What not to do on your CV

Right, so you’re applying for a new job? A crucial element to being successful in employment is a great CV, which is not as scary as it sounds, even if you don’t have 10 years of experience in the field, there is plenty to write about and plenty not to… There are loads of templates online which show you how to write a winning CV, but this post will tell you the key things you shouldn’t do in your CV.

First and foremost, don’t lie. Of course, accentuate your abilities and show prospective employers that you’re right for the job by outlining past experience, but don’t tell them you’re at intermediate level in French, because really, what’s the point? If that’s the one thing that tips it over the edge and gets you the job, what are you going to do when you get to the office and they expect you to translate? Emphasise your skills, just don’t lie. 

Don’t include your irrelevant hobbies. If you were captain of the hockey team in year 11 and you’re now in the second year of your degree and you haven’t picked up a hockey stick since you were 16, don’t talk about it. Similarly, if you’re going into an accountancy internship, do they really care that you enjoy cooking? If it’s old, irrelevant or both, it’s not going in. Stick to the activities you’ve done in recent years, are you social secretary of Maths Soc? Include that in your CV, not your culinary expertise. 

There’s no need to write pages and pages, you need to be short and snappy to get the employers attention, keep your CV to no longer than two A4 pages. Don’t try and cheat this by making margins and font tiny to cram as much in as possible. If you’re really into volunteering or you have lots of work experience, cut out anything that is older that 2 or 3 years and focus on jobs you were most recently involved with. If you’re insistent that everything you’ve done, ever, is relevant then create a LinkedIn page and list it all there and copy a link to your profile at the top of your CV, that way an employer can look further if they feel they need to. 

Keep to the same format the whole way through, that means same font, same size and same style. If you’re decided on Arial, stick to it. Size wise, keep it so size 11 or 12, don’t make it tiny if you have loads to say, but don’t make it massive if you’re struggling for things to write. It’s ok to have your name bigger at the top but generally the size should be the same throughout. Similarly, don’t change your voice, it’s best not to write in first or third person in a CV, the person reading it knows it’s about you. So, instead of writing “I am a first year English student at the University of Oxford”, swap that to “A first year English student at the University of Oxford” and write in that format throughout. 

It’s time to change that year 8 email address. If you were anyone in your early years of secondary school you probably have an email like bubblelover99@live.co.uk or man_u_fan98@yahoo.com. You should already know that this is unprofessional and is not going to help you get that job or internship, ditch it and get a new, normal, email address. Something like johnsmith@hotmail.com, add a hyphen or the year you were born at the end if your name is already taken. If you’ve got a few spare pounds, buy your own domain and get john@johnsmith.com not strictly necessary but, makes a good impression and can be done online quickly and easily. Don’t make it difficult to remember by replacing I’s for 1’s or E’s for 3’s, keep it simple, keep it professional. 

Don’t go heavy on the buzzwords, I’m sure you are a self-motivated go-getter who has a strong work ethic, but so is everybody else. These phrases are simply empty adjectives, they have no real meaning anymore because they’re just so common. It goes without saying that you need to back up phrases like this with factual evidence rather than slinging them in your opening paragraph because they sound good. Some key words that you could include instead: innovative, adaptable, reliable, confident and accurate. 

Unless you fancy yourself as Britain’s next top model it’s not necessary to include a photo on your CV, you just don’t need one. What is an employer going to do with this information? Ok you have a nice haircut, but that’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for. Don’t waste precious space that could be used to show how amazing and perfect for the job you are by including your university ID photo on your CV.

Now that you have all this advice, check it against your current CV or, use it to help you write a new and up-to-date version and go and score that dream job, internship or volunteering place!

Post by Olivia Greaves

Olivia is a Politics student at the University of Southampton. Follow her on twitter @oiiviagreaves (https://twitter.com/oIiviagreaves)