Why your CV sucks, and CV tips to make it better…

Posted by | January 2, 2016 | CVs and cover letters

CV tips

The amount of time recruiters and HR folk spend on each resume is limited, even more so when they have a large volume to look through. So to get yourself from no job to new job, your CV needs to stand out and for the right reasons.

With the abundance of (oftentimes conflicting) information on what constitutes the perfect CV, creating or updating your resume can sometimes seem like a daunting prospect.

Here are my 6 do and 6 do not CV tips to help make your CV shine.


DO: Pitch it right

Ensure that your CV is pitched right for the industry, organisation and cultural environment that you are applying for. It’s worth doing some research to get it right.

This is your first and maybe only opportunity to showcase your skills. So as well as modifying your CV to the environment, make sure you adapt it to the particular requirements for the role.

A good exercise can be to write down (on a separate piece of paper) the specific skills that the advertisement or job description is asking for. Next, write down an example from your own experiences of how you have demonstrated each of these skills in a particular role. This will help you identify which roles (and aspects within that role) need to be highlighted. Some of the more detailed information you have gathered could also be utilised in your cover letter. This process is also a great way to be super prepared for any interview!

DO: Spell and Grammar Check

This should go without saying, but 100% essential. EACH and EVERY time you submit your CV get a trusted pair of ‘fresh eyes’ to give it the once-over.


With most CV’s now submitted electronically, PDF’ing your CV and cover letter will ensure that the ‘look’ of your document remains how you want it to look, regardless of the system, font or program it’s being opened or saved into at the other end.

DO: Keep it clean

If you are applying for a role in the creative sector then this one may not apply. But for most roles it pays to avoid getting too experimental with your formatting. The use of too many colours, styles and graphics can result in a look that is too ‘busy’ and that can detract from the document’s subject matter.

DO: Figure it out

If you don’t already know, find out how to include an electronic signature on your cover letter. This looks way more personal and shows an additional level of care and attention has been paid – particularly if one of the job requirements is an “eye for detail”.

DO: Act Appropriately!

Buckland in his (2014) article ‘25 fun facts about resumes, interviews and social recruitment’ claims that 76% of resumes are rejected due to an unprofessional email address. Use an appropriate contact email address; those that refer to personal or sexual characteristics are a bad move! Some combination of your name, initials and possibly a number is usually suitable. Leave the likes of ‘hotlikefire’ and ‘hippychic’ for personal use only!


Now for the don’ts

DON’T: Overload

It is prudent to keep your CV content focused. It is unnecessary to include your life history here! For the most part anything over 10 years ago doesn’t need to be included in any detail (the role, company and years employed will suffice). Exceptions to this are: if this specifically relates to the job you are applying for, or if you have been out of the paid workforce for a while.

Whilst some organisations do have specific formats that they expect their resumes to be submitted in (which can be more in-depth or technical), as a general guide anything over 2-3 pages is probably too much.

DON’T: Get sloppy!

With your cover letter, proceed with caution with the cut and paste function here! It’s mind boggling how many cover letters I’ve seen addressed to the wrong person and referring to a completely different role! Not an awesome start…

DON’T: Disregard

You may be able to provide examples of achievements and skills gained in a social or voluntary context. What you have done outside of the paid work sphere can be important. This can be particularly helpful in the Do Good Sector as not only does it demonstrates your passion and commitment to Do Good activities but also shows you have thought about how experience and skills gained are transferable to other settings.

DON’T: Reveal too Much!

Not everyone may agree but there is really no need to include the names and details of referees on your CV. You could include the wording ‘references available upon request’ or just leave it out altogether. If recruiters want references they’ll ask for them and employers will generally only contact referees when you are in the running for the role.

Waiting until you are asked can also be a reminder to check with individuals, that they are still happy to act as referees for you. This is a matter of courtesy (and also enables you to give them a quick overview of the role in advance). Occasionally application forms will specifically ask for this information, which is fine and you should include it. Otherwise, referees contact info should be on a ‘need to know’ basis.

DON’T: Forget about Social Media

If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile then get one! Whilst you may choose to keep this slightly more generic than each of the CV’s you use, your LinkedIn profile should reflect your CV, as it’s highly likely your potential employer will take a look and may question any marked differences. There is also an opportunity here to include a few extras, just to reiterate how fabulous you are! Having strong and relevant recommendations from those you have worked with offer an extra dimension.

Finally, be mindful of what’s viewable to the public on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as these could all potentially be viewed by the person/people doing the hiring. Check out our blog on creating an All-Star LinkedIn profile.

DON’T: Include a Mugshot

The jury still seems to be out here and ultimately it’s up to you.  If you do include one, ensure it’s professional and preferably matches your LinkedIn Profile – so no holiday snaps or couple shots with the other person cut off because it’s your favourite picture of yourself!


So make sure your CV is freshly prepared, not complicated by too much detail, relevant and suitably integrated with any social media. Hope you enjoyed these CV tips. Good luck!

Enjoy this post? You might also like our post on creating an “All-Star LinkedIn profile” and “Win that interviews: 10 steps to creating a combat-ready cover letter

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.