4 November 2014

Here at The Career Break Site, we see a lot of CVs.

To be frank, most of them are mediocre at best. Same goes for the cover emails.

It doesn't take much to make your job application stand out. A tiny bit of time and effort on your part will put you head and shoulders above the other job-seekers.

So why aren't you doing it? Chances are, you don't know what you're doing wrong.

Here's help - in the form of tiny little mistakes you're probably making that are ruining your job prospects. And how to fix them.

Mistake 1: Not having the right name to send your CV to

If you send a generic email to a generic address with a generic message, chances are, it's going to end up in a generic trash bin.

We get a lot of spam along with genuine enquires from a huge range of people (journalists and advertisers, as well as career breakers and job seekers), so we always focus on the email that's most important first. If your email isn't sent to a specific person, with their name in it, it's not going to get noticed.

It would take you literally less than a minute to phone the office and ask who to send your CV to, but nobody bothers!

Mistake 2: Sending the same CV and cover email to everyone

We've lost count of the number of CVs we get sent addressed to 'Dear Sir/Madam' - or worse, 'Dear Sirs' (those get binned without even being read) - with a blah blah email about how much they want to work for us, without even mentioning the company name. We know they're sending the same email out to loads of people in the hope that someone will give them an interview. The CVs are all identical as well - and we can tell if you tweak it for our industry, because you named it 'CV - travel'! Which brings us onto our next point...

Mistake 3: Not naming your CV properly

When we get a decent CV (which is rare), we save it. If it has your name in the filename, we can find it easily. If it's called 'CV - travel' or 'CV final' or 'CV - I desperately hope you give me a job' it doesn't really help us much. Make things easy for the person who might hire you and give your CV a filename which tells the prospect exactly what it is and who it belongs to.

Mistake 4: Not respecting the employer's time

As you may have noticed, we're really busy. In fact, most of the people we know with a job are really busy! They haven't got time to reply to tons of mediocre job applicants (especially if you haven't even bothered to learn their name - see Mistake 1, above). They might not even have time to read all the emails and CVs they get. Keep your cover email brief, your CV to less than 2 pages, and if you've actually got hold of the person doing the hiring, make sure you ask them what they want! Some employers prefer a one-page CV, some might ask for it in the email rather than as an attachment , some don't like personal statements - whatever's going to save them time so they can actually read what you've done is good.

Mistake 5: Not giving the details that are asked for

Following on from that, it's frustrating when we post a job ad requesting specific information - and we don't get it. We asked for it for a reason, so if you don't provide the information we think you either haven't read the job ad properly (so you can scrub 'attention to detail' from your CV) or you just don't give a toss. Either way, it's not going to make us want to hire you.

Mistake 6: Not following up

You already know we're busy. You know we get a lot of email to sift through every day. And yet you're still hoping your generic email with your badly-named CV is going to catch someone's attention. Chances are, it's in a spam folder (yeah, that's what you get for sending it to loads of people at once), unread, or is at the bottom of a very long 'to do' list.

If you'd like it to get a bit more attention, follow up. No, not with another email, we already have plenty! Give the office a call. Emails genuinely go astray sometimes, and if yours has, you can resend it. At the very least, you'll remind the person doing the hiring that you exist - and more importantly, that you want the job enough to take the time to follow up.

Mistake 7: Filling your CV with crap

Very few applicants to us have read our article on what not to put on your CV. We really wish they would! Thing is, they all sound the same after a while - people claiming they're passionate enthusiastic individuals with excellent communications skills and an eye for detail...

If you want your CV to stand out, it's not hard. Just leave the crap out - it'll give you more space to put something interesting in. Key achievements are a good start, or even links to stuff you've done (we've had freelance writers do this and it gives us a real flavour of their writing ability).

Mistake 8: Getting the company name wrong

It's written at the top of the website, ffs, how hard can it be?!

Mistake 9: Getting your own name wrong

We really, really wish that we'd made that up, but unfortunately we have seen a CV where the person spelt their own name wrong. That's autocorrect for you.

Mistake 10: Not allowing yourself to shine

We used to run a CV writing service, and not one of the CVs we edited made the most of the person's talents. We worked with people who had done some quite extraordinary things - sometimes at work, sometimes side projects - and they just weren't talking about them! Too many of us are taught not to boast or show off - but your CV is the one area where you really need to. Anyway, it's not boasting, it's telling people who are interested what you've done that could be useful to them. And what could be more helpful than that?


If you think you've got what it takes to work here, have a look at our recruitment page.