The 27 most damaging CV mistakes people make all the time

Resume job interview 19Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesFitting a whole CV onto just one page is a good start.

You’ve probably written and rewritten your CV so many times you think you know all the pitfalls that kill the chances of an interview dead.

But in a highly competitive job market, even the tiny details can make a difference, and it’s often the stuff we take for granted that’s liable to trip us up.

StandOut CV, a professional CV writing service, has compiled the 27 most unusual mistakes job applicants make on their résumés.

Some are obvious, some aren’t. But the chances are you’re still making at least a few of them.

Check out the list below:

27. Wasting space

Damage rating: Low

To start with, don't be afraid to fill all the white space on the paper. You'll need every bit of it, so keep those margins small and don't leave big gaps between paragraphs.

No. 26. Including reference details

Justin Sullivan/ Getty.

Damage rating: Low

Many make this mistake, but you don't need references on your CV. That will come after the interview, so save the limited space you have for more important things.

No. 25. Photographs


Damage rating: Low

Unless you're applying to a modelling or acting agency, photos aren't required and can even be a turnoff. Keep the page space for informative text only.

No. 24. Messy page transitions


Damage rating: Low

If your CV is two pages, make sure there's a nice paragraph break at the bottom of the first page. Run-on page transitions look sloppy and unprofessional. Keep it clean.

23. Logos and images

Damage rating: Low

Easy rule of thumb: if it's annoying in real life it's annoying to an employer too. Companies are looking to hire a person, not a brand, so keep it simple.

22. Too much detail on previous roles

Damage rating: Low

Don't expand on jobs you did almost ten years ago, the employer won't be that interested and it wastes space. For old jobs just mention the dates, company, and job title.

21. Saying why you left your last job

Matt Crossick/PA

Damage rating: Low

Save this for the interview (if they ask). Your CV is about selling your talents and ambitions, not office politics.

20. Salary requirements

Breaking Bad / AMC screencap

Damage rating: Low

Money should have no relevance to a CV. You're looking to prove to an employer you're right for the role they're offering, and salary requirements straight off the bat are crass. Save negotiations until you know they want you.

19. A silly email address

Damage rating: Low

Don't sully a good CV with a ridiculous contact email like '[email protected]' It may seem like small detail but it's the kind of thing that rings alarm bells for employers. Stick to your name, or a close derivation.

18. Word repetition

Damage rating: Medium

'Managed,' 'responsibilities,' 'ambitious,' 'hard-working' -- it may be tempting to throw these all over your CV, but it gets tiresome to see the same words over and over again. Restructure sentences if this is happening to keep things fresh.

17. Third person narration


Damage rating: Medium

This is a weirdly common trap to fall into, but don't do it. A CV is effectively a letter or introduction between you and an employer, and letters are written in first person.

16. Having a 'Skills Graphs'

Damage rating: Medium

This is a new fad on CVs where candidates create a chart rating their own abilities. Some people now gives themselves score like -- 'Microsoft Excel: 7/10; Adobe PowerPoint 8/10.' Don't do this. Instead explain projects you were part of and what they achieved: this gives a better indication of how you work.

15. Using unnecessarily bright colours

Damage rating: Medium

A bit of colour has become common for CVs these days, but going too far is neither clever nor likely to make a good impression. Neutral colours for headings are OK, but keep the background white and main text black if you want employers to take you seriously.

14. Elaborate fonts

David Livingston/Getty Images

Damage rating: Medium

CVs should be easy to read, so keep the font simple. Nothing too thick and nothing too curvy. Calibri is also a better choice than the increasingly archaic Times New Roman.

13. Meaningless clichés

Damage rating: Medium

This is harder than it sounds because we all do it in everyday speech, but a CV is all about hard facts and meaningful text. So drop the 'I work well in a team or individually' or 'I have a can-do attitude.' Just recount things you've actually done.

12. Not including job titles and summaries

Damage rating: Medium

Again, this only applies to recent jobs, but it's an obvious point many forget. State what your title was, what the company did, then what you did there. Briefly setting the scene makes a CV much easier to read.

11. Keyword stuffing

Damage rating: Medium

This CV sin refers to the practice of deliberately using buzzwords that will be picked up by computer scanners for heavily subscribed roles. But it's a bad idea. At some point a real person will read your CV and will be put off by how badly it reads. Keep it human.

10. Not demonstrating impact


Damage rating: Medium

Talking about your skills and ability is necessary for CVs, but at some point you'll have to mention what impact they had. Did your actions or initiatives save/make your company money? Did you improve efficiency? Did you promote the brand? Then say so.

9. Too many pages

Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

Damage rating: Medium

Employers are busy people with little time to read your life story. A CV should fit onto no more than 2 pages or, if you're really economical, 1 page. Less is definitely more.

8. Ridiculous, unprovable claims

Getty/Sandy Huffaker

Damage rating: Medium

Another obvious one, but a common CV issue all the same. Since you can't prove that you're the 'best salesman in Europe' or 'a leading figure in the industry,' stick to credible claims -- like what you've actually done.

7. Walls of text

Damage rating: Medium

Paragraphs exist for a reason. They make text more digestible, adding subtle flow and emphasis. Walls of text are one of the biggest reason a CV will be chucked straight in the bin. Be liberal with paragraphs, or better yet don't write so much about one thing in the first place.

6. Unexplained gaps in your work history


Damage rating: High

Almost everyone has a few months of not working in their life, but employers will notice any timeline discrepancies. If you did something extra-curricular like travelling or volunteering, say so! You'll seem well-rounded.

5. Too little on your current role

Damage rating: High

Even if you don't talk about your old jobs too much, you will need to expand on what you're doing at the moment. This is the first port of call for an employer. Talk about your skills and achievements in your current or most recent job.

4. Lies

Damage rating: High

'But everyone lies on their CV,' you might say. But that's a lie itself, and it's not worth the risk of being caught out in the interview. It will be even worse if you get the job and can't perform the skills you say you can.

No. 3. Ordering previous jobs incorrectly

Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

Damage rating: High

List your past jobs in reverse chronological order — i.e., most recent first. Companies are more interested in what you did last year than a decade ago.

2. Overly simple language

Damage rating: High

Clarity is important, but so is not sounding like a child. A few descriptive words on your experience and abilities are more evocative than long, monosyllabic sentences.

1. Not targeting your employer

Damage rating: High

If you only correct one mistake on your CV, make it this one. Why do you actually want to work for the company you're applying for? Are your skills really suited to the role on offer? When an employer reads a CV they really just want to know if you can do the job, so make sure your CV explicitly conveys that you can and why you want to. If you can't, then it's probably a good idea not to apply.

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