Seven red flags to avoid on your CV

By Laurian Abeywardena

Bram Naus N8 Qb1 Z Ak K88 Unsplash

​We don’t need to tell you that CVs are your first step in the door with most employers. And in cases where there are large numbers of applicants, what holds you back from getting an interview could be that your CV is giving off one too many red flags.

For Recruiters and future Employers who are used to seeing dozens of CVs per day, our eyes have become trained to pick out the smallest details which could set you back further down their list. While the following examples may not be something you’ll want to hear, we hope they’ll offer great insight into the eyes of a recruiter and what some of the key red flags are that we look out for!

Poor writing and grammar

It may seem like common sense to most, but you would be surprised at the number of Cover Letters we receive that are addressed to another company. While some recruiters can look past this, it’s simply another red flag that if weighed up with others can signal incompetence and lack of attention to detail. It also shows that you haven’t bothered to put time into the letter and addressing your skills specifically to the role or the company.

This is another friendly reminder to triple check your grammar and spelling. We can all relate to a few small mistakes here and there, however your CV is an important document, so errors may signal that you may not be the focused and attentive candidate that we’re looking for.

Unexplained employment gaps

We don’t want to sugarcoat things here, and we understand that gaps in employment are inevitable, but if there are numerous unexplained gaps in your employment, it can signal your lack of commitment to sticking it out in a role, or that you’re just looking for something to tide you over until your next holiday. It might be hard to hear, but it can also cast doubt on your ability to perform in a role.

A candidate may also try to hide any gaps in their employment by inputting only the years rather than the months when they started and ended a role. This immediately causes a negative assumption with the recruiter as they’re unsure how long exactly you spent in that role. To put it simply, when dealing with future employers, honesty is always the best policy, and it’s best to be up front straight away by including all relevant details such as months, and then offering an explanation if it’s necessary.

Bare minimum responsibilities

An important tip when updating your CV is thinking about what is going to set you apart from other candidates; we’re not talking flashy borders or pie graphs, we’re talking about the achievements you made in each of your roles. Anyone can list their role responsibilities, but someone who lists the bare minimum is going to give off the vibe that they also achieved the bare minimum and didn’t exceed anyone’s expectations. To avoid giving off the idea that you coasted through your role, make sure you include any notable achievements such as any KPIs you exceeded or how you completed the "impossible."

Vague wording

When a recruiter reads that you are “familiar” with a certain technology, or that you “assisted” on a particular task, it immediately gives the impression that this wasn’t your main responsibility or that you didn’t make a significant contribution. Recruiters want to see hard evidence that you are confident with a particular requirement. If we see that you simply “participated” in a certain task, we won’t be counting it as one of your strengths.

Length of each role

Whether you’re a seasoned contractor or if permanent employment is more your thing, the length of each role is a big indicator of your performance and commitment. While it’s common for some contracts to be fairly short, if your last 6 contracts haven’t extended after 3 or 4 months, that can be a bad sign that you have a tendency to jump ship or possibly that you weren’t competent enough in the role to be offered an extension. The same thing goes for permanent roles, and if you haven’t managed to stay on for more than a year in each role, it doesn’t paint the best picture.

While we are firm advocates that honesty is the best policy when it comes to your resume, oftentimes there is a legitimate explanation behind these red flags. However, when recruiters are wading through hundreds of applications, they might not have the time or energy to give you a call to double check. So be sure to do everything in your power to put your best foot forward.

We hope you found these tips useful and best of luck with the job hunt!

Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash