8 Graduate CV Mistakes Recruiters See Over And Over


In this guest post, Susanna Quirk from Inspiring Interns outlines some of the most common graduate CV mistakes, and how to avoid making them.

For many, the CV they write for graduate jobs is the first they’ll ever produce. While the conventions of the common-or-garden resume may seem simple enough to grasp, the reality is that mistakes happen. In fact, some mistakes happen so frequently that recruiters wonder if there is some kind of on-going global conspiracy out to get them.

Wondering whether you rank among the offending many? We asked the Talent Development Team here at Inspiring Interns to tell us the most common graduate CV mistakes they find.

  1. Missing out grades

When you’re forty, have a track record of employment in your relevant sector and a clutch of good references to call upon, you can skip the ‘education’ section of your CV. At 21, with only a three-year degree and a summer job to your name, you’d better put those results down pronto.

Yes, we know that ‘2.2’ doesn’t look sexy in the degree class box. But writing ’59.9%’, ‘Second Class’ or missing it out altogether isn’t going to fool anyone. Similarly, your A-Levels are still relevant – you only sat them four years ago – and should be appropriately highlighted.

  1. ‘Presenteeism’

No, we don’t mean turning up to work when you’re ill or clocking overtime for the sake of it. ‘Presenteeism’ is the phenomenon whereby a candidate writes that her last job is her current – that is, ‘present’ – employment, weeks or even months after she’s left the company.

Now we know why you do this. You think admitting that you’re unemployed or ‘between jobs’ will dampen your chances at that prize position. However, in reality, it’s confusing for a recruiter to see ‘present’ on an employment history, only to discover that what the candidate meant was ‘past’. Be honest. Put the last month of your employment down and own your freedom.

  1. Writing in the 3rd person

If you were at an interview and somebody asked you where you studied, you’d respond: “I went to Leeds.” So why on earth write ‘Bonnie went to Leeds’ on a CV?

Writing a resume in the 3rd person is not the norm. Everyone knows that you – the writer – are Bonnie. It’s frankly weird to pretend otherwise. Avoid sounding like a schizophrenic and use the 1st person like the rest of the world.

  1. Self-rating systems

Now this is a strange one. In a lot of recent CVs, our team has noticed a trend of ‘self-rating’ systems – that is, candidates assigning themselves scores for efficiency, attention to detail, organisation and so on. The rating system itself can range from the traditional 1-10 to the more abstract, Sims-like bar measure.

If employers believed that candidates could realistically rate their own strengths and weaknesses, there would be no need for recruiters or HR departments. Giving yourself a 10/10 for ‘independence’ isn’t convincing anybody, nor is the humble half-bar for ‘teamwork’ going to earn you any medals. Want to get the job? Don’t try to do the hiring manager’s for them.

  1. Hyperbolic hobbies

Music. Sports. Arranging surprise parties for your friends. Your ‘hobbies’ section is designed to demonstrate you have a life beyond your work and studies, as well as give the reader an impression of your personality. It is not the place to claim – as one submission did to our team – that your interests include “tackling global poverty and inequality.”

Keep it light. Keep it frothy. These are hobbies.

  1. Time does not apply

All employment history in the relevant section should be chronological. No ifs, no buts. The two-week work experience you did in Year 11 should barely make it into your CV, let alone sit at the top of it.

Also, please don’t put your primary school on your CV. Primary schools don’t matter in the grand scheme; nobody cares where you learnt long division.

  1. Using Word

Always save CVs as PDFs. It’s super easy and ensures the formatting doesn’t mess up on the other end, as it often does with Microsoft Word. PDFs are also compatible with both OS and Microsoft programs and can be opened in a browser window if necessary, so it doesn’t matter who’s opening it where. It’s common sense, really.

  1. No, you can’t have my number

We understand why you leave your telephone number off your CV. You’re a Millennial; you hate being called out of the blue, or even by your friends, and would much rather correspond via text or email. But the truth is that most recruiters as well as employers seek out a telephone call before email. If you don’t put your number on your CV, you’re setting yourself up for missed opportunities.

So there you are: eight CV sins which you can now avoid for all time. Good luck!

Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.

We have lots of advice on CVs and all stages of the selection process on our website, and you can make an appointment for CV checks of individual advice on any career related matter.

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Filed under Advice, CVs & Applications

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