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The Biggest Job Application Mistakes

Your CV is the first impression you give to a potential employer. Before you even get to meet a human being, someone has already judged you by this piece of paper. They will also view your LinkedIn Profile so make sure to read our blog on Creating an Effective LinkedIn Profile.

It is a shock to see how many mistakes are on candidate CVs. You'd expect them to be outstanding considering how valuable they are. Our recruiters scan through hundreds of CVs daily and always see the same mistakes. All it takes is one small error and the CV could be rejected.

When applying for new jobs, writing your CV can take a long time and need a lot of effort to get right. In a competitive labour market, having a good CV is crucial. It needs to reflect everything about you as a professional in an easy to digest manner.

We want to help more candidates make it past that first CV screening. Here is some of the biggest job application mistakes to avoid when writing a CV.

Spelling & Grammar

Typos, missing words or spelling errors are one of the most common mistakes found in CVs. It seems obvious but they happen all the time. These mistakes can be a major red flag to employers. It shows you lack attention to detail and do not particularly care about quality. Many hiring managers or recruiters will think you rushed through your application. You could be perfect for a job, but if your spelling is not on point you will get overlooked.

If you’re customising your CV for each position you apply for, make sure your rewrites don’t add mistakes. People who tweak their resumes often are especially vulnerable to this kind of error. They often result from going back again and again to fine tune your resume one last time. In doing so you could make very simple errors. A subject and verb don't match up, or a period is in the wrong place, or a set of dates gets knocked out of alignment.

To avoid this mistake, take your time filling out applications. It is a good idea to have someone proofread your CV to help prevent unnecessary mistakes. It could be a friend or family member, sometimes a fresh eye can spot the mistakes that you’ve made. You could print it out and read it aloud to catch anything you may miss while scanning through on the computer. Read your resume from bottom to top: reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation.

Apostrophes

Contractions like can’t instead of cannot help your CV to sound more familiar and informal. This can help to coax the reader into a more relaxed and understanding mood. Unfortunately, if you aren’t sure of the rule’s apostrophes follow, they can often be wrong.

If you use a contraction, it’ll need an apostrophe. If you are indicating possession, there is no need for an apostrophe. Learn more about how to use apostrophes with Grammarly.

Capitalisation

Capitalise job titles when you’re listing your experience. Also remember to capitalise the companies you have worked for. But, if writing about truck drivers as the profession, do not capitalise the term.

You want to minimise capitalisation because it demands importance. Capitalise the names of courses, schools, and subjects. Do not capitalise when you are making a general reference.

Fragments

“A fragment is part of a sentence that is punctuated as though it were a complete sentence.”

To combat fragment sentences, read through each sentence on its own. Does it make sense standing alone? If not, merge it with another sentence to become complete. Good writing skills is important in every profession. It can also be what catches the hiring manager’s eye.

Formatting

Unless you are applying for a job as a designer, your focus should be on making your CV clean, clear and legible. Keep it simple. If you don’t put time and effort into your CV, people won’t put time or effort into you. Here are a few easy suggestions to follow:

  • Your font should be at least ten-point
  • Choose an easy to read font such as Arial or Calibri
  • The margins should be at least half-inchUse white paper, black ink and avoid using colour as it looks unprofessional
  • Have consistent spacing between lines
  • Align columns
  • Use bullet points to describe experience

Formatting can get garbled when moving across platforms. To make sure your CV stays looking pretty, saving it as a PDF is a good way to go. It is very off putting trying to read disjointed, cut-off job descriptions and dates. View some examples of well structured CVs on My Future Role.

Length

A three, four, or ten-page CV won't get read in detail. A focused CV demonstrates ability to prioritise and convey the most important information. Your CV is a tool that gets you a first interview, it should not detail your entire life experiences. Once you're in the room, the CV doesn't matter much. Cut back your CV. It's too long.

Recruiters often have hordes of applications to get through, so it's best to keep your CV to under 2 pages. Ensuring the most relevant content is at the top, you'll pique their interest.

Content

Your CV should blend well with the job that you're applying for. It’s imperative that you research the organisation at which you’re applying. You need to know what it does, how it’s structured, and its mission, values, and goals to determine how you fit in. It's vital that you understand the job description. Learning the responsibilities should allow you to tailor your CV to show compatibility. If you do not amend your CV, it shows you don’t understand what the employer is looking for. You shouldn't hope that your CV fits some of the criteria.

Read through the job description, qualifications, and education requirements. Show the employer how you fit through your previous experience, skills, and expertise. You should also perform a simple Google search on the organisation. Look through the company website and social media profiles. Read reviews and browse recent news articles that mention the company. You want to show recruiters why you'd be a perfect fit. So you should detail why you're right for the job by working the requirements into your CV.

Lying

Putting a lie on your CV is never, ever, ever, worth it. Everyone, up to and including CEOs, get fired for this. People lie about everything including their degrees and where they went to school. People lie about how long they were at companies, how big their teams were, sales results, etc.

There are three big problems with lying: (1) You can get busted. The Internet and reference checks can all reveal your fraud. (2) Lies follow you forever. Fib on your resume and 15 years later get a big promotion? Fired. (3) Our Mums taught us better.

Unnecessary Information

“References available upon request” or statements that say “I want this job” aren’t adding to your CV. They instead only serve to take up valuable space on your CV.

A complete job history usually doesn’t equal a history of relevant career experience. Job seekers will often list every position they’ve ever held to prove they’re employable. This hurts your chances of employment because job seekers don’t draw connections. It renders the CV generic and unfocused.

Vocabulary

Even the most qualified candidate can be rejected if they haven't got the right vocab. Many CVs are screened by software before they even land on the recruiter's desk. If you haven't got the right keywords in there, you're unlikely to make the cut. To determine which keywords to pick, take the job posting and translate this into your CV.

Meaningless Words

A survey found there are words people don’t want to see on your resume, including: Best of breed, go-getter, think outside of the box, synergy, go-to person, thought leadership, value add, results-driven, team player, bottom-line, hard worker, strategic thinker, dynamic, self-motivated, detail-oriented, proactively and track record.

Skip these buzzwords! Instead include specific accomplishments and results to prove value added to hiring managers.

Experience

Always begin your ‘Work Experience’ section with your most recent employer. Recruiters want to see your current experience more than what you did years ago. Putting your oldest employer at the beginning may cause your CV to get overlooked. This is because the reader may think you’ve not worked for a long time.

Dates are very important. Every employer wants to know how long you’ve worked for previous employers. If you feel that your CV looks a bit ‘hoppy’, why not put reasons for leaving? Giving a reason for a long gap in employment is always a good thing to do. You’re letting them know that you’ve been doing something worthwhile with your time.

Education

Always state your education with grades achieved in a separate section of your CV. What employers will want to know is 1. What school you attended 2.  When you attended 3. What you studied 4. Your grades.

Contact Details

A lot of people don’t put the correct contact details on their CV. Your name and contact information should be on every page of your CV. Make sure your phone number and email address are correct before sending your CV. My World of Work has a great video explaining the do's and don'ts of CV writing.

Avoid Job Application Mistakes!

These mistakes can cause even the most impressive CV to get cut from the shortlist. To avoid ruining your chances of getting the job, be sure to check to exclude these errors from your CV. To get ahead in the recruitment race you must make sure your CV sparkles.

To make sure that yours is the best it can be, register with us to gain access to our resource centre. You'll find handy CV tips, interview advice and much more!

If you are still unconvinced about recruitment agencies, read out blog on how to Find a Job with a Recruitment Agency to see how it can benefit you.