts and graphics you include. If you choose to use artistic looking designs, you run the risk that your CV will be rendered unreadable.
Updating your font to something modern can help you spice it up. Just don't get too fancy with it. Times New Roman, Calibri and Arial are considered the standard.
Additionally, a headshot photo definitely should not be included on your CV. Anti-discrimination laws are in place to protect job seekers, so including your photo could get you automatically disqualified as employers might be concerned about unconscious bias that could result. Equally, company logos shift the focus of the CV from you onto the companies you've worked for.
A restrained pop of colour is fine to give your CV some style, but ensure the overall impression remains professional. Stick to the basics ‒ your skills and experience are what matter the most.
If your CV is going to be successfully parsed through an ATS, it will need to contain the keywords and phrases that present you and your skills as relevant to the vacancy. For example, a used car salesman should include words such as 'sales', 'negotiation', 'finance' and so on. However, 'stuffing' your CV so full of keywords that it stops making sense will be counter-productive.
Your CV may make it past a bot and into the hands of a human, but this is where the trick stops working. Overuse of keywords in an attempt to disguise a thin work history will be spotted easily.
A well-crafted CV will automatically contain the relevant keywords, naturally occurring within your responsibilities and achievements.
Don't make the mistake of hiding keywords in white text either. Whilst it may fool a bot, recruiters generally print all text in black, revealing any stuffing of hidden keywords. This trick lacks integrity and risks making you look foolish ‒ even dishonest. Take the time to write a strong CV in the first place.
When it comes to CVs, longer doesn't mean better – it's all about the content. When faced with a huge pile of CVs to review, an HR manager will appreciate the applicant who can write concisely, focussing on the relevant details. Waffle and pointless information simply detract from your strengths. Summarise, rewrite, edit and focus your CV to ensure you're presenting a high-impact, relevant version of your recent career.
The appropriate length of your CV is dependent on where you are in your career, but the standard for most professionals is two pages. Include selective experience that best describes your relevance to the role, with a weighting towards the most recent. Also, think about what you have demonstrated in different roles that the employer would be most interested in.
You might be tempted to get personal in your CV to demonstrate who you are as a person to your potential employer, but it won't help your application. You should NOT include:
A photograph, date of birth, nationality, marital status or details of any personal Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook accounts. Details about interests and hobbies are also typically unwelcome, but if you do choose to include them, there are ways to do it tactfully.
Keep in mind that the personal details you are expected to include on your CV will vary in different countries, so if you are conducting an international job search, it's important to know each country's standards. Generally speaking though, any personal information aside from your contact information (read: email, phone number, LinkedIn URL, and city of residence) has no place on a modern CV.
Sending the same CV every time
CVs are not one size fits all, and you should attempt to tailor your CV to fit the specific opportunity at hand. Generic CVs are easy to spot and indicate a lack of effort from the applicant.
Different recruiters want different experience and skills for different roles. The more specifically your CV is tailored to the job, the better chance you have to sell yourself and obtain an interview. Target companies you feel passionate about and create multiple versions of your CV based on the job specifications for each role.
Everyone should have aspirations and career goals, but stating them on your CV is inappropriate and risks hurting your chances of job-search success.
Instead, focus on what you can offer the employer.
Use a professional summary to outline both who you are and what makes you qualified for the specific role you're applying for. Doing so will illustrate you as a potential asset to the company and strengthen your case as a candidate.
Glossing over employment gaps
Having unexplained gaps in your employment history raises questions. Whilst gaps in your career are not necessarily deal breakers, don't try and switch up the format of your career history to hide them. It will look suspicious.
There's no need to hide your past on your CV. Instead, you can make it work to your advantage. Think about what you gained from your time away and speak to that. What did you do during the employment gap to strengthen you as a professional? Write it in.
Avoid the pitfalls altogether
Of course, you can avoid all these pitfalls completely by hiring a professional CV writer to prepare an ATS- and recruiter-friendly version of your CV.
Here at TopCV, we've seen every trick in the book and we know what works and what doesn't, meaning that you can sit back and relax whilst someone else prepares your job-search documents and kick-starts your career.
So, forget the bad CV advice and go with the better, and you'll find yourself with a new job in no time.
Click here for more information about working with a CV-writing expert.
This article was updated in July 2020. It was originally written by Jen David.