5 common CV mistakes… …and how to avoid them!

The art of writing a strong CV can sometimes feel hard to grasp, but with these tips to avoid common mistakes, you will be well on your way to a stellar draft.

  • Target your CV. One of the main mistakes candidates make is to think that they can keep their CV the same for every job application they do. CVs need to be targeted for each job to make sure that you are meeting the key skills asked for on the job description. If you have some older work experience that is relevant to a job for which you are applying, you can bring it onto the front page of your CV in a targeted section (i.e. “Marketing Experience” or “Customer Service Experience”).
  • Avoid complicated layouts. You want to make your CV stand out from the crowd, but using an unusual font, different colours, or a complex format is not the way to do it. Employers want to read a CV easily and quickly, without being distracted by unnecessary details. Format your CV in reverse chronological order, with clearly labelled sections for your education, work experience, and other key information. You can find examples of CV formats in the Knowledge Bank on our QMPlus page.
  • Don’t assume they know what you did. Often students forget to explain their work experience in enough detail for an employer to understand what they did. Before writing your CV, try doing a mind map of the key tasks and skills it involved. Note down any statistics or figures that show your achievements, such as the number of clients you worked with or the amount of sales you achieved. Have you given enough information for an employer to get a clear picture of you in that role
  • Don’t underestimate transferable skills. Transferable skills – such as team work or communication – sometimes get called “soft” skills, however they are anything but! It is as important to demonstrate these skills on your CV as it is to show your technical or specialist knowledge. Flag up these skills in your description of your work experience, providing clear evidence for how you used them and the outcomes you achieved.
  • Remember your degree! Sometimes students focus solely on describing their work experience, and forget one really important area of current experience they have: a degree! Talk about your degree on your CV, giving an employer a sense of relevant modules you are studying and key skills you are getting from it. Degree courses vary between universities so don’t assume that an employer will know what was involved in yours.

If you want further advice on CV writing skills, you can book a one-to-one session with an Application Adviser by calling 020 7882 8533.


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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Preparing a CV for part-time work

Joe Cronin, Application Adviser

Now that Freshers Week is over, you might be thinking about taking on a part-time job while you study. These are increasingly valued by employers as evidence that candidates are familiar with a working environment and possess some of the skills (organisation, time-keeping, interpersonal skills) that are essential to working life.

Applications for these types of jobs are generally much more straightforward than for graduate careers, but there are still some important points worth bearing in mind. In particular, the CV you send to employers for part-time work should be different to the one you use for graduate applications. Here are a few tips for preparing a CV for part-time jobs:

  1. Reshuffle

When applying for graduate jobs, the Education section of your CV should come before Work Experience. However, when applying for part-time jobs, reversing this order can be a good idea so that you emphasize what the employer is more interested in.

  1. Emphasise skills

You don’t need to stress your academic achievements as heavily (so no lists of the modules you’ve taken, for example), but you do need to draw attention to the broader skills you’ve gained at school or university or through other jobs. If you haven’t done this before, think about what these could be: being a prefect at school shows evidence of responsibility, for example, while being a captain of a sports team shows leadership and organization skills.

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Get fit and get your CV into shape – join a club or society and boost your CV

Did you know that getting involved with a club or society is a great opportunity for you to gain experience and develop your skills, which you can use to demonstrate to recruiters that you have what they are looking for when you apply for a job?

Whether you are going for graduate positions, work experience or part-time work, recruiters look for evidence that you have the ability to do the job. This means they will be looking out for examples of the key skills (competencies) that they require for the role on your CV/application and at interview. So whilst you’re keeping fit, you will also be giving your CV a good workout too and getting it into shape for future applications!

How, you might ask?

First of all, being part of a club or society is a great example of team working, communications skills and initiative. Running events for a club or society can demonstrate organisation and planning skills, and contributing to a newsletter or blog will prove your experience of  written communication skills.

Joining a drama group can help enhance presentation skills, communication skills, thinking on your feet, team working… and the list goes on! Most of all, it shows enthusiasm to get involved with university life outside of lectures, helping you to stand out from the crowd when applying for a job.

Further down the line, there could be an opportunity to get involved with committee roles e.g. president… this demonstrates leadership, responsibility and commitment, all of which are highly valued by employers.  These positions could also be an introduction to management skills.

Once you have had a taste at trying different things and developing new skills,  you can also think about what you have enjoyed and what you have been good at – a great way of working out what sort of jobs you might want to do when you graduate.

Head to Freshers Fair or contact the Students Union to find out what is on offer this year. If you think there is something missing, you could always start your own club or society.

Good luck and have fun!

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.


  • 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.


  • 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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Careers & Enterprise: Who we are

Whether you need help finding a part-time job, writing a CV or cover letter, or preparing for a graduate scheme, we can help.

Where are we?

queensThe Careers & Enterprise Centre is based in the Queens’ building (pic on left) on the Mile End campus, which is number 19 on this campus map.

We’re in room WG3, on the ground floor, near the Octagon and the Student Enquiry Office . From the main entrance, head down the corridor on the left-hand side and follow the signs.

What can we do for you?

We help QMUL students and recent graduates (up to 2 years after you graduate) with anything careers-related, from writing a CV to exploring your options after graduation. A career might seem a long way off if you’ve only just finished your first year, but whatever stage you’re at on your QMUL journey, come and see us! Even if you’ve never even thought about life after university, we’re here to help you …

Appointments with Careers Consultants

We offer 20 minute 1-2-1 appointments with a Careers Consultant, and these appointments can cover any careers query, including: CV & application feedback, finding and applying for jobs, or deciding what to do after graduation.

Job hunting

Whether you’re looking for part-time or temporary work, or a full-time role after graduation, take a look at our jobs page for a range of opportunities: careers.qmul.ac.uk/jobs. We also have a range of industry-specific resources in our information room and on our website.

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