Guest blog: 5 CV mistakes that can jeopardise your career prospects

Applicant Selection Concept with Business CV Resume - Job IntervYou might not realise how important a CV is when you start job hunting, but it’s the barrier between getting an interview and not hearing from the company ever again.

There are quite a few CV mistakes that can jeopardise your career prospects, especially if you’re applying for a part-time student role or graduate job, as the competition is often quite tough.

Here, we have highlighted five of the biggest CV mistakes to remain aware of throughout the job application process and your career.

1. Typos

Of course, you might make a mistake and miss a spelling error, especially if it’s buried way down deep in the middle of your CV. You can hope that the recruiter misses it too, but the chances of that happening are fairly slim.

So, what impact will that one little typo have on your career prospects?

Maybe very little, maybe a lot.

At best, it can weaken your chances of getting through to an interview. At worst, your CV will be dismissed instantly and you’ll have to scrape the bucket of your overdraft for just a few weeks more.

How do you mitigate against typos?

By double, triple, quadruple checking your CV before you click submit – the same way you would with a piece of coursework.

Once you have written your CV, step away from it. Give yourself a break from job hunting and do something distracting before coming back to it. Fresh eyes should help you pick up any silly mistakes and typos.

If you’re still in any doubt, give it to someone else to proofread.

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The Basics: Cover letters

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter (sometimes called a covering letter or supporting statement) allows you to personalise your job application and explain your CV, explaining your motivation for the job, your enthusiasm for the particular role and, most importantly your understanding of the organisation that you are applying to. You should always send a cover letter with your CV unless you are told otherwise. 

  • It’s a single page letter, which is a tailor-made personal statement for a particular job and organisation.
  • A cover letter is not just a repeat of your CV.
  • The advice below is also applicable when completing an application form and responding to: ‘Please use the space below to indicate why you feel that you are suitable for this post, including details of relevant skills and experience’ (but this will not be addressed to a named individual).

How do I write a cover letter?

Your cover letter should have a clear beginning, middle and end.

Beginning:

  • Address your cover letter to a named contact whenever possible to show you have sent it to them personally. You will usually find these details in the application pack – make sure you have spelt them correctly!
  • A clear introduction – explain who you are (e.g. a recent QMUL graduate), what position you are applying for, and how you heard about the role.

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The Basics: CVs

What is a CV?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a record of your experience, skills, achievements and education, and is an important document which is a crucial part of applying for a job. It’s not simply a list of everything you have ever done, but instead a way of “selling” your skills and experiences to an employer, in relation to a particular role.

CVs for most jobs in the UK should be two sides long, however there are two exceptions to this rule: if you are applying for a job in the financial sector, or for a position in the USA. Check the individual job application in these cases, but unless otherwise stated, your CV should be only one side long for these applications.

The golden rule for writing a CV is that it must be tailored to the role you are applying to, i.e. you write a new CV for each role and demonstrate how you match what an employer is looking for.

What should you include?

Personal details

  • Your full name should come at the top of your CV, preferably in bold and in a larger font than the rest of your CV.
  • Next comes your address, but try to fit this on one line if you can – space is valuable! On the next two lines include your telephone number and email You do not need to include your date of birth.
  • You do not need to write ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top, as it is clear what the document is.

Profile

  • You may wish to include a short profile (or personal statement). While this is not compulsory, it can make your CV stand out from the crowd by providing employers with a summary of your key skills. It’s also an opportunity to highlight any particularly relevant achievements or experiences you want to draw the recruiter’s attention to. Make sure that this is relevant to the role you are applying for.

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Why you shouldn’t lie on your CV

hand-with-thumb-downHave you ever told a lie on your CV? Maybe a little one like making it sound like you had a bit more responsibility in a past job than you actually had, or a big one like saying you were awarded a 1st when you weren’t?

So, is it okay to bend the truth?

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the Careers & Enterprise team, and any recruiter, would highly advise against any CV fraud as the cost of getting caught can be severe. When you’re thinking of adding that little (or big) fib to a CV, keep in mind that:

  • Recruiters are often trained to catch on to lies. Recruiting the candidate with the right skills and experience is what they do and they are often trained to pick up on mistruths.
  • You are likely to be asked for more detail about your degree and experiences listed on your CV at interview. If your answers even appear ever-so-slightly untruthful they won’t give you the job. Just think how important it is to for a company to hire someone that they trust from the very start.
  • Employers are increasingly checking degrees. The Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) is a service that allows employers to check the validity of an applicant’s degree. More employers are using this system.
  • You could lose your job. If you do land the job and your employer finds out that you told a significant lie during the application or interview process, it would be seen as a breakdown of trust and you could be fired. This would leave a gap or ‘reason for departure’ on your CV that would be very difficult to explain to future employers.

For advice on your CV or application, book a 1-2-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant by calling 020 7882 8533.

Effective cover letters: convincing an employer that you’re right for the job

hiring-1977803_960_720A cover letter is your opportunity to explain to an employer why you are applying to them, and how your skills, knowledge and experiences fit the role and organisation.

You should communicate effectively to the reader:

  • why you want to work in their organisation
  • why you want to work in that particular role
  • why your strengths, skills and experience make you the right candidate

Ideally your cover letter and your CV will be read together but you can never be sure, so try to make sure they can each stand alone.  That means your cover letter should refer to key facts from the CV but should amplify rather than duplicate.  Your CV should present more detailed evidence to back up the points you make in the cover letter.

Structure and content

There is no ‘magic formula’ for cover letters, but the following outline can provide a helpful structure. Think of sections rather than paragraphs, since some aspects may require two paragraphs. These sections may appear in different orders for different applications. Keep it to one side of A4.

Greeting

Always try to find a name, rather than a job title, as it demonstrates that you researched the organisation. ‘Dear Ms Smith’ is much better than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ (avoid ‘To whom it may concern’).  Remember the signing off rule of ‘yours sincerely’ if it is addressed to a named person and ‘yours faithfully’ if not.

Introduction

Include who you are, your degree subject, university and situation – recently graduated, about to graduate, penultimate year.   Explain why you are writing (to apply for X position/looking for work experience) and where you saw the position advertised or, if it’s a speculative application, where you heard about the organisation.

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How to research a company

gillGill Lambert, Careers Consultant

This blog focuses on how to research a company, an activity which is needed to make your cover letter stand out and also to answer the inevitable interview question “Why do you want to work for us?”  

I wrote this blog because my daughter recently asked me how to research a company. She graduated last summer and is looking for work through for graduate schemes.  I advised her to use the checklist below to organise the information and then I suggested a number of ways of gathering it. 

Information Checklist 

  • Basics: what the company does, who its customers are, who its competitors are 
  • Size & Reach: how many employees they have, where their offices are
  • History: origins and  defining moments 
  • Industry: trends, opportunities, threats
  • Financials & Operations: how, where and why it is growing (staying stable or shrinking), future plans
  • Reputation: what it offers that’s unique compared to its competitors, its market share, its reputation in the industry
  • News: press releases and articles 
  • Structure: the names of executives and advisers profiled on their employees page, how the company is organised, how the department that you are applying to impacts on the company’s business,  
  • Ethics: values, aims, personnel policies

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10 Top Tips for Banking and Finance Applications

Application Adviser Emily gives us 10 top tips for preparing an application for a banking/finance role …

  • Check closing dates: The deadlines for applying to graduate jobs in this sector are very early in the academic year – sometimes October of the year before you would start the job. Internships too are advertised in the autumn semester. Start researching job and internship opportunities ASAP so that you don’t miss out. And don’t leave applications until the deadline; some graduate schemes and graduate jobs will close earlier than advertised if enough applications from qualified candidates have been received.
  • Understand the sector: Many students have a vague idea that they want to work in finance because the industry has a reputation for high salaries and challenging, exciting work. But you need to fully understand the way it works and the type of role you would be suited to. Research on the internet, read the financial news (for example the Financial Times) and consult the resources in the Careers Information Room. Attend networking events, where you can also get first-hand advice from companies’ recruiters. Your answers to questions about motivation in application forms and at interviews will be far more persuasive if you really understand the field and the requirements of different roles.
  • Read application forms carefully: Make sure you understand what is required by the application process of each company you apply for. Banks often have similar but slightly different application forms, for example – although the difference of emphasis in a question might seem minor, it might call for a quite different response. Also, some employers ask you to fill in a form, some ask for a CV, some for a CV and form, some for a CV and a cover letter – and there are many other variations! Make sure you have enough time to answer all the questions and prepare the necessary documents.

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