25/09/2013 07:22 BST | Updated 26/03/2014 08:59 GMT

CV Howlers: What NOT to Write on Your CV

Following a survey we have just done at we found that a staggering 98 per cent of job applicants are reducing their chances of success significantly through poor spelling, grammar or presentation on their CVs.

These errors have lead to a number of alarming disclosures, such as being "A director with a strong breath", or, perhaps fresh from watching Sweeney Todd, "Baker, working on ovens and customers".

Then there is the potentially eye catching applicant who writes that "I'm looking manly for an IT role" followed by the baffling "Everything I do must be done in Safeway". The mind boggles! Another which completely confused was the candidate who had "designed and developed a stapler that was capable to staple up to 30 sheets of paper in 2002". Who knows how many sheets it can staple in 2013?

More job candidate attempts to impress potential employers failed as a result of poor phrasing and inappropriate language such as the rebel who says he's "Responsible for drug abuse, alcohol and antisocial behaviour". He's clearly not an immediate asset for any employer.

Perhaps more suitable is the applicant who proudly announces "I don't consummate alcohol".

Out of 500 CVs surveyed we discovered over 90% had errors in spelling or grammar, and 25% of those were badly presented. Other examples of mistakes uncovered in the study include the bombastic "Brought in by American company to take control of the UK", the frightening "I am self discipline" and the most egocentric of all, "Promoted to Head of I".

We should also celebrate the cutting edge thespian who boasted of being "President of Drama Society and acted in Shakespeare's Romeo and Othello".

When asked about key strengths, one applicant merely replied "Broad". Another could have landed himself in court claiming that he was "A candidate with a sold academic record".

The final two selected here are examples of being both inaccurate and unnecessary. "My top 5 clients in the past year have been..." and then a list of eight clients. Secondly, "I speak fluent German language to a working level".

Mistakes were not confined to applicants for junior roles either. Over 50% of the applications looked at were drafted by CEOs, professionals and recent graduates.

With the UK facing the toughest job market for decades, it is now more important than ever to ensure your CV shows that you would be capable of doing the job you apply for, and that means no unnecessary mistakes.

As I have written the bestselling CV book, 'You're Hired! How to write a brilliant CV' which has just been updated including a new chapter looking at how to maximize the benefits of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social channels, I feel I am reasonably well placed to give you some golden rules for writing your CV:

• Check: Check, double-check and then get someone else to check your CV to ensure there are no mistakes.

•Never rely on spell check. Public and pubic are both spelt correctly and will both pass a spell check but may not convey precisely the meaning you were hoping for on a CV.

• Visuals: Ensure that your CV looks good using a clear, consistent style that is visually pleasing and makes the information easy to read. When a photograph is requested as part of the interview process, including a holiday snap from Ibiza is unlikely to impress, yet you would be astonished at the number of people who do this. Smiley faces or similar are equally inappropriate.

•Watch your language!: Include content that is relevant to the job in question providing examples to back up your statements. Use language that is concise rather than jargon-heavy.

Have a look at these examples of most common mistakes:


• Switching from present to past and vice versa for no reason or just bad use. E.g. "I have ran the London Marathon"

• Apostrophes: "Tesco's", "saving 100,000's of dollars", "KPI's", "it's" instead of "its"

• Ellipses in all their forms. Misuse and ".."

• Capitalising random words mid-sentence

• Variations in page margins or text alignment


• "which encompasses Travel and transport"

• "...and pitch capabilities, Implemented a highly effective..."

• "I Initiated"

• "all Rooms"

• "revamped all food and Beverage"


• Bad spacing, e.g. "to Ore , 134km long", "9staff"

• Change in font and font size

• Switching between "and" and "&"

• Section headers at the very bottom of pages with section content overleaf very common.

• Mixed styles of bullet points / erratic alignment

• Lack of consistency formatting dates, switching from full dates to abbreviations and, within abbreviations, switching between /, ., - and ~

If any of these mistakes ring any bells with you, think again and check again! If you're in that rare 2% without mistakes your chances of getting the job you want will be much, much higher.