First impressions count, especially when it comes to a job application.
But if I’m honest, CV rejection often occurs much more quickly than this (like within 2 seconds)…
It’s not because we’re all evil hard-noses that aren’t willing to give you a chance. It’s because there are certain things that give an immediately bad impression and when you’re sifting through hundreds of CVs, you can (and must) be fickle.
This week, to help you out, I have compiled my top 22 reasons why your CV might get rejected and how to address them.
Let’s start with my own particular bugbear…
Rejected CV: 1. A Ridiculous Email Address
You might be wondering how your CV could possibly get rejected within 2 seconds.
It happens! Many jobseekers sabotage themselves at the very top of their CV, in their ‘personal details’ section with an embarrassing, silly email address.
It takes 5 minutes to set up a ‘professional sounding’ email address via Hotmail, Yahoo, Google or any of the other free email providers or you can usually just link a new address to your current account!
Here are some of my favourites…
These ridiculous (and sometimes shocking) email addresses give us an instant negative impression of the candidate.
It would be such a shame if you missed out on the perfect position because of your ‘hilariously funny’ email address?
Rejected CV: 2. Spelling & Grammar
There is NO EXCUSE for spelling and grammar mistakes on a CV. Full stop.
Try and remember that this is a document that represents you and mistakes will reflect incredibly badly – they make you look careless and lazy.
Check, check and check your CV.
One great way to do this 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.
And then pass it onto a friend who will also be able to proofread it and give you some constructive criticism.
Rejected CV: 3. 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’re trying to hide something.
Rejected CV: 4. 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, i.e. acting or modelling, then there’s just no need.
A candidate (should) will be judged on their ability to do the job based on skill, work history and education not because they have a nice smile.
Rejected CV: 5. Other Formatting Fumbles
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 a recruiter off, it could also put a candidate at a real disadvantage when it comes to job boards – some of them struggle to even display incorrectly formatted documents.
Screw this up and you’re simply shooting yourself in the foot.
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 long.
The important thing to remember is that you should always keep your most important information towards the top.
Don’t leave game-changing workplace achievements at the bottom of your page, below your education, just because it looks good; include the appealing stuff first.
Rejected CV: 7. Not Using Word
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 recruiter’s HR system and posted on to the job boards… not a fancy file.
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’ve grabbed their interest.
Rejected CV: 8. Long Paragraphs
In the same vein, it’s important NOT to waffle on with long, drawn-out 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 probably won’t have the patience to plough through long paragraphs.
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: 9. Too Much Information
Just like pointlessly attaching a photo 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 really need to know your age, height, weight, religious or political affiliations, marital status or sexual orientation?
The recruiter is legally obliged NOT to judge you on the basis of any of this information… why give them a chance to?
Rejected CV: 10. Lies
Everybody lies. In fact, we wrote an entire blog revealing the 10 most common lies candidates tell on their CV or during the interview.
Unfortunately for them, more and more businesses are now carrying out extensive background checks prior to taking somebody on board.
So if you do lie, you will get caught out.
We’ve seen many candidates trip themselves up with ridiculous lies like…
- 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
Honesty is the best policy.
Rejected CV: 11. Silly Fonts
We get so many supposedly ‘creative’ CVs using 5 different fonts and all the colours of the rainbow. Stop. It looks stupid.
The golden CV rule is to keep to one easy-to-read font like Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman and to keep the font black.
Always avoid hard-to-read fonts like Blackadder ITC or downright ugly fonts like Comic Sans.
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.
This post from Reed, describes the dos and don’ts of CV layout specifically.
Rejected CV: 12. A Generic CV
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 taken on a scatter gun approach to job applications, firing off the same CV over and over again, regardless of what the role entails.
Unfortunately, gone are the days when it’s deemed acceptable to use a single CV to apply for all of the job opportunities out there.
Recruiter Pro Tip:
I know… tailoring your CV is a pain, but it could REALLY make the difference!
You might be the perfect person for the role, with direct experience in what the advert is looking for.
But if your generic CV doesn’t emphasise that specific experience enough, then you’re bound to slip through the net.
This point is even more important for your cover letter!
Rejected CV: 13. 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.
You want to keep it punchy, listing your strengths and showing exactly why you would be the perfect fit for the organisation you are applying to.
Rejected CV: 14. Unexplained Employment Gaps
A lot of people have gaps on their CV. And it’s really not the worst thing in the world.
But you must be honest.
Whether you took a sabbatical or were made redundant or if you were off for health reasons, it’s always better to explain (truthfully) 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. The Wrong Chronological Order
Another classic CV faux pas is lack of 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: 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’re giving yourself a poor reputation. And we do, genuinely remember!
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. Lack of Employer Info
Although YOU are fully aware of what type of business Zebedee Incorporated are, unless your prospective employee works in the same sector, then you shouldn’t assume they do.
Include a quick summary of the industry and 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: 18. Weird Hobbies
If you list hobbies and interests such as “a keen interest in guns” or “collecting stuffed owls” it will hardly give the impression of a balanced individual.
As with most sections of your CV, it’s important to get the right balance.
Don’t sound too generic and boring, citing reading and studying as your main interests, but try not to sound too wacky either!
Rejected CV: 19. Meaningless Introductions
Shoehorning pointless clichés into an introduction is 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 challenge”.
You may have well have just written blah, blah, blah for all the impact that statement will have made.
A snappy (and bespoke!) introduction should mention the industries and roles you have excelled in and what skills you would bring to your potential new job.
Rejected CV: 20. Lack of References
Some sources will advise you not to include references on your CV and I can understand why; with limited space to sell yourself and a high chance that they won’t even be contacted…what’s the point?
There is a point! It adds credibility. Marketers call things like this ‘social proof’ and it’s as close as you can get to a testimonial.
It’s not necessarily a negative if you don’t include them, but it’s definitely a positive if you do; you’ll just seem more trustworthy.
It shows that you’re confident in what other people will say about you – and you’re not just banging on about how great you are, for the sake of the job.
Even if the hiring manager has absolutely no intention of contacting your current employer, at least they’ll know that the option is there.
Stick with two former employers, from your two most recent (or relevant) workplaces.
Rejected CV: 21. Lack of Contact Details
Believe me; it can be infuriating is when you find a really good candidate, only to discover that they’ve misspelt their email address or put the wrong phone number, making it impossible to contact them.
You’r be amazed at how often this happens.
Double check your details.
Rejected CV: 22. Writing your CV in the third person
Although actively encouraged by some recruitment agencies, in our opinion, writing a CV in the 3rd person is just annoying.
We’ve never really understood why people started doing this in the first place…
It’s just weird.
Need more tips?
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We’ll send over a weekly (Wednesday) email with the latest and greatest insider secrets from recruiters.- Anthony Hughes