This is possibly the most important part of the entire process. A small error, or misleading information, can seriously undermine all your effort. At a professional level, grammar, spelling and punctuation should all be impeccable.
Ensure that details, contact numbers and references are accurate (e.g. claiming to be proficient in Quark Express sounds dubious when the software package is actually called Quark Xpress!). Our checklist will help you with some of the common errors.
Attention to detail is a skill that transcends all jobs and it begins with your CV. If you have had to produce a CV at short notice, then checking the details is especially important.
FACT: 70 per cent of CVs we receive have at least one mistake in them. The most common error on a CV is the misuse of apostrophes in it's text. Did you notice that one at the end of the last sentence?
Proof reading your own work is difficult. Preferably get someone else to check it for you. Don't just look for textual errors, but use common sense and question the logic in descriptive pieces. Do not rely solely on a spell-checker (they do not distinguish between 'where' and 'were' for instance).
Facts and fiction
Lying on your CV is done at your own peril. We're all guilty of occasionally stretching the imagination, but sooner or later you will be expected to deliver according to your claims. Psychometric testing and interviewing skills are often quite effective in weeding out inaccurate detail. HR departments routinely hire the services of private companies to verify qualifications.
Rather than being vague with details that are inadequate (a dead giveaway), leave them out and focus on other allied skills which you are confident with. Honesty is a good virtue, valued by employers.
All of us have so-called 'holes' in our CVs, areas which may show ourselves in a negative light. Instead of trying to hide it or cover up, you can reduce the point, or turn it your advantage by focusing on another skill which compensates for this lack. Here are some potential pitfalls, and suggestions for dealing with them.
In most of the topics below, we suggest you use a skills-based CV format. This gives you more scope for reducing or leaving out details that expose negatives.
Lack of track record: refer to vocational work, or unrelated work which shows your diligence. Emphasise your skills which apply to the new role. Present your willingness to learn as an advantage.
Career change: give positive reasons for changing career direction, place emphasis on your determination and courage to make the move. Make your past sound relevant. Be open and honest.
Insufficient qualifications: focus on experience and workplace skills. If you're studying, or are halfway through a course, then mention it. If you have succeeded without qualifications, then turn it into a positive and mention to what extent you've 'beaten the odds'.
Foreign qualifications: try to establish the local equivalent of your qualifications and state this. Alternatively specify the length of your study, the number of subjects and the institution you attended as a means of showing the standard of the course. If the qualification is recognised locally be sure to mention this, the recruiter may not already know.
Gaps in your CV: if you've taken time out to travel or pursue a different activity this is now perfectly acceptable, try to accentuate how the experience has benefited you. Don't lie, it's important not to give the impression that you've been sitting around doing nothing for six months. Informal study, family care or recovering from illness are feasible excuses, provided you can back them up.
Quitting your previous job: if you are currently unemployed, the recruiter will want to know why you left. You can get away with short periods, otherwise simply state; left for personal reasons. The employer might be suspicious that you may do the same to them, make sure you have a good explanation saved for the interview. We all have standards, and it's acceptable to leave a position at short notice if justified, but be sure to back up your reasoning.
Being fired: never mention this on your CV. Even very successful CEOs occasionally get the sack and football managers have a particularly poor track record! Never let it cripple your confidence. The details can be discussed in the interview if necessary. If the reason was due to a serious misdemeanour on your part (such as accountability), focus on the situation rather than your own shortcomings, and how the experience has enriched your business acumen.
Too much experience: this can be a frustrating situation, but it is easier to swing to your advantage. If you're considerably older than the employer is looking for, focus on how your experience can benefit them, and emphasise your youthful outlook (if this is realistic). Objections are often centred on an unwillingness of older people to adapt, so you need to reassure the recruiter (on your profile).
You can state your intention to step down the career ladder in order to solidify certain experience, or move into a bigger corporation. Perhaps you have some personal reasons to give, such as stepping into a lower profile position to focus on raising a family.
Too many short jobs: the employer will no doubt wonder about how long you'll stay. By honestly confronting them, and stating your seriousness to remain in the position, you can avoid suspicion. Contract work is one excuse for a patchwork CV. You can also bundle several short jobs into one title (e.g. Freelancing sub-editor: XYZ, ABC, DEF companies).
Personal development is perfectly understandable; stating that you were not happy with your initial career path and have 'been looking around' is feasible provided you can reassure them that you are now serious about your new direction.
- Is it easy on the eye?
- Is the appearance consistent and suitable for the specific role (i.e. formal presentation for accountants, 'bells and whistles' for a designer)?
- Have you checked the grammar, punctuation and spelling?
- Are the names of all proper nouns correct and capped up?
- Are all the details you've given on this particular CV relevant to this application?
- Is it concise, punchy and informative, using power words?
- Are your examples specific and quantifyable?
- Is there too much detail?
- Is the personal summary meaningful? If not, leave it out.
Now, read through it one last time - you're bound to find one final mistake!
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