As a job seeker, your CV is perhaps the most important document that you possess. No matter how perfectly suited you are for a particular role, a poorly assembled CV has the power to instantly remove you from the recruitment process and leave you wondering ‘where did it all go wrong?’.
The situation can become chronic over time, as you repeatedly submit the same below par applications, only to receive disappointing response after disappointing response.
If you find yourself in this situation, and feel that your CV might actually be working against you, we have have put together a little last minute CV checklist that should help get you back on track.
Begin by looking at the layout of your CV. Aesthetics are important, as an unattractive and unprofessional looking CV can give an employer an instant negative impression of you, before they have read even a single word of its content! It is vital that you print your CV, don’t just examine it on your computer screen. Most employers will examine a printed version of your CV so you need to know how the document looks when printed.
CV Checklist – Layout
- Is your CV an appropriate length? Too short and it could appear scant, too long and an employer could be put off by the level of detail. In most cases between 1 and 2 A4 pages is about right, although for some, such as a PHD CV, lengths are usually greater.
- Have you made optimum use of space? Make sure that the information in your CV is not too spread out, such as to appear diluted or as though you were just trying to fill the space. If you have used two pages, make sure that it was necessary to do so. As a rule if you have used less than 1/3 of the second page, you should try and condense the information so that it can fit on a single page; it will look tidier and give you an opportunity to ensure the information is really concise.
- Are spaces between different paragraphs and sections uniform throughout? Any unusually large (or small) gaps will be very easy to spot when the CV is printed.
- Generally speaking, does the CV look tidy and professional when printed? Try to avoid blocks of text which are more than 4-5 lines long; bulleted lists can be a great way to summarise information, but be sure to keep these to an appropriate length as well. If your CV looks very cluttered but is as succinct as possible, you might like to consider increasing your spacing; remember an employer would rather see a 2 page CV that is attractive and professional than a single page one that is crammed and untidy.
- Is all the information neatly aligned? Slight errors when it comes to margin alignment can make a huge difference to the overall appearance of your CV. Also when printing make sure that your paper is perfectly aligned with your printer, otherwise your CV may look slapdash and shabby.
- Is the information displayed in a logical fashion? There are many ways to display the information within a CV, but just remember to always present things such as education and employment in reverse chronological order i.e. from the present day backwards.
You might like to take a look at some of these posts to help you with your CV layout;
How to fill gaps on your CV
How to handle a CV makeover
Common mistakes found on CV’s
Flawless spelling, punctuation, and grammar are extremely important when it comes to your CV. This is usually not because of their importance to the role that you are applying for, but rather what these mistakes on such an important document, say about you as a person and potential employee. They are an avoidable risk, so take measures to eliminate them.
CV Checklist – Spelling, punctuation and grammar
- Have you done a thorough spell check of the document? Do not rely solely on computer programmes to do this, as they will fail to pick up on all mistakes. For example the word ‘in’ could be incorrectly spelled as ‘on’ but the spell checker may not identify it.
- Are all abbreviations and capitalisations used correctly?
- Have you printed your CV and checked it with a red pen? Sometimes mistakes that are glaringly obvious on the page can be harder to spot on the screen.
- Have you asked someone else to check the spelling, punctuation, and grammar for you? Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes will be able to spot things you haven’t been able to.
- Have you made sure that your CV uses the correct spelling of words within your geographical area? This is a small consideration, but something which many recruiters find very irritating. Often spell checking software will have a default geographical setting for e.g. American English or British English, meaning that the spellings of some words may be auto corrected into a form which is actually incorrect where you live. This is most often the case with words ending in ‘ise’ in British English, which are often corrected to ‘ize’, their American form.
You might like to take a look at some of these posts to help you with this portion of our CV checklist;
5 Ways that your CV may appear unprofessional
CV mistakes that you should try to avoid
When considering the style and formatting of your CV you need to make sure that all of the information you have provided is as clear, concise, and consistent as possible. Much of your decision making will be down to personal taste, but there are a few things you can consider before sending your CV to an employer.
CV Checklist – Style and formatting
- Are all sections of your CV clearly distinct from one another?
- Are headings, subheadings and other stylistic features, such as bulleted lists, consistently presented? Check to make sure that the use of bold, italics, capitals and underlined fonts are used uniformly throughout the document to aid clarity and present the information in an easy to follow manner.
- Does the formatting make the CV look cluttered? It can be easy to go a bit overboard when it comes to formatting your CV; generally speaking if a stylistic feature, such as bold font, isn’t adding any value to the content you should leave it out, rather than risk letting your CV look messy.
- Are all of your font sizes and styles consistent throughout?
- If you have used tables or columns to present information, are these neatly and clearly laid out? Pay particular attention to features and actions which are automatically implemented by your software, which can accidentally remove or relocate/reposition information.
- If you have used any colours other than black, are you sure that they are appropriate for a professional document? We would suggest that if you are in any doubt at all about using a colour other than black for the content of your CV, don’t do it. Some will argue that using bright, eye-catching colours in your CV will help to make it stand out, but we reckon it’s more likely to make it appear unprofessional and suggest poor judgement.
You might like to take a look at these recent posts to help you;
How to tailor your CV
Top tips for online CVs
A few extra details you should check before clicking ‘send’.
- Be sure that the document type is one that the recipient of the email will be able to open (they may not contact you to send it again)
- Have you included all the necessary personal details clearly at the beginning of the CV? Don’t forget to provide at least two ways for the employer to contact you e.g. an email address and telephone number.
- Is your email address professional? If not it can be a good idea to register for a new one more suitable for making job applications.
- Have you given your CV an appropriate document title? This will allow an employer to easily identify it; we suggest something along the lines of ‘YOUR NAME C.V. DD/MM/YYYY’
Hopefully you have found this CV checklist helpful! Dont forget to check out some of our other great tips and advice.