The 10 Deadly Sins of CV Writing

Try to be good....please


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The 10 Deadly Sins of CV Writing and how to avoid them


Writing a CV can be daunting at any stage of your career. I know this, because I read CVs of varying quality written by Graduates, by people embarking upon their careers, by Middle Managers and by Senior Executives.  

And Dearly Beloved, I see their transgressions.  I’m a bit like the Vicar of CV Writing and CV Tips, you see.  Perhaps Vicar is too humble (see 7th Deadly Sin) – let’s go for “Archbishop” of CV Writing.

Whatever your denomination or faith, or if you have none, I would like to share with you the most common mistakes I see, so that you can make sure that you avoid them. By the way, I know that when we are talking about the REAL Deadly Sins there are only 7.  I'm not daft.  Well, in CV Writing there are 10.  Why?  Because I got it down to 10 from 11.  I’m the Archbishop, remember?

In no particular order….

1st Deadly Sin: Grammar and Spelling Mistakes This is a killer and will almost certainly consign your CV to the bin.  Recruiters regard it as lazy and disrespectful – quite rightly. Doing the Right Thing:  Use a spellchecker of course,  but in addition get someone to proof read your CV for you, as sometimes spellcheckers make contextual errors.

2nd Deadly Sin: Twiddly fonts, photos and other unnecessary elaboration. Some of the CVs I have seen do not bear description.  But here goes.  The Photo is taken from America’s Most Wanted; the font is indecipherable and everything is….pink….with a poem written at the bottom.  I kid thee not…. Doing the Right Thing: No photos – unless the advert insists – and then please be careful.  Call David Bailey.  Do not use flowery or unusual fonts; stick with old favourites like Arial (in black).  And unless you are applying for a job in the Creative industries keep it very professional.  And if you are a Creative and decide to 'go for it' – you'd better be good.

3rd Deadly Sin: Too Much, already! Sometimes it seems to me that the shorter a person’s career, the longer is the CV that they write.  I can tell you that long CVs do not get read, so don’t waste your time. Doing the right thing: It is rare that a CV should be more than 2 pages long. The most recent decade of your career should be covered in detail (if you have been working that long) and beyond that only add detail if it helps to build your case.  The top third of the first page is the most important part of your CV as that is the part that gets read!

4th Deadly Sin: Writing a CV that is just a list of things that you do. This is very common.  Someone who is a Logistics Director lists all of the things that a Logistics Director does.  I would suggest that the person doing the hiring has a pretty good grasp of that already.  What they are looking for are your Achievements, what sets you apart. Doing the right Thing: In describing each of the roles you have undertaken explain the key elements that indicate the level of responsibility you have held and the span of control.  Then show them that you are a GOOD Logistics Director by describing what you have achieved.

5th Deadly Sin: Failing to quantify. In other words your CV has a distinct lack of numbers.  “I am a great salesman”, you write.  Are you?  How can you prove that? Doing the right Thing:  Make sure that your assertions and more importantly your achievements have numbers attached to them.  If you consistently beat your production target, by what percentage? If you were the top Area Manager in the Region, over how many Area Managers did you triumph?  One?  Or 25?  Numbers.

6th Deadly Sin: Forgetting what a CV is for. I have seen all sorts: A CV that is a list of things that people have done; Autobiographies; Expressions of hope and ambition. No. A CV is one thing. Doing the Right thing: Your CV is a Sales Tool designed to get you an interview, and ultimately a job.  That’s it. Write it accordingly!  Don’t forget!

7th Deadly Sin: Being too modest. Pride IS a Sin. Now, Dearly Beloved, I am not recommending misplaced pride, or bragging. But I am English.  Many of you are English.  Enough said. Doing the right Thing: A CV is not the place to be too modest.  I don’t recommend that you start making ridiculous claims like an Applicant on the Apprentice: “The Greatest Sales Person in the WORLD!” is one I remember, just before the Applicant got fired.  But if you have achieved good things make sure that they are in your CV.

8th Deadly Sin: Not updating your Objective to fit the job. I see CVs where someone is, for example, a Project Manager who has spent much of their career in the telecoms sector.  They are applying for a role as a Project Manager in Utilities, but the Objective reads as if they are applying for a telecoms role.  The Recruiter will think that this person is lazy and that they are just sitting at their computer randomly clicking on jobs they see advertised. This is what Recruiters call a “Red Flag”*. Doing the Right thing: The Objective or Personal Statement sat the top of your CV nearly always gets read.  Make it relevant; make your case.

9th Deadly Sin: Using the same CV twice. I’ve covered this in my previous BLOG. Not only is this a Deadly Sin, but it is also breaking Golden Rule Number 1. You are in BIG trouble. 

10th and Deadliest of all Deadly Sins: Not contacting to order an impactful, Professional CV that will get you interviews. OK, I’m kidding.  

But I am the Archbishop and I don’t want to commit the 6th Deadly Sin and fail to sell myself here.  

One should lead by example.

To have a discussion about your new Professional CV just click on FREE CV Review.  Also, why not check out my BLOG about working with Headhunters and Recruiters, and what they mean by the "Red Flags" in your CV.

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