How to be rubbish at writing your CV

How good was your last CV? Did it get you the job? Or are you thinking about applying for a new role and need to brush up your CV?

This article is part of my ‘How to be Rubbish at Everything‘ series, and is built around the things you shouldn’t do (so you can learn from them).

Why not check out some of my other ‘How to be Rubbish at Everything’ articles – job interviews, presentations, exams and revising?

Don’t write a timeline

Have you ever written out a timeline of your life before? If not, you’re missing a trick; it really helps you to plan out an awesome CV.

CV timeline from olivergearing.com
The key thing to ensure is that the timeline is to scale, meaning that time is shown in equal splits. This means that you see the relative importance of sections of your life by how long you’ve spent in them.

From this you can identify the key bits you want to focus on in your CV, and work backwards from there.

I use Excel to build my timelines; I use one column per month, and then colour in blocks that relate to different parts of my career. This way it’s easy to see my life summary.

Now, do you include this timeline in your CV? It depends. If your timeline is fairly straightforward then I wouldn’t bother, or if it draws too much attention to areas you don’t wish to focus on, I likewise wouldn’t include it. However if the timeline gives your CV a dynamic and modern look and feel then why not?

Don’t research examples from the web

Another way to screw up a CV is to not review other people’s CVs. If you google “CV” or “Resume” there are tons of examples out there. Download a bunch and see what looks good, and what looks pants.

Don’t just fire up Microsoft Word and start typing aimlessly. This will get you a rubbish CV super-fast.

Use strange or exciting fonts

I would recommend using Arial or Times New Roman on all CVs. Why? Because a CV is a time to be conservative in my opinion. If you get past the CV filter and get offered an interview then that’s the time to let your creativity flow.

Include timeline gaps

You know the feeling, if you could erase the years 2010 to 2012 from existence, then you wouldn’t have to explain your 2 year stint as a failed actor. These gaps are part of your history, and if you try to hide them this often gets picked up by thorough interviewers.

A good CV has no such gaps, and gives a feeling of openness and honesty. Find a way to be as positive as you can about the ‘gap’, and keep it brief. This way you can expand in the interview if asked, if not – happy days!

I’ve got a bloody great gap in my CV, four years spent being a musician. As I’m now a chartered management accountant I’ve got to explain the move every time I apply for a role. Add to this the fact that I started out on the path to being a doctor and you can see I’m a good example of a gapper. I’ve faced this down and got my story airtight, and it comes across (I hope) with integrity and honesty…

Don’t use action verbs

My sister-in-law Mary introduced me to this tip: Start every sentence with an action verb as you talk about your experience. It makes your CV sound far more proactive and dynamic. Notice the difference:
I was involved in a project to install a new accounting system.
With…
Tested and supported the project leads with the installation of a new accounting system.
Which sounds better?

Make it really long

When I’m recruiting for a role, anything longer than 2 sides of A4 goes in the recycling bin. Nobody needs more than 2 sides of A4.

Waffle

Slightly related to the previous point – but waffling is a bad idea on CVs and in interviews. Keep your sentences short and snappy and try to keep the reader’s engagement up at all times.

Don’t get someone trusted to review it

My wife always looks at my CV for me when I’m ready to send it out. She doesn’t hold back…

That’s exactly what you need in a reviewer; someone that you trust that has your best interests at heart. They will spot the crap stuff, and any typos that you’ve snuck in, and give you massively honest feedback.

Include spelling and grammar errors

If you have spelled a word wrong, or if your grammar sucks, then you may find your CV ends up in the recycling bin. There is no excuse for this with today’s spell check and the fact that you’ve got someone you trust to review it, right?

Send it out in Word Doc format

Don’t get me wrong, word is a great program that I use a lot, but sending your CV out in this format is bad for a number of reasons:

  1. The format may display differently and look rubbish,
  2. The recruiting manager may not have word (unlikely), or have a different version to you (likely)
  3. Word allows editing, so you open yourself to accidental deletes or keystrokes from the person you sent it to

So what format to send it in? PDF baby! PDF all the way!

Summary

So by not doing any of the above you should be in a good place to land that dream interview by nailing the CV stage. Go-on, change your life and land your dream role!

If you have landed your dream interview, be sure to check out my How to be Rubbish at Interviews article, packed with a similar amount of no-nonsense, practical advice.

You can download my PDF list of these pointers that you can print off – see below.How to be rubbish at writing CVs and Resumes

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