Here at Protocol we spend a lot of time looking at CVs – so we think we know what makes a good one!
The Internet is a fantastic source of help and advice but its easy to confuse the good advice with the bad. Here’s some CV myth busting tips from our recruitment specialist.
Generally, the focus of your CV should be on your skills and experience, but some mistakes can detract from this and make a potential employer put your CV straight on the ‘no’ pile! And no-one wants that…
It’s OK to embellish, exaggerate or lie on your CV
CV myth: Everyone tells a few porkies on their CV, so you need to embellish a bit to keep up.
The truth: An employer will spot this a mile away – and it could do you a lot more harm than good! Don’t risk it!
It doesn’t matter what it is you lie about – your grades from school, responsibilities in a previous role, or your competencies in a particular skill – there’s a high chance an employer will uncover your embellishments. Even once you’ve started in a role, if you’ve claimed to have knowledge of something you don’t, and your employer finds out, they can terminate your contract on the spot!
Employers will never discount someone just because they don’t tick every single box that they’re looking for – if you have the right skills and complementary experience, and you sell yourself on your CV, you’ll likely get an interview. A good recruiter can also help by highlighting the key things employers are looking for and helping to tweak your CV in such a way that showcases these points effectively.
Include a photo of yourself
CV myth: Many people champion using a photo on your CV, suggesting it makes you seem more personable and approachable.
The truth: Unless you’re an actor or a model… it’s probably not a good idea.
When it comes to a CV, it’s better to let your skills and experience do the talking. The fewer distractions there are on your CV from this, the better.
While a photo could mean your potential employer makes more of an immediate connection with you – it could also have the opposite effect. The focus of your CV should be on your skills and experience, so you should avoid including anything that could distract from this.
It’s best to play it safe and not risk it – they’ll have the pleasure of meeting you at interview instead.
Jump straight into your work experience
CV myth: The best way for an employer to see your suitability is for you to list your past experience, so put this right at the top.
The truth: People are lazy. They don’t want to read page after page of a CV to find out if you can do their job – so offer up your suitability for the role on a plate!
It’s best to start off with a short profile about you – this is a great way to summarise your skills and experience, explain what you’re looking for, and get potential employers excited to read your CV in more detail. Make a great first impression by nodding to the requirements of the role, and using key words you know they will be looking for, so the employer knows you’re exactly what they’re looking for.
But equally, try to avoid clichés – so consider giving the following a miss:
- Great team player but equally good at working independently
- Hard working and highly motivated
- Strong attention to detail
- Good communication skills
- Fast learner
The general rule of thumb is show, don’t tell – if you want to showcase your best qualities, include examples or evidence that imply those qualities rather than stating them outright – like achievements at work, details of your experience, or qualifications.
Make sure to explain every gap in employment
CV myth: Employment gaps are a red flag! Explain them all!
The truth: You really don’t need to explain when you had a career break and why – save the space! An employer can always ask you at interview if they want to know.
An employer doesn’t want to read that you were out of work raising your children, or that you were travelling Asia for 6 months – they want to know about your employment history and experience. If you really feel the need to explain gaps in employment (especially if they are relevant to your experience) you could always consider including this in your cover letter.
Most employers will just assume you were taking parental leave or travelling – so don’t sweat it.
Including hobbies and interests makes you seem more personal
CV myth: Your hobbies will make you stick in the employer’s mind, and make you seem a more well-rounded person.
The truth: Unless your hobbies are truly relevant to the role you’re applying for – like you’re a web designer and you build websites for local community groups – leave them out!
Unsure what to include and exclude from your CV? Stick to the golden rule – only include what’s relevant to the role you’re applying for. In some cases, your hobbies might genuinely be relevant to the role, and help to prove you have certain important skills; but more often than not, they’re best left out.
Don’t worry too much about spelling and grammar mistakes
CV myth: Employers won’t notice a few errors, and if they do, they’ll understand.
The truth: This is definitely one thing that can get your CV relegated to the ‘no’ pile! Especially if you are claiming you have ‘fantastic attention to detail’…
If there’s one thing that will make you stand out as unprofessional on your CV, it’s spelling and grammar errors – so make sure you avoid them! Make use of spellcheckers in word processing software, or even use Grammarly (this is a great tool we really recommend). Also avoid using any words you don’t know the meaning of (or won’t remember when under pressure) – you should be ready to answer any questions an employer might have about your CV, particularly about role responsibilities.
If you know you’re not great at checking your own work, get someone you trust to have a look through for you – it’s worth taking the time to do this, as it could be the difference between getting an interview or not.
Include your personal details – like your age and address
CV myth: You should include your date of birth, national insurance number, full address, relationship status…
The truth: In reality, there’s very few details an employer will need to make a decision to interview – so it’s advisable to protect your identity.
This point is particularly important if you’re going to be uploading your CV to a jobs board, as anyone with a license can view it – so by including too much information, you’re opening yourself up to identity fraud!
- A general idea of your location – e.g. the city or area you live in
- Your contact phone number (and set up a voicemail on the line)
- Your email address
But don’t include:
- How many children you have, their ages and names
- Your relationship status, when you got married, who your partner is and what they do
- Your national insurance number
- Your full address
- Your passport or driving licence number
- Your date of birth
Spend hours on the design
CV myth: A great CV should be beautifully designed, akin to a piece of artwork.
The truth: If you’re a graphic designer, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your skill – for anyone else? Don’t worry too much.
There are many CV templates available for download on the internet – some free, some even paid for – which promise to make your CV stand out. While many of these designs are admittedly beautiful, they’re not always as practical as you might think.
Additionally, if you upload your CV to job boards, the systems often end up stripping the formatting out anyway – and can ruin your carefully designed layout, in some cases making it impossible to read.
Here’s a few things we advise you avoid:
- Using clipart on your CV
- Entering information into tables or charts
- Using multiple fonts and lots of different colours
- Using a template but failing to fill in all the information (e.g. your CV still says ‘insert name here’)
- Inspirational quotes
- Complicated or unusual formatting
It’s much better to have a neat, easy-to-read CV in a standard font that contains everything you want to showcase, than trying to cram information into a template that looks good, but doesn’t quite do what you need it to. A basic, but easy to digest layout is totally fine – just don’t use Comic Sans!
Need some further help?
Our recruitment consultants are trained to help you refine your CV – and all our candidates have access to free CV writing help should they need it.
Give our friendly consultants a call on 0115 911 1222 to get started!
Not registered? If you’d like to work in the education, training and skills sector, we can help – register for free at www.protocol.co.uk/register.