The 1 Mistake That Cost Me Jobs, And How To Avoid It
As I’m sitting here typing this I have been a recruiter for 12 years. Beforehand I had no experience in recruitment.
In fact, I was in sales and I didn’t know how to write a CV.
That didn’t stop me from trying. I wrote my CV, found relevant jobs, applied.
No one was replying to my best efforts. It was disheartening.
After a while, I sent an email to my brother who was a recruiter.
He instantly spotted my mistake.
My email was wench1982@_____.com
No, I didn’t know what a wench was at the time.
I quickly created a much more professional email address and instantly started getting responses and interview requests.
Sometimes the devil is in the details.
The smallest change on a CV can have the biggest impact.
Now that I am a recruiter, I have seen thousands of CVs ranging from the astonishingly bad to the incredibly good.
Throughout all of them, we can usually find a mistake.
It’s often a tiny detail, but in this 1-2 page summary of who you are, those little details matter.
So here’s a checklist of details to check before you send your CV out, making sure you improve your chances of an interview.
Before We Start
The biggest thing I must tell you is that your CV is not what you think it’s for.
- Your CV doesn’t get you the job.
- Your CV gets you the interview.
- The interview gets you the job.
As the first step on anyone’s job search making sure you have all the details properly checked will give you the best chance of an interview request.
Let’s Break Things Down
So I’ve compiled a list of all the minor details that you possibly look over before handing your CV in.
There are a lot of details on this list, so don’t feel overwhelmed.
Use this checklist as a guide.
Before You Write Your CV
Tailor your application
We know how much of a pain this can be.
It takes a lot of time, hard work and effort to keep tailoring your application for every different job.
It will differentiate you from all the other candidates.
You are more likely to catch the recruiters eye.
Quality is always, always better than quantity.
So tailor your application and you will see a lot more responses.
Use the clues in the job advert
Unsure how to tailor your CV? That’s OK, it can be daunting.
Luckily there are always clues.
Use the job advert and description to give you a start.
Use the words in the advert. Seriously.
A lot of larger companies use software that will pick out keywords in your CV to automatically assess your potential.
Skim readers will also only pick out words that are applicable to the role.
Try not to stuff you CV however, you’re going to want it to still be readable and clear.
Do your research
This drives me up the wall.
This goes hand in hand with tailoring your CV, but not researching the company or the role is the bane of a recruiter’s life.
Do your research and find out as much as you can about the company.
Incorporate this into your application.
It is the easiest way to stand out from your competitors. I Promise.
Social Media: Friend or Foe?
Some employers will scan through your social media accounts to see who you really are behind the CV.
No one likes being spied on but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If you have a social profile that exemplifies the other parts of your life it can show personality and how you are a great fit for the company.
But if you think that photo of you that party 2 years ago will embarrass you, then make sure to set your profile to private.
The only exception is LinkedIn. This should always be public.
Make sure that you have thoroughly filled out your LinkedIn profile, with well-written descriptions of your jobs, qualifications and any articles or pieces of portfolio work you would like to exhibit.
This will look a lot better to any potential employer.
Talk to the recruitment agency!
When you’re applying for a role through a recruitment agency, we want you to succeed.
I really do.
So ask for help, ask for details, advice and tips.
We don’t bite and will help you in making yourself as “employable” as possible.
You’re trying to sell yourself, so think of yourself as a business
Grab yourself a pen and paper.
Now imagine yourself as a business. You are John/Jane Doe Limited.
What is your Unique Selling Point? What makes you unique from everyone else.
Write it down.
Keeping this in mind before you write your CV will keep you focused on selling the best version of yourself to the recruiter.
To Cover Letter or Not to Cover Letter?
This could be a whole blog post in itself.
If they have requested one, write one.
If they request CV only, then don’t.
If they don’t mention, either way, we would say write one.
It gives you a chance to sell yourself more and, when well written, can amplify the magnificence of your CV.
Don’t go speculative! Be precise.
Like your CV your cover letter should be tailored to the role.
Writing Your CV
Job hunting in the UK? Use British spelling!
Most of our computers, however, are set to American English automatically.
So not only will it change what you’re writing but also it won’t pick it up in the spell checker.
All of a sudden the organisation you are working for is an organization.
It’s simple small slip-ups like these that show you haven’t proofread your CV!
Using a CV template is great.
We have some easy to edit CVs for you to download and use.
It’s a great way of making sure your CV looks great.
However, it is also easy for styles to get mixed up and then you have a disorganised looking CV (believe me I’ve seen it all).
You want a nice clean CV template that ticks the following boxes;
- All the information is relevant & easy to read
- Fits onto 2 pages (Max) of A4
- Text is no smaller than 10pt
- Use a professional font
Don’t be afraid to use bullet points.
Or short sentences.
Don’t be afraid of white space – It makes your CV look neat.
Just make sure it looks clean and professional.
No ridiculous email
As I found out, don’t have a ridiculous email address.
People won’t email it.
Create a professional email address. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy just your name @gmail.com for example and that is enough to give you a good first impression.
No Work Email
Yes, I have seen this as well.
Don’t use your current work email.
Ironically, it doesn’t look professional using your professional email for your job search.
Using the right name
This is more for a cover letter or introductory email, but make sure you have the right name for who is doing the recruiting.
And make sure you spell their name correctly.
Curriculum Vitae: Not really necessary
This may seem a little odd, but it’s not necessary to add the words CV, Curriculum Vitae or Resume on your CV.
You can add it if you want to, it won’t damage your CV.
However if you’re trying to save space or are unsure you can always leave it out. The format and sections should make it obvious it’s a CV.
No Essays or “War & Peace”
No one likes to read large chunks of uninterrupted text.
You have probably heard of the scary statistic that recruiters only spend 6 seconds looking at your CV
So make your points clear and short.
Use bullet points.
No long ramblings or humongous paragraphs.
What impact did you make?
This detail is a difficult one to spot at first but is vitally important.
Recruiters want to hire people who can be the best at the job and make the biggest impact.
So every sentence should work toward proving that your work made an impact.
An easy formula to keep in mind is “I did X that resulted in Y”
- I was responsible for financial administration saving £5000 in potential lost revenue.
- I implemented a social media strategy that led to a 5% increase in sales
- I managed a sales team that increased average order value from £25 to £47
Be specific, be accurate (and truthful) and use the simple formula to show that you can get the job done.
Avoid cliches like the plague
Cliches are overused.
Just be clear, accurate and descriptive.
Don’t add unnecessary details
A lot of recruiters, blogs, advice pieces talk about what you should put on your CV.
But there is also a lot you shouldn’t put on your CV.
Not that it’s necessarily bad or damaging, it’s just unnecessary.
Reasons for Leaving? No Point
Your Age? Definitely Not
Salary Requirements? Pointless (and potentially damaging)
Keep things simple and you will be fine.
Make it Reverse Chronological
You may have a great CV, but you need to make sure everything is listed reverse chronologically.
Newest/Latest/Current Role First
Then go back in time.
Make sure you keep your relevant details in the latest/most current roles. and then you can slowly decrease details.
This is a bit of a tightrope.
You want to make sure you are using the right words and are talking about your experience accurately.
But if you use the word manage and management 5 times in two sentences, it’s a bit much.
Make sure your writing flows smoothly.
Photographs & Head Shots
Unless they specifically ask for one. Don’t.
Use business language
You are applying for a job in a business. So use Business language.
Formal beats informal.
Avoid acronyms but do use business terminology.
Use full words, no contractions i.e. It Is instead of It’s, I am instead of I’m.
This is a tricky one. To add references or not.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter.
Unless they specifically ask for references on your CV, you can always add the classic:
“References Available Upon Request”
This can save you space for your roles and
Only add these if they are relevant to the role.
If you’re going for a graphic designer role and you do it as a hobby as well that’s fine.
If you’re going for an accountant role, not so much.
Don’t have experience? Emphasise Skills
Let’s face a harsh truth, nearly every advert and employer wants someone experienced to be in the role they’re advertising for.
So what happens when you want the role but don’t have relevant experience?
When you’re writing about your previous experience instead of emphasising your responsibilities, emphasise the transferable skills that you have.
Stick to the Impact Equation we mentioned earlier and use your skills to shine.
Proofing Your CV
I cannot stress this enough.
Always, always proofread.
Even the best candidates make mistakes.
Go through your CV with a fine-tooth comb.
Don’t rely on spell checkers and grammar checkers alone, they won’t pick up words that actually exist.
I’ve seen people state they were Pubic Relations Executives.
Attention to detail is important, and small mistakes like this – whilst honest and easy to make – could cost you valuable opportunities.
The file name of your CV
Yes, even what you save your CV as matters.
You want the file name to be accurate but not generic.
When applying for a job you should always tailor your CV to the role, which probably means you have 20 different versions.
This can cause errors and CVFINALFINALDRAFT type names.
Something simple such as YOURNAME-CV.doc is enough.
Use the correct file format
This is a personal irritation of many a recruiter (myself included).
Save your CV in a .doc or a .pdf format only.
Both of these platforms allow you to save your work, make copies and download the documents as .doc or .pdf files.
Now you have no excuse.
Are all of your employment gaps accounted for?
This is not so much a detail but more of a necessity.
If you have a gap, any kind of gap in your employment history, make sure you account for it on paper.
This can feel tricky when you are trying to fit your relevant work history or skills into 1 or 2 pages.
However, this will immediately catch the attention of a recruiter, and not in a good way.
If you provide an explanation, then they can move onto the stuff that matters.
Make sure your contact details are obvious and correct
Imagine you apply to the perfect role, and hear nothing back.
Then you look at your CV and realise that you didn’t put your contact details on there.
Or that your contact number has a 3 instead of a 4.
Make sure they are correct. Double-check it and call yourself, or send it to a friend and get them to contact you.
Also, don’t hide them. Make them obvious.
I don’t want to have to go looking as to how to contact you.
Just Before Hitting Send
Make sure you attach it to the email!
Ever meant to send an email with an attachment and forgot to add it?
It makes you feel a bit silly.
It also makes you look silly.
Everyone’s human and mistakes will happen.
This is your reminder to double check that you have attached your CV and Cover Letter to the email.
Upload the correct file to your job application
This happens a lot more than you may think.
We get someone email us, they are eager to apply for a role, we think they could be a good fit.
Then they email us a copy of their tax return (true story).
We’ve had people email and upload all sorts of documents; Council Tax Bills, Energy Bills, Dissertations
This relates to our previous point, making sure your file name is clear and declarative can help you ensure that you are uploading the correct document each time.
Update your preferences
They have lots of jobs available, easy application options, plenty of information to help you get the role.
The most common issue we see is candidates not updating their profile. It’s easy to become so focused on updating a CV and applying for roles that you forget to update your online profile.
Do you still have a preference for £25K per annum when you’re currently on £35K per annum? Exactly.
I’ve seen that happen. Along with CV’s that don’t align with what’s on their online profile causing confusion.
Causing confusion is the worst thing you can do to a recruiter.
Our time is precious and if we get confused, we won’t spend valuable time trying to untangle it for you.
Check your voicemail
Sometimes when you apply for a role you are sending it to a recruitment agency first.
If that’s the case, we will want to talk to you!
If you don’t or can’t answer the phone that’s OK, but we will leave a voicemail.
So get into the habit of checking your voicemails.
This may seem obvious but if you are going to be applying for roles, you are going to need to have this habit well and truly established.
Now You’re Ready
As I said, this is a huge checklist of things to help you make sure that before you hit send.
Luckily, I have created a cheat sheet for you to use.
Download the templates and use this post as a reference if you ever get confused or miss a step.
You can also find CV templates here and cover letter templates (coming soon).
By applying these checks I can guarantee you are giving yourself the best chance to get your CV seen and an interview organised.
Now go on and get applying!
My claim to fame? Unfortunately, I accidentally elbowed the Queen during her Jubilee tour in Margate. I wasn't sent to the tower though, so I think I got away with it!
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- The 1 Mistake That Cost Me Jobs, And How To Avoid It - 7th June 2019