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The five biggest mistakes made on CVs and resumes

Written by: Matt Craven, Managing Director, The CV & Interview Advisors
Published on: Apr 13, 2023

The five biggest mistakes made on CVs and resumes

When it comes to creating your CV or resume, one of the biggest challenges you will face is sifting through an overwhelming and endless mountain of information. Getting your CV / resume right though, is easily the most important part of the job application process and avoiding the common mistakes will definitely increase your chances at getting in front of a hiring manager for interview.


So, what are the biggest mistakes that job seekers typically make? With an impressive track record in working with finance professionals and executives to create impactful CVs and resumes, The CV & Interview Advisors offer the following advice:


  1. Filling your CV/resume with clichéd behavioural competencies: One of the most common things that we encounter with our clients is an abundance of clichés. For example, being a “hardworking finance professional”, being “honest, reliable and trustworthy”, being “able to work under pressure” and “working well in a team”. Now, admittedly, these are all very important qualities, however, your CV/resume is a place to demonstrate your real work-related skills, i.e., your value proposition and strengths. Behavioural competencies do not add any value, nor can they be evidenced in a CV/resume, so it is definitely best to avoid this information.


  1. Missing out your achievements: There is a tendency in CVs/resumes for job seekers to create a long list of ‘things’ that they do in their jobs, almost like a job description. As much as a recruiter or hiring manager wants to understand your experience, they are actually looking for your achievements. They want to know how you made a difference in your previous roles, so it is important that you evidence that you are good at what you do.


  1. Being too brief: There is a long-standing myth that CVs/resumes should be no more than two pages and that they have to be very brief. However, although your CV/resume shouldn’t be like War & Peace, it is very important that you provide enough information for the reader to clearly understand what you have been doing in your career. If for example, you manage a team of 20 people, don’t just say you “manage a team”, go into the detail, i.e., “manage a 20-member finance team, with 3 direct reports including 2 Finance Managers and an FP&A Manager, with ownership for overseeing resource planning, recruitment, training and performance management”.


  1. Creating a random list of tasks: One of the biggest mistakes we come across is random duties and responsibilities, which doesn’t tell a true story of what you actually did in your career. The flow of information in a CV/resume must be well thought out as random lists are difficult to follow. You should always start with a description of the company, a summary of the role, and information about the structure and size of your team. This is what we call the ‘context building bullet points’. After this, you follow up with your other bullet points describing your key tasks and achievements.


  1. Failing to understand what a CV/resume is: Now this one is going to sound a bit strange, as everyone knows what a CV/resume is, right? Wrong! Most people see their CV/resume as a list of jobs, but it is actually an evidence-based document to communicate why someone should hire you. Your CV/resume should be a business case that explains where you can add value. It is your personal sales document that sells you as a potential employee, and is your window to the outside world, just like a website promotes a company.