Believe it or not, recruitment consultants spend an average of five to seven seconds looking at CVs before deciding whether or not to dismiss them. This may sound harsh, but the fact is that when consultants review CVs they are essentially looking for reasons to reject candidates, in order to whittle the pile down to a manageable level.
Whilst many of the reasons for receiving a rejection email are unfortunately out of your hands (lack of relevant experience, for example), there is one common reason that is completely in your control.
Accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar within your CV matter. You may be the ‘ideal candidate’ for a role, but if your CV is riddled with mistakes and inconsistencies, you’re going to struggle to land the job of your dreams. You may argue that the job you’re applying for doesn’t require a good command of language but – within the Creative, Media & Marketing sectors NU Creative Talent specialise in, at least – the ability to construct a well-written sentence matters.
For certain disciplines, a perfectly-written CV is imperative: copywriting, marketing, social media and communications roles, for example. But decent writing skills are also essential for any jobs that incorporate account or project management, due to the necessity to frequently communicate in writing with clients and colleagues. In addition, all creative roles require someone with a well-presented CV and portfolio; writing may not be an important element of the average designer’s role, but a poorly-executed CV flags up associated alerts that will put off a potential employer: lack of attention to detail, consistency and pride in the precision of work.
A poorly-written CV is about more than dodgy punctuation. It represents you and, if it is full of errors and inaccuracies, it’s not a huge leap for the recruiter reviewing your CV to presume that this equates with an overall lack of polish and ability.
A decent recruitment consultant should be able to help ensure your CV is in the best shape possible before submitting it to clients. However, be aware that some may submit your CV to clients without giving it the attention it needs. Therefore, consult a dictionary and ensure your CV is as precise as can be before sending it anywhere.
Here are some tips for a top CV that may help:
- Beware the red and green squiggles. Microsoft Word will help to iron out errors, yet its approach can be counter-intuitive. Just because a word is underlined in red doesn’t necessarily mean it’s misspelt or doesn’t exist, so double-check with a dictionary. Similarly, a paragraph floating on a sea of green is not necessarily awfully-constructed English. Word does not like what it interprets as incomplete sentences, but a CV sometimes calls for these (within bullet points, for example). Most importantly, Word cannot be relied upon to pick up words that are theoretically correctly-spelt but in context are wrong (see below). Sometimes it’s best to seek a second (human) opinion or trust your own instincts.
- Ensure correct spelling of words autocorrect won’t pick up. It’s Wedgwood, not Wedgewood; Ernst & Young (well, EY really), not Ernest Young. Employers prefer those who can communicate their brand accurately. It takes two seconds to Google a name.
- Use professional language. Avoid colloquialisms and imprecise language; try to express success through facts and figures, not a vague nod to “achieving great things”.
- Ensure consistency. A well-written CV is about more than spelling. The nature of a CV dictates that information is relayed in repeated identical formats. Often consistency is a matter of style, as any number of choices can be correct…but the important point here is to remain consistent throughout, as a mix of stylistic choices looks sloppy. So, no bullet points for one role then numbered points for the next. No Americanised spellings for some words and Anglicised for others (‘specialize’ vs. ‘specialise’). Personally, I’d avoid using third person in your CV (it can come across as stiff and impersonal) but, if you insist, please don’t switch to first person halfway through. It confuses and makes you sound…confused. In addition, choose either numerals or written numbers and make sure your whole CV is uniformly formatted. Choose a font and size…and stick with it; mid-CV text switches look nasty. Plus you know about Comic Sans, right?
- Is it it’s or its? Beware common grammatical errors, and know where those perky apostrophes belong. You only need to apostrophise ‘it’s’ if you mean ‘it is’; otherwise it’s just ‘its’, always. Elsewhere, apostrophes signify that something belongs to the word. The plural of ‘client’ is ‘clients’, but you’d write ‘client’s business’ if referring to a single client. To add to the fun, as soon as you’re talking about more than one client, the apostrophe jumps to the end of the word: ‘clients’ business’. Another common mistake regards multiple possible spellings, for example ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’. There (see?) are countless other examples, but the principle here is, if in doubt…
- Proofread. Repeatedly. Once you’ve written your CV, check it thoroughly. Check it again. Then check it again, just for luck. At this point, your brain will hurt and you may be unable to still spot errors, so ask someone whose accuracy you trust to read your CV for you, as a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference. Then, and only then, start sending your CV out to potential employers and / or recruitment agencies.
Though this may feel like a lengthy process, it’s worth persevering with and ensuring your CV reads as perfectly as possible. Your next job may depend on it.