The top 10 resume mistakes and how to avoid them

The best form of defence is attack, and that’s what you need to do to make sure your CV is a targeted weapon. That means no mistakes. Here’s a checklist to run through.

1. Typos, bad English
A recruiter is looking for an excuse not to consider your application, and bad grammar and typos gives him an excuse to put your application in the special file marked the bin. A badly written CV shows you are disinterested or that you just can’t spell. Either way, it’s fatal. Check it yourself, and get someone else to go over your CV – it is easy to miss mistakes in your own copy.

2. Just the facts
Have you provided relevant contact details – have you entered the right numbers?

3. Don’t be passive
Can you shake things up, can you solve problems, will you walk into your job running? If you can – great – you’re what your employee is looking for. The question is: have you communicated this with your CV?

To do so you need to drop the passive verbs, and use active ones. For example,

Don’t write:

Managed a team of sales professionals for 18 months

Do write:

Built a highly organised sales team. Led it to record sales in three straight quarters.

Use: built, won, drove, inspired, sold. Don’t use I.

4. Don’t be vague
Your employer wants to be impressed, and to see that you know your business. Details help. State what you have achieved, with action verbs, and use numbers where possible.

5. Customisation counts
One size does not fill all. A senior post in particular demands that you understand the position, and that you tailor your achievements to that job in your CV. Read the job specification carefully. Look for key words in the text the reveal the kind of personality being looked for, and what the employer expects the right candidate to be able to deliver.

6. Don’t be dull
No one wants to know your duties (I attended the weekly sales meetings); they want to hear your achievements (Used leads from the weekly board meetings to add ten active clients to my roster).

7. Don’t be flabby
Tell your story – but don’t make your CV too long, or cut it down so much it says nothing at all.

8. Mission statements
If you are going to write a mission statement avoid MBA style buzzwords, and generic meaningless phrases. Be clear and precise as to what you are looking for. Who isn’t a “Team player”, who would claim not to have “Project management skills”; if you’re not “Results orientated” – you have problems; “People management skills” is a pre-requisite, not a clincher.

9. Design
Make your CV pleasing to the eye. How your CV is presented tells a story about you. Are you visually aware, do you care enough about the job to present the information well? Your CV is sending signals to your employer. Make sure they are the right ones.

10. Don’t put it off
If you see a job you’re interested in, don’t delay putting together the application – do it the same day and send it the same day. Thousands of jobs have been lost because the applicant never got round to sending in his CV…

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