First impressions count, especially with a CV. When your CV is in front of a recruiter, it will typically get between 10 and 30 seconds of their time to impress the socks off them, so don’t let your CV become a rejected CV.
To be in with a shot of getting an interview for that job, you really need to master the art of writing a stellar CV that is customised for the vacancy you are applying for and know how to avoid the pitfalls that could scupper your chances.
I have compiled my top 20 reasons why your CV might get rejected and how to address these below.
Let’s start with my own particular bugbear…
Rejected CV: 1. A Ridiculous Email Address
You may be a fan of Alan Partridge, but do you need really need to use this simply daft email address – firstname.lastname@example.org?
Email addresses like this should be kept for private use. It takes 5 minutes to set up a ‘professional sounding’ email address via Hotmail, Yahoo, Google or any of the other free email providers.
We see some real shocking email addresses and they give us an instant negative perception of a candidate. Try to stick to using your name with an email address. What a shame it would be to be the perfect fit for a position only to fall at the first hurdle because of your ‘funny’ email address?
Rejected CV: 2. Spelling & Grammar
No real excuses for this, but it’s amazing the amount of CVs that come through littered with spelling mistakes and poor grammar. We have even seen the misspelling of Curriculum Vitae itself. Try and remember that this is a document that represents you and mistakes will reflect incredibly badly.
Check and check your CV once again. And then pass it onto a friend who will able to check it and give you some constructive criticism. One great way to check your CV is to sit down and read it out loud. This will flag up any sections that may be too long or may need more punctuation.
Rejected CV: 3. A Candidate Picture
This may be something that is acceptable on the continent, but including a headshot on your CV in the UK might cause some amusement to the recruiter, but will probably just get your CV one step closer to the ‘no’ pile.
Unless the line of work requires that you have the right image for the role, i.e. acting or modelling, then there is absolutely no reason to include a lovely photo of yourself. A candidate will be judged on their ability to do the job based on their skill, work history and education not because they have a nice smile, well hopefully not anyway!
You should also stick to a word format for the CV and not a PDF or a ZIP file, etc. Give the recruiter a valid reason not to open up your CV and they’ll take it! And remember that it will be the Word based CV that gets onto to the recruiters HR systems and posted on to the job boards.
And if you are a graphic designer or multimedia developer, try and resist the temptation to simply send a link to download your CV from your homepage. Again, just a simple Word based CV will suffice and you can always direct a recruiter towards some supporting material once you grab their interest.
Rejected CV: 4. Inaccurate Dates
You must ensure that when you list your jobs that you have accurate start and finish dates; usually stipulating the month and year will be sufficient. A CV without this information will be rejected because the recruiter will simply think you are trying to hide something.
Rejected CV: 5. Formatting
There is nothing worse than seeing a CV on screen or paper and spending ages trying to decipher where each section starts and ends. Poor formatting won’t just turn off the recruiter it could also put a candidate at a real disadvantage when it comes to job boards. Some job boards will struggle to correctly display a poorly formatted CV at all.
Rejected CV: 6. War & Peace
There are differing opinions on how long a CV should be; some say two, some say no longer than three pages. Most companies who are recruiting will only be interested in the last 5 to 10 years of your career, and obviously the most recent couple of positions will probably be the reason that you have got the interview in the first place.
So, don’t waffle! Try and keep your CV to 3 pages maximum. If you have over 10 years’ experience at work, keep your work history after this simply listed by company and position.
Equally, don’t be afraid to shout about your achievements. A CV that looks light on information will be as readily discarded as the one which reads like an autobiographical epic!
Rejected CV: 7. Too Much Personal Information
Just like the pointless process of attaching a picture to your CV, including too much personal info that is unrelated to the job is a waste of space and could be harming your chances of getting a job.
You’re not pitching for a date, so does a recruiter need to know your age, height, weight, religious or political affiliations, marital status or sexual orientation?
Rejected CV: 8. Misleading Information
More and more businesses are now carrying out extensive background checks prior to taking somebody on board. Nearly everybody embellishes their achievements in jobs on their CV, but stretching the truth could land you in hot water. We have seen many candidates trip themselves up, with the most common misleading information being put on CVs being:
- The inaccuracy of dates to try and cover up job hopping or unexplained gaps in employment
- Inflated education achievements, including purchasing online degrees which are worthless
- Inflated salaries
- Exaggerated job titles
- Exaggerated career accomplishments
- Blatant lies in regards to roles and duties
Rejected CV: 9. Silly Fonts
We get so many CVs where people go a bit ‘artistic’ and use 5 different fonts in all the colours of the rainbow. The golden CV rule is to keep to one single easy to read font like Calibri, Arial or the newspaper font of choice, Times New Roman and to keep the font black. Avoid those hard to read fonts like Blackadder ITC or ugly fonts like Comic Sans. And try and keep the font size to at least 10. Reducing the size to 8, it probably indicates that your CV is too busy.
Again, it is always worth printing out a copy and showing to people for their opinion and then taking that feedback on board.
Recruiter Pro Tip:
Keep your CV as easy to read as possible – that way you’ll maximise your chances of getting noticed.
Recruiters will potentially have hundreds of CVs to screen at any one time, and more often than not they’re looking for reasons to rule you out rather than rule you in.
Keep it well constructed, following a logical order, in a legible font with good grammar and English.
Rejected CV: 10. Long Paragraphs
Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter. They want a nice punchy CV that quickly gives them all the info they need, they don’t want to plough through long paragraphs, nor will they probably have the patience to do so.
Your CV needs to be easy for the reader to scan and it should quickly get to the important meaty bits regarding your job history, skills and accomplishments.
Try and ensure that your paragraphs are relatively short and bulleted. Use plenty of white space, which will make your CV easier to digest.
Rejected CV: 11. Ensure that your CV is bespoke
With the advent of the online job board, applying for positions has never been so easy. This unfortunately means that a lot of people have a scatter gun approach to job applications, firing off the same CV over and over regardless of what the role entails.
But gone are the days when it’s deemed acceptable to use a single CV to apply for all the job opportunities out there.
And although it may be time consuming, writing a bespoke CV for a particular job application will get you noticed above those that simply spam their CV at all and sundry.
If you can demonstrate via your CV and covering letter how ideally you would fit into a specific organisation, you will have a much better chance of clinching that job interview against the competition.
Recruiter Pro Tip:
Tailoring your CV might sound like a pain but it can really make the difference. You might be the perfect person for the role, with direct experience of what the advert is looking for.
However your generic CV might not emphasise your experience enough – which means you have to tailor it to make your point for you.
It might be the only chance you get.
Rejected CV: 12. Lack of a covering letter
Just like a bespoke CV, a covering letter can often be perceived by candidates as a nice-to-have and not really a necessity. It can however be another key difference between clinching an interview or not.
A well written cover letter will spark an employer’s interest and immediately make them more eager to read your CV.
As with your CV, try to ensure that your cover letter doesn’t have that one-size fits all, generic feel. You want to keep it punchy, listing your strengths and exactly why you would be the perfect fit for the organisation you are applying to.
Rejected CV: 13. Wrong Chronological Order
Another classic faux pas is when candidates put their CV in the wrong chronological order. You should always list your most recent employment and latest achievements within that position. No prospective employer wants to read, nor cares that you kicked off your career helping Ernie on his milk float in 1971.
Rejected CV: 14. Unexplained Employment Gaps
In this age of layoffs, staff reduction and redundancy, employment gaps are likely to be something that a lot more people will have on their CV than ever before.
If this is you, the easiest way to trip yourself up is to stretch the job dates to cover an employment gap, but beware, as previously mentioned, more and more employers are doing checks to ensure that what a candidate puts on his CV rings true.
Whether it’s a sabbatical or a redundancy or if it’s because of health reasons, it’s always better to explain the gap on your CV. Leaving any doubt in the recruiter’s mind will simply give them a reason to think you are not the ideal candidate for the job.
Rejected CV: 15. Lack of employer info
Although you are fully aware of what type of business Zebedee Incorporated are, unless your prospective employee works in that particular sector then it’s unlikely they will.
Write a quick summary of the type of industry underneath the specific company on your CV, including address and website details, this will help the reader determine if it’s a direct or ancillary industry to the role.
Rejected CV: 16. Chancing your arm
I’ve stated previously that too many people comfort themselves by adopting a scatter gun approach to job applications. Unfortunately probably the biggest bugbear of a recruiter is sifting through hundreds of unsuitable applications for a particular role.
As well as wasting a recruiter’s time, you could also give yourself a poor reputation by applying for several positions. And like the boy who cried wolf, when you do come to apply for a position that actually fits your credentials you may well miss out.
Rejected CV: 17. Meaningless Introductions
Pigeonholing in as many pointless clichés into an introduction as you can will infuriate a perspective employee and be a complete turn off. So, you’re a hard-working, detail-orientated team player, with a strong work ethic who is looking for a new career challenge. You may have well have just written blah, blah, blah for all the impact that statement will have made.
We have even come across CVs where people kick off with a Winston Churchill or Shakespearian quote. A guaranteed way to quickly get your CV binned.
A snappy introduction should mention which industries you have excelled in and what skills you would bring to your new role. Don’t waste this chance to impress by just rolling out some meaningless soundbites. And always take the time to make the introduction bespoke to the role that you are applying to.
Rejected CV: 18. Weird Hobbies
Another classic jobseeker mistake is when candidates try to make themselves sound far more interesting than they think they are by listing some wacky hobbies. If someone lists under hobbies that they have “an interest in guns” or “collecting stuffed owls” it will hardly give the impression of a balanced individual.
As with most sections on the CV, it’s important to create the right balance. You obviously don’t want come across as dull by listing reading and calligraphy as the main activities in your life, but equally, stating that you enjoy a bit of Japanese Cosplaying in your spare time, won’t do you any favours either.
Be honest about you hobbies and interests. Writing anything else will simply see you slip up under interrogation.
Rejected CV: 19. Lack of Contact Details
It can be infuriating is when you have a really good candidate, only to find that they have misspelt their email address or puts the wrong digits down on their phone number, making it impossible to contact them.
Double check your details. You’d be amazed at just how many CVs we get through from viable candidates who have inaccurate contact details and are probably flummoxed as to why they are not getting any interviews!
Rejected CV: 20. Writing your CV in the third person
Although actively encouraged by some recruitment agencies, writing a CV in the 3rd person is simply seen as extremely annoying by the majority of recruiters.
An example of writing in the third person on a CV would be, “Billy is a strong manager, admired by all his colleagues”. This will just make you sound a bit odd. A much better way of stating the same fact would be to put, “A strong manager, able to lead teams in achieving goals”. I don’t think you need to specify who the strong manager is on your own CV!
And finally, you should stick to a sending your CV over in a word format and not a PDF or a ZIP file, etc. Give the recruiter a valid reason not to open up your CV and they’ll take it! And remember that it will be the Word based CV that gets onto to the recruiters HR systems and posted on to the job boards.
And if you are a graphic designer or multimedia developer, try and resist the temptation to simply send a link to download your CV from your homepage. Again, just a simple Word based CV will suffice and you can always direct a recruiter towards some supporting material once you grab their interest.- Anthony Hughes