The big five – avoid some of the worst CV mistakes

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Here's how you can avoid some of the worst CV mistakes.
Here's how you can avoid some of the worst CV mistakes.
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After last year’s dismal economic performance, many people will be starting 2021 by looking for a new job.

You may already have a CV, or at least a rough outline of your résumé, but here are some tips to perfect it before you send it out.

Drum talks to employment experts who give us their top five worst mistakes they see all the time.

Read through your CV and make sure you’ve not fallen into any of these easy traps.


Size matters

Spare a thought for those who have to sift through reams of applications and keep it as concise as possible.

“CVs that are pages long and very wordy are a no-no,” says Tamara Wolpert of Viv Gordon Placements in Cape Town.

“The person receiving your CV is more than likely receiving multiple CVs – sometimes hundreds of them – and wants to be able to get to the relevant information as quickly as possible,” Wolpert says.

Keep your CV to between one and three pages – the less work experience you have, the shorter it should be.

Accuracy counts

Check your spelling and your grammar, or get someone else to do it for you.

“Spelling and grammatical errors are totally unacceptable in today’s world of spell check,” says Alexis Kitchen of Afrizan Personnel in Johannesburg.

“[Mistakes like these] tell employers a lot about your communication skills as well as your attention to detail,” she adds.

Keep it simple

A well laid-out, simple CV that’s easy to read is the best kind, Wolpert says.

“CVs with graphics everywhere sometimes detract from the information – less is more,” she says.

The layout of your CV and the correct use of document formatting also tells potential employers about your computer literacy, Kitchen says.

In terms of format, you should begin with your most recent experience and work backwards.

Include dates on your CV – when you matriculated, graduated, your dates of employment, and so on, as employers will want to see how long you spent in your various roles, Wolpert says.

And, under your previous jobs, don’t forget to list your responsibilities.

“Roles with the same title often carry different responsibilities [at different companies] so it’s important to list these,” she says.

One size does not fit all

What you put into your CV should be tailored to both the company and the position you are applying for.

Recruiters can quickly work out if you’re right for the job, says Peter Fox, careers adviser at Durham University in UK.

He suggests you work out which of your skills match the job specification and “don’t be afraid to remove irrelevant experiences”.

So, if you have a “master” CV with everything on it, go through and edit out the stuff that’s not relevant in each particular application.

Don’t lie

Never exaggerate or bend the truth about your past jobs or qualifications.

“Recruitment involves thorough reference checks so any untruths will likely be exposed,” Kitchen says.

And even if lies are not exposed, overstating your abilities “could have dire consequences when you’re called to deliver in a new job, and this will mean mistrust from the outset – never a good way to start a working relationship,” she says.

Wolpert adds there could also be legal repercussions if you’re found to have been dishonest on your CV, as these lies could be considered fraudulent.

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