7 Fatal CV Writing Mistakes

Few people are highly experienced in CV writing and most people will make mistakes at some point. Fatal errors can demolish what seems to be the most perfect match, between you and a job that you are applying for.

This next statement may surprise you a bit, but …

“Employers are really looking for ways to eliminate job applicants”

They don’t have the time or the inclination to interview everyone that applies – so they are looking for reasons to eliminate as many CVs as they can, as quickly as possible.

The more mistakes / errors you make on your CV the more likely you are to eliminated during the first CV sift.

In this article, we look at some of the most dangerous fatal mistakes / errors and show you how to avoid them.

1. Lack of Focus

Your CV usually has to impress an employer within 30 seconds of being picked up. If you are unable to demonstrate a clarity of intent and purpose within that time, it’s unlikely that an employer will bother trying to figure out your CV for themselves.

Every word must work to highlight your suitability for the role in question, from your career goals to your relevant experience. Your CV must stand out from all the other CVs by defining you as a highly suitable candidate.

Make sure your CV contains a ‘hit list’ of your most relevant experience areas, skills and attributes, plus the results you have achieved in each job role.

2. Gaps in Your Career History

Never leave unexplained gaps in your Career History. Many people take time out for a variety of reasons, including travel, education, family matters, unemployment or illness.

If there is a gap in your Career History, an employer is likely to wonder if you are trying to hide something. This may make them question your suitability or they may even just reject your CV outright.

You must therefore clearly account for any gaps in your career history.

3. Tasks Instead of Experience

If you include details of every task you’ve ever performed, or that’s listed on your job description, your CV’s Career History section will be very long and very dull indeed.

It’s also likely that any important information will be lost in the mass of irrelevant detail.

Instead, include just your most relevant experience, demonstrating the skills and talents relating to the jobs you want to apply for. An employer can then clearly see how you can benefit their organisation.

4. Writing a Life Story

Your CV is a marketing document, not a personal history. Nobody has time to read a 10-page CV, which lists everything you’ve ever done in your life.

Keep your CV short and sweet, preferably just a few pages. You must focus on relevant work experience – don’t include a lot of personal information; it’s rarely relevant and can often work against you.

5. Outdated Information

Your CV should only include the most relevant information that relates to the jobs you are applying for. Including outdated information that isn’t relevant will only make it harder for an employer.

So, being captain of the school football team would be relevant when you’d just left school. But, would be completely irrelevant 20 years later, when you are now managing a department.

Make sure you examine everything on your CV and delete anything that is no longer relevant.

6. Exaggerating or Boasting

It’s understandable that you want to sound confident and accomplished. However, there is a fine line between exaggerating and lying, so it’s important not to overstate your qualifications or experience.

Avoid increasing the figures or expanding your responsibilities as it could work against you. Even a slight transgression can destroy your credibility if noticed.

Always avoid confusing a confident tone with bragging. While you need to blow your own trumpet, you must aim to sound professional and emphatic rather than boastful. There is nothing more likely to make a prospective employer switch off – nobody likes arrogance.

7. Spelling and Grammar

It can’t be repeated often enough: make sure your CV doesn’t contain any spelling and grammar errors.

Leaving errors in your CV will make an employer think you are unprofessional and slipshod in your approach.

If you have any comments or questions about this article, or you’d like to share your views with other readers, please leave a comment below.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Bradley CVs Ltd.

42 responses to “7 Fatal CV Writing Mistakes”

  1. Over the years I have seen various items on the lengths of CVs, normally citing two pages as the optimum. Providing the crucial information is on the first page then depending on the type of position applied for, page numbers do not matter. If the first page is of no interest then no matter how many subsequent pages there are, it will not matter.

    Mine carries twelve pages of information relating to job history and shows experience. For high paying positions this information forms a critical requirement and I continually have to turn jobs down.

  2. Hi Terry,

    Congratulations on producing a CV that gets you lots of interviews and job offers – a lot of people reading this blog will be very envious of you!

    As you say yourself, it’s the first page on a CV that is the most critical, and this should be the page that you focus most of your time and effort on. You probably have an excellent first page, which is the main reason that you are getting so many interviews and job offers, not the fact that you have a 12-page CV.

    Employers (and recruiters), don’t generally have time to read 12 pages, they (typically) only spend 30 to 90 seconds reading a CV at the first pass. This means that if they can’t find what they want on the first couple of pages, they won’t read the rest of the CV.

    Most long CVs that I’ve seen, are poorly written and contain too much information that can actually turn you off a candidate. It takes much longer to produce a 12-page CV than a 2-page CV. In my opinion, most people would be better off spending this extra time on crafting a really good 2-page CV.

    Kindest regards,

    Paul Bradley.
    Bradley CVs Ltd.

  3. Hi Paul,

    The only reason I have a 12 page CV and growing is that I only go for high paying contract jobs and where experience is king. The values of these projects range from a few million to several billion pounds and the ability to be dropped in at the deep end with no support and survive.

    I have developed the first page of my CV over many years and that is what sells me to potential employers and clients. The subsequent pages are my history so that if the first page is of interest they can then see if I have enough experience at a high enough level without resorting to phone calls and emails.

    I use agencies a lot in my job searches and very rarely target specific firms because I already know that certain companies use only a small group of manpower providers.

    My letter is very basic saying that my CV is attached and please review it against current and future requirements.

    After that I use a ‘scattergun’ effect and post or email to as many agencies as possible, sometimes up to 1200 in a week and maybe up to four or five thousand.

    I must add that I only do this about every seven years or so, to test the market or when there appears to be an economic downturn.

    For every 100 CV’s sent out there appears to be a constant in that there is one positive job offer, one we will put you on file, one no thank you and ninety seven non replies.

    Age is of no barrier as this technique has been used by colleagues up to the age of 68 and they have all found jobs reasonably easily but I must stress that each and everyone of them, including me have skills and experience honed over the years.

    If training was needed then I’d pay for it myself if necessary and then watched my salary rise in proportion. I have joined institutes and societies associated with my work and encouraged others to do the same.

    I have worked 18 hour shifts, every day over 9 months, including weekends to complete jobs where necessary and considered 84 hour weeks as standard. These are not for everybody and are extremely tiring but they show a willingness to go that extra mile and when choices are made people get noticed.

    Arrive early before everyone else and no one will care if you go early sometimes, because they will always state that you are always there.

    Even in these hard economic times I am fortunate to be able to turn jobs down and several of my colleagues have just moved en mass to a new contract on exceptional salaries and benefits.

    Skills, training, memberships, societies, affiliations and experience coupled with the willingness to work that little bit harder and longer will allow you to triumph in whatever you do.

  4. Hi Terry,

    Congratulations on always being in a job and having too many job offers!

    I wish more people were as hard-working as you and were prepared to ‘go that extra mile’, as you obviously are. Most people don’t realise how much time and effort they have to put into their job to make themselves employable.

    You’ve also spent a lot of time and effort into producing your CV (and to job hunting) – so many people just throw their CV together in a hurry and then spend little time on their job hunting.

    Good luck for the future (although I don’t think you need any luck, as you’ve created this for yourself through all your hard work).

    Thanks for your contribution to our blog.

    Kindest regards,

    Paul Bradley.
    Bradley CVs Ltd.

  5. Hi Paul

    I am 37 years of age and I’ve been jobless since May 2009. How should I fill in this gap in my CV?

    I have been searching for a job but amazingly have not found any reasonable jobs as yet.

    I don’t want to put any fake or irrelevant experience as it is unethical.

    But the problem is that the employers are not being convinced or they are rejecting me only because of this vacuum.

    Please do help me.

  6. Hi Imran,

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been jobless since May 2009.

    I need a little more information from you, before I’m able to give you an answer.

    Please could you let me know the job title and industry sector that you work in and also what you’ve been doing since May 2009 (other than looking for a job).

    Kindest regards,

    Paul Bradley.
    Bradley CVs Ltd.

  7. Hi,

    The information you listed above is very informative and helpful.

    I think (like me) most people are not aware of the do’s and don’ts in a CV.


    Noushad Aboobacker

  8. Great tips on CV preparation!

    I never knew I’d been ”sinning” on my CV all this while. That’s why I’ve not been getting my dream jobs! This time around I’m gonna fine tune my CV and get hooked, I believe.

    Thanks so much Paul.



  9. Hi,

    Nice information. This will help me a lot. Keep helping us and God will bless you.

    Please, I am a teacher by profession but currently doing my National Service with the Ministry of Agriculture.

    Now I want to apply for a job in a cocoa marketing company, but I don’t know if it is necessary for me to include the teaching aspect in my work history.

    Do help me out please.

    Thanks so much.


  10. Hi Malik,

    Yes, it would be a good idea to include your teaching experience.

    Otherwise, there would be a gap in your CV – employers never like to see gaps in CVs, it makes them wonder what you are trying to cover up!

    Kind regards,

    Paul Bradley.
    Bradley CVs Ltd.