A few tips for CVs/résumés

There are some common themes in the feedback that I provide to clients when proofreading CVs. This isn’t a comprehensive guide but it might give you a few things to consider:

  • In the UK, age discrimination laws mean that you do not have to include your date of birth (I have worked with recruiters who would actively conceal dates on CVs in order to comply with anti-discrimination rules within their organisations). You also don’t need to include your marital status, physical attributes (unless you’re applying for a job where this is relevant) or a photo (again, unless this is relevant).
  • Check your spelling and grammar. Also check for typos – are you reading what you have written or what you think you have written?
  • Try not to use more than 2 pages. I used to hear stories of CVs being binned immediately if they were longer than this. However, if you are applying for a role that demands more detail (such as a medical position), a 3-page CV is acceptable. Think carefully about how appropriate the content is for the job that you are applying for. Condense information where you can.
  • Choose a style and stick to it. Don’t write a list of responsibilities in a paragraph for one job and then use a bullet point list for another. Don’t start writing in the first person and then suddenly change to third.* Keep your titles and headings consistent.
  • If you have recently updated your CV with a new role, make sure that the previous one is now written in the correct tense i.e. past.
  • Avoid unnecessary or inconsistent capitalisation.
  • Make sure that you have given the full term when you first use an acronym or abbreviation (unless you are confident that it is well known or that the industry that you are applying to will understand it).
  • Make sure that you have used apostrophes correctly.

The most important advice I can give is to take your time and to read what you have written carefully. If you can, get someone else to have a look at your CV and give you some feedback on it.

*Don’t do this at all. Seriously. Writing about yourself in the third person is weird.

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CV spelling mistakes

I was sat, bleary-eyed, reading the i (a British newspaper) this morning. In it, there was a list of the top ten CV spelling mistakes. The original source for the feature can be found here. Almost one-third of CVs contain at least one spelling error.

The number one most frequently misspelt word is responsibility, followed by liaise and university. The list doesn’t give examples of the incorrect spellings that were found in order to form the top ten.

There are some other examples of misspellings on the website, and I have had a look at what Microsoft Word makes of them. They are all subject to a red squiggly line or to automatic correction (apart from travelling – the spellchecker, my dictionary and I disagree with Adzuna: the legitimate British spelling is with two ls). My advice, therefore, is to make sure you take note of what your spellchecker is trying to tell you.

However, I wouldn’t rely on your spellchecker completely. It can tell you if the word is spelled incorrectly, but it can’t tell you if it is the appropriate word. It isn’t going to pick up on the correct usage of their or there, your or you’re, and its or it’s. It might not recognise the correct spelling of an unusual word. And I’m not even going to mention the poor grammatical suggestions spellchecker makes…

Make sure you are thorough when you read what you have written. Read for sense as well as for the errors. If the work is of importance, get someone else to look at it for you. When it is your own writing, it is hard to read what is there instead of what you expect to be there.

Your CV is of great importance. It is a potential employer’s first introduction to you. Take that extra time and make the extra effort. It’ll be worth it.