Professional CV Writing: Horrors

Thursday, February 11th, 2010 - CV Help, CV Tips, CV Writing, Professional CV, tutorial


Professional CV Writing: Horrors

Philip Saville - Count Dracula (1977)

Yesterday, we put up an article about Professional CV Tips, going through the major points of Professional CV Writing. One of the steps was to get some CV Help, getting three friend and making use of our Free CV Review Service to check through your CV before a Job Application.

Today, I thought it would be good to step through some CV Horrors, things that just don’t work to get you employed – at all! The examples I have used either come from my own experience as a recruiter and CV Writer, with quotes from real CVs and cover letters printed in the July 21, 1997 issue of Fortune Magazine:

CV Horrors: English language

Almost everyone these days will be using some form of word processing software, which in its main menu will have a spell checker. Every time you save your CV, and every time you save it before sending it out in a job application, use the  spell checker to make sure all is right. That is stage1 of the process, but remember all that a spell checker does is check whether the words used actually exist in a dictionary. Some modern spell checkers check grammar, but few check it as well as you or a friend actually reading your CV out loud. If you don’t do this at least once to what you consider your final basic CV, then the errors contained with it will get you rejected by at least 10% of readers. Examples include:

  • I have lurnt Word Perfect 6.0 computor and spreadsheet programs
  • Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year
  • Reason for leaving last role: maturity leave

CV Horrors: wages and salary

You should never, ever mention wage demands in any initial or follow up correspondence. Only once the job is outlined and the employer know should you ask about the package. I never advise anyone to focus on wages during package negotiations, but always ask what’s in the package. Why? Most operational and HR managers have a wages budget set by the accounting or board, and have to sit within that. You can push it so far, but eventually it won’t go any further. In a package, there is access to training budget, additional holidays, better car, improved health benefits, in fact almost anything you could want. So why focus on wages when package can get you further? For instance:

  • I demand a salary commiserate with my extensive experience

CV Horrors: negativity

If you use a STAR write-up format, then you will know that negativity doesn’t work. It should always end positively, or at least with a what was learnt/what I would do differently next time conclusion. Employers don’t like to employ, let alone know they have employed losers and failures, unless they know that the likelihood of you failing again on the same issue is minimised. For instance:

  • Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions
  • Failed bar exam with relatively high grades
  • Its best for employers that I not work with people
  • I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely no one and absolutely nothing
  • I procrastinate, especially when the task is unpleasant
  • Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as job-hopping. I never quit a job

CV Horrors: personal details….

A CV, and most specifically a job application, should focus on how and why you are the best person for that job. As a recruiter, I couldn’t care less initially who or what you are, as long as you have the minimum skills, qualifications and experiences to do the job. Hence, why put in any distracting information which means you make it harder for me to come to that conclusion, if at all? Would you prefer to read a job application which answers “you want, I have” or would you want to wade through 20pages of “me, me, Me!”

  • Marital status: single. Unmarried. Unengaged. Uninvolved. No commitments
  • I was working for my mom until she decided to move
  • Marital status: Often. Children: various

CV Horrors: human, not robotic

As Julian Richer of Richer Sounds says in his customer service guarantee document you get when ever you buy any product from one of his shops:

We try hard, but we’re only human! Due to recent changes in government legislation, our lawyers tell us that it is necessary to employ real people in our stores. Although we think they are the best you’ll find, please don’t expect the impossible.

I love this quote when reading some CV’s which are over written, and it also applies to job applicants who think they have a horrible work history and will ever get employed ever again. Employers expect normal and connected human beings NOT robotic perfection. So don’t be too over positive:

  • Lets meet, so you can ooh and aah over my experience
  • You will want me to be Head Honcho in no time
  • Am a perfectionist and rarely if ever forget details

CV Horrors: self contradiction

I see this one pop up again and again, but less regularly than it did. If it does occur, then its normally with those who are being negative about themselves. They write one thing, and then instantly – contradict themselves. If you do this, why apply in the first place? Thank you for just making it easy for me to reject you:

  • I am loyal to my employer at all costs…. Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail
  • My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I possess no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage

CV Horrors: former employers

Probably the worst and most common mistake in Professional CV writing. Prospective employers don’t care if you failed or made a mistake, they just focus on how right you are for their job. Once you get into the interview, then focus on the what you learnt over the what you failed on. Honest, if you failed and learnt you are probably a better employee than one who has never failed. But when you fail and are negative about a former employer, then instant rejection is within your grasp:

  • Reason for leaving last job: They insisted that all employees get to work by 8.45 a.m. every morning
  • The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers
  • References: None. I’ve left a path of destruction behind me

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5 Responses to “Professional CV Writing: Horrors”

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