10 common mistakes in a CV and how to correct them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Writing a CV is a key step to finding a job. A CV is the first impression a potential employer may have of your skills or job experience and the initial means for them to assess your qualifications. Knowing the common errors to avoid when writing a CV keeps your employer from dismissing it and increases your chance of getting a face-to-face interview. In this article, we review some common mistakes when writing a CV and explain how to avoid them.

Related: Why is a CV important? Everything you need to know

What is a CV?

A CV is a written summary of a potential employee's career, qualifications and education. It may include volunteer work, internships and informal training. The most common format consists of the following sections, in the order listed:

  • your work experience

  • your non-work experience, including involvement in professional organisations and the community

  • your education, certifications and licences

  • any other skills and interests related to the job

Each section may include information in reverse chronological order. This means you list your experiences from most recent to least recent. For example, you might list your current or most recent job position first and then list each job you previously held.

Related: Different types of job applications and how to apply

What to consider when writing a CV

A CV is often specific to the job and employer. It typically matches the job criteria. Researching the position and employer allows you to create a CV that attracts the attention of the employer. Include keywords you find in the job advert to get past applicant tracking system programmes that screen CVs before the employer reads them. Almost all companies use these programmes in the hiring process. You want to make sure an actual person reads your CV.

Your research into the employer and position might also help you determine whether it's the right job for you. Once you've learned the requirements of the job, you can compare them to your own goals. If they align, then you can proceed with the CV and application process.

Related: The ultimate guide to CV basics (with example)

10 common mistakes in a CV

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when writing your CV:

1. Unrelated objective

Avoid including an objective that's unrelated to the job. An objective takes up space in your CV, and it might be better to include it in your professional profile instead. You may want to include one in a CV if you have limited work experience and if it's relevant to the position. Employers want to know how you can impact their business and what you can do for them. Using your professional profile to show your usefulness to the employer might be more effective than an objective in your CV.

Related: Functional CV: Tips on how to write a good functional CV

2. Unrelated work experience and irrelevant skills

When writing a CV, remember to include work experience and skills specific to the job. The employer wants to know if you bring qualifications that benefit the organisation. If what you include in your CV is immaterial to the job description, the employer may pass over your application. Including irrelevant experience and skills can detract from what's important to the organisation.

Highlight only the parts of your career and experience that match the job description and showcase the skills you have that matter to the employer. Using persuasive language, action words, bold text and achievement lists might help emphasise your qualifications. If your previous work experience had little to do with the job you're seeking, then include the experience and skills from that position that relate to the job. For instance, if you're applying for a customer service position but only have experience in production, include instances where you worked with customers to get production orders filled.

3. Insufficient detail or gaps in work history

A CV uses details to emphasise your success in previous positions. Typically, you may want to include up to five specifics from your previous positions. You might also include information to help fill any gaps in your work history. Gaps in the timeline might raise questions for your employer. A lack of detail in your CV can also make it appear too vague, so the employer may disregard your application. Details can offer evidence to show that you're a good fit for the organisation.

4. Incorrect use of references

A CV normally includes two or three references. Missing references may cause an employer to dismiss your CV. It's important to adjust your references to the position and the employer. Some organisations may want information other than references included in the CV because they intend to ask for references later. Other organisations, like academic institutions, may require an extensive reference section to include professors you worked for, administrative personnel from institutions you attended and members of committees that evaluated your work.

Remember to avoid using friends and family members as references. Professional references are the standard. It's also a good idea to contact your references before using them in your CV. Communicating with them beforehand ensures they can provide an employer with information that aligns with your CV.

5. Improper contact information

When writing your CV, make sure your contact information is current. Include an active email address that you check often. Use the phone number you're most likely to answer. List the address of your current residence.

The email has become the primary means for employers to contact job applicants. Potential employers may prefer to see a professional email address. A professional email normally includes your first and last name. Avoid using an email address that may appear provocative, profane or offensive. It might also be a good idea to use your professional email only for your job search and use a different address for personal emails.

6. Improper CV length

A CV of proper length tends to be more successful. Generally, a CV runs between 1–2 pages. If it's too short, then the employer might think you have little experience to offer. An overly long CV may cause the employer to lose interest. There are exceptions. For example, if you apply for a research position, they may ask for scholarly works and descriptions of research projects. Yet an employer who is hiring individuals straight out of school often expects a very short CV. In that case, provide only relevant information and just highlight your most recent experience.

Related: What is CV design? (With 13 designs to inspire you)

7. Poor formatting coupled with improper grammar and spelling

Three of the biggest issues in writing a CV are poor formatting, improper grammar and incorrect spelling. When you make a mistake in grammar or spelling, it can distract the employer, and it brings into question your dedication to the job. You may be the perfect candidate for a position, but if you neglect to follow the rules of grammar and proper spelling, the employer may discard your application. Remember that there are many programmes that can check your spelling and grammar.

Poor formatting prevents the employer from easily gathering information from your CV. It's best to make the information as accessible as possible. Using templates to create your CV can ensure that it follows customs and looks familiar to the employer. The easier it is for the employer to gather the information from your CV, the more likely they are to assess you based on your skills and experience.

Related: 90 of the best CV buzzwords to make your CV stand out

8. Setting a salary requirement

Including a salary requirement may hurt your job prospects. Employers might dismiss an application that lists a salary outside the range they intend to offer. Most hiring managers prefer to discuss salary requirements during face-to-face interviews. Unless requested, it's better to avoid listing a salary requirement.

9. Irrelevant personal details

Irrelevant personal details have little to do with the job expectations. On some occasions, a CV may include unrelated personal details, but it depends on custom. Avoid including particulars such as a personal photo, date of birth, nationality and marital status. Use these only in exceptional circumstances. Include hobbies, interests and other personal achievements only if they relate to the job and the employer. For example, if you've hosted charity events for foundations you support, you could include this detail in an application for a non-profit organisation.

Including a personal detail can also distinguish you from other applicants. For instance, if you're trying to get a job as a computer programmer, you can mention that you've been writing programmes as a hobby since you were a child. Hard skills, such as knowing a second language, are usually easier to incorporate into your CV than soft skills such as creativity. When in doubt, try to only incorporate hard skills.

Related: What is a visual CV? (Plus tools to create one)

10. Including false or misleading information

The biggest mistake you can make in writing a CV is including a false or misleading statement. For example, it's better to be honest in your CV about a lack of experience than to make a false statement. False statements cause you to lose credibility with the employer. Even a minor, misleading statement can harm your integrity. The increasing use of background checks and online searches makes it easy for employers to confirm the information you include. A good CV shows only truthful experiences and training.

Explore more articles