When we are looking for work, our principal tool for selling ourselves is the CV or résumé , but research has shown me that they can do as much harm as good. We get one shot at attracting the attention of the HR department, but it is amazing what silly mistakes people make on their CVs.


Here are some of the howlers I have seen:

Under “previous experience” one applicant wrote that she had worked for a riding stable and her duties included “Picking up feses (faeces) from the field.” Not only did she demonstrate her lack of ability to spell or even use a spell checker, but she also made the mistake of assuming that her skill at picking up secondhand horse food would interest an employer. I only hope she washed her hands before attending interviews!

Another gave the reason for leaving his previous job as “having an fist fight with his boss.” While we respected his honesty, I couldn’t help feeling it wasn’t a very positive point to make.

Writing the words “Curriculum Vitae” across the top of the page may be somewhat unnecessary (and there is even more chance to make a spelling mistake), as can using a font that would not look out of place in a Lord of the Rings film.

Simple rules for the CV should include:

Check the spelling.

Be clear and factual.

Don’t try to be too clever –- I remember one that bore the line: “I suppose you are wondering; is there anything this girl can’t do!”

Read the job advert; if the ad states that you must be available to work shifts, it is useless to say that you can only work 9-5. Nothing irritates a recruiter more than reading that the person does not fit the basic requirements, and your application will hit the bottom of the bin before you can say boo to a goose!

For example, the person I was talking to was trying to recruit a temporary worker for the Christmas period. The job advert clearly stated the weeks that the person was needed, but the first application she looked at was from a person who was very keen to start work but could not work the two weeks either side of Christmas, due to family commitments.

Just because there is a section on the application form asking about your interests, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to dazzle a future employer, nor should you try to make yourself seem more interesting. I made this mistake once; I have a wide range of quirky and sometimes off-the-wall interests, from writing to sea swimming, reading, building, playing guitars, bagpipes, trumpet, banjo, and mandolin, and doing ventriloquism. I even built and sail my own boat.

While I am no expert in any of these things, I do enjoy having a go at things and derive a great deal of pleasure from these hobbies. I no longer list all of them, because I was told by one prospective employer that all my hobbies sounded as though they were made up to sound more interesting. Now, I edit the list to include a few things that might interest the company I am applying to, having done a little research beforehand to list those things that may fit with the company ethos and the person who I would be working for.

What CV or résumé gaffes and howlers have you seen?