|A number of HR managers, careers advisor's and business professionals from some of the leading institutions in the UK have been in heated debate recently discussing the top three things that drive them mad about student and graduate CV's. Redbrick thought that we should share some of the responses with you to give you an insight in what not to do! Enjoy.
Nishe Patel, Graduate Recruiter at Mercer.
1. Poor spelling and grammar - there just isn't an excuse for this anymore given that they can check this so easily
2. Unusual formatting - the CV should be in a simple font and have an easy to follow layout - the easier it is to read the better
3. Having their contact details in a small font or somewhere on their CV that isn't easy to find - this is rare, but when it happens it's really frustrating, especially when you want to speak with the candidate.
I figure that it might be helpful to list the top three things that I find frustrating when screening application forms.
1. Poor spelling and grammar - sorry to say it again, but you'd be surprised at how often this happens
2. Not answering the question being asked or using the same example multiple times - usually in the competency questions section. It is acceptable to use an example more than once, but if a candidate chooses to do this it can raise the question "has the candidate done anything else?"
3. Mentioning why they want to work for Company A when applying to Company B.
Matt Higgs, Resourcing Manager at Network Rail
1. Length of CV and relevance of content – We don’t have time to read five pages of finite detail of exactly which modules the student has completed
2. Basic spelling, language and grammar.
Poor presentation – CV’s should be easy to follow without gaps in the chronology.
Tricia Gardiner, Graduate Recruitment Officer at Moore Stephens LLP
An interesting comment I came across the other day was - as a gross generalisation, Generation Y is applying for the jobs, Generation X is screening the CVs and the Baby Boomers still run the company (though I'd like to think that we Xers are fast catching up). Is that important? I guess it goes some way to explaining why the different attitudes towards "correct" spelling and grammar exist but really it all comes back to the basics of communication - consider who is your audience - which I think is something that many (not just grads) don't think of when writing CVs and covering letters / application forms.
1. Poor copy and paste, stating an incorrect company name or being lazy and submitting a generic application with no reference to the company recruiting. However poor spelling and grammar, including the use of text speak my absolute number 1. I have received covering letters which state "i wanna work for ur company". Using a lower case will always drive me mad. I instantly question if I would trust them to construct any external correspondence.
2. Graduates applying for roles with minimum academic criteria who don't state their grades. Stating they have four A-levels ranging from A* to C is of no help - I need to know the grades for individual subjects and I'll cynically assume there were more Cs than A*s!
3. Referring to jobs or positions of authority in a covering letter that do not appear on the CV.
Anne Hamill, Managing Director of Talent & Potential Ltd
I only see CVs and application forms at the end of graduate schemes when applying for a permanent job - so the bad spellers and copy pasters have been weeded out by that time! So a slightly more sophisticated list of bugbears that I often advise people on would be:
1. Reducing font size and margins to cram loads of text into two pages, instead of making a strategic decision of what to cut out (lists of GCSE subjects and grades, and minor training achievements - I day courses, used of Word & Excel spring to mind - rarely would these make or break an application!)
2. 'Job spec' descriptions of past jobs - just listing what the responsibilities of the role were, but nothing about what the graduate achieved in them. In contrast, the best candidates will always state what they achieved, preferably with numbers and figures.
3. The space for the career brand - ie the paragraph summarising who you are at the top of the CV - still focusing on learning, not on what they can contribute, at the point where they are coming off the scheme and applying for a permanent role. "I am a quick learner who is looking for opportunities to develop my professional skills" is 'me focussed' and can strike a busy manager as being 'someone with an L-plate who is going to be constantly asking for help and wanting me to find challenges for them'.
This will not impress as much when going for a permanent role as something that focuses on the contribution they can make, eg "I am organised and love creating order out of chaos, and I am constantly looking for ways to improve systems, and make them more helpful for the customer."
Philip Donnelly, Owner of Step Enterprise
One to add: I have a CV on my desk right now from a young woman just graduated with first class honours, with half the front page dedicated to her waitressing work experience. I suspect students are (rightly) being advised to give examples of work experience , but we might be going to the other extreme of telling them to list anything and everything (often irrelevant) at the expense of a few details about what they have achieved academically. Of course ‘a degree might not be enough’ but let’s not totally dismiss first class academic achievement –particularly when it is costing the candidates so much?
In terms of all our bugbears, surely the big question is why are they doing this and how many graduates with real potential are missing out as a result of poor guidance (or none at all).