UK Oracle User Group

Top 5 CV Sins

So your application didn't secure you the interview you expected to walk, let alone the job of your dreams. What went wrong? This is the perfect time to take a long, hard look at your CV and make sure it isn't guilty of one of the top 5 sins in job seeking!

1 Poor grammar and spelling

Perhaps the ultimate bane of a recruiter's working life, and indeed the most common error of all, is a CV presented with typos, errors and terrible grammar. This sin is compounded if you are applying for a role which demands excellent communication skills, particularly if you claim to excel in this field.

To mitigate the problem, do as every good copywriter does and ensure that a proofreader and editor has a thorough review of your document and applies an eagle eye to its contents. That individual doesn't need to be a professional proofreader. A trusted and competent colleague, friend or family member will be able to provide a fresh pair of eyes, and identify the error that you may be overlooking.

Remember to go through this second check process whenever you update your CV, and never rely on spellcheck or other automated PC functions, which often give misleading results.

2 Rambling long CVs

In the IT sector, no person's CV should be longer than two sides of A4. Even company directors can condense an entire lifetime of vital career information into this length. Individuals with CVs spanning several pages instantly show themselves in a poor light, demonstrating an inability to be concise, to pick out relevant information, or to identify current practices and adhere to them. Present enough information to pique the recruiter's interest and give them plenty to ask about in the interview, making sure of course that it is relevant at every stage. Use bullet points to flag up vital information and allow the recruiter to quickly assess your suitability, rather than writing endless paragraphs in a tiny font.

3 Failing to tailor your application to the job 

If you are applying to a senior ERP project lead role, then your time spent picking apples on your gap year is of little relevance to the recruiter. Equally, if you have a career background or academic achievements which bear no relevance to the role in question, don't waste precious space expanding on them. Focus on the job you are applying for and make sure your CV answers every requirement of it (where you honestly can do so) in some way, using the same keywords and phrases to help automated systems to flag up your application.

If you don't have a specific piece of experience or a skill at a certain level, highlight transferable skills or experience which you could build upon within the role. You don't need to have every listed skill in a person specification but you should be able to impress the recruiter, and later, the hiring employer, of your ability to develop that skill and to learn quickly.

4 Failing to quantify your achievements and impacts

There is no point claiming to be the perfect candidate and professing to possess every skill and experience being requested for the role in question, if you cannot give specific examples. If  your previous roles involved project managing a systems implementation to time and money, flag up that you did so, and highlight where you over-achieved if possible, such as by coming in under budget or exceeding customer expectations as measured by the feedback process.

If you were responsible for developing a new and improved system, provide figures that show process improvements, monetary benefits, time savings and so forth. Where possible, use hard facts and figures, and be prepared to talk about them in your interview.   

5 Being economical with the truth

Recruiters are primed for CV blunders and untruths. Bear in mind that you play a risky game if you attempt to pull the wool over a recruiter's eyes. Gaps in your CV, claims that don't quite stack up, or embellishments on the truth will often land candidates in hot water. Remember, in relatively specialist sectors such as ERP, many individuals know each other and recruiters have excellent contacts.

For more senior roles in particular, it is not uncommon for a recruiter to use his or her own network to discreetly check for facts, or test out nuggets of information that don't quite sit right with them. Remember too that it is often better to be upfront with the recruiter. If you have a period of unemployment for example, speak to the recruiter to get their advice on how to present this.   

Be honest with your recruiter. This will reassure them that you are being upfront and are a trusted candidate, rather than giving them a slight sense of unease about presenting you as a possibility to their valued client.

These are just five of the most common CV sins. For many job seekers they will seem obvious indeed, but get your CV and read it with these in mind. How many of you can claim that you aren't guilty of at least one of the above?