In a previous article for Jobboom, I spoke with jobseekers and recruiters to find out more about the clichés they encounter and which ones drive them absolutely bonkers (To read that article, click here).
For this article, I reached out once again to my professional network – this time to ask about the worst mistakes they see on CVs and in cover letters. A total of 20 respondents got back to me to provide the dirty details about the worst CV mistakes they’ve ever encountered!
A complete list of the contributors can be found at the end of the page. Now, without further ado, let’s get to the top 10 CV mistakes that exasperate recruiters.
1- The Guessing Game
Coralie has seen general-purpose CVs that are so generalized that it’s hard to tell which position the candidate is applying for.
In these CVs, relevant information about the candidate is buried under a ton of superfluous details, making reading the document like wandering around a flea market until one finally finds what they’re looking for.
Luc remembers reading a CV that was well-formatted, but did nothing to synthesize the career of the candidate and made no effort to link their experience to the position applied for, leaving the recruiter to do all the work!
2- The Novels of Marcel Proust
Novelist Marcel Proust is renowned for his run-on sentences, some of which stretch for more than a page. His work garnered him the prestigious Prix Goncourt, but Proust probably wouldn’t have been very popular among recruiters.
Diane can’t stand the CV-as-novel style – that is to say, a CV made up of full pages of single-spaced text – a format that makes it impossible for a recruiter to quickly scan the document.
With limited time to spend on evaluating CVs each day, Marie-France says that a lack of synthesis in a CV is a major irritant for her.
“A disorganized page layout makes it arduous to evaluate a candidate’s potential. Unfortunately, this will make me move on to the next CV!”
3- Me, Myself and I
Egocentrism is a common problem in our current era and it’s easy to find this trait reflected in candidate CVs.
Marjorie told me about candidates who focus almost exclusively on their own motivating factors in their CVs – I want a good team, I want to work for a company that takes care of its employees – without talking about the actual work they do.
Nadine T. echoes this, saying that: “It’s not the job of the company to help candidates realize their personal ambitions. At this stage, it’s really the candidate’s job to talk about what they will bring to the company.”
4- Too Much Tech, or Not Enough
Thérèse wants to scream when she gets a CV that lists only an email address for the candidate, omitting a physical address and phone number. Yes, we live in the information age, but there’s no need to take it to an extreme.
Oppositely, Camille can’t believe it when he receives a CV by fax: “Really? You’re faxing your CV in 2018?”
5- The Negligent Candidate
Samuel can’t stand it when he receives a CV that is out of date, with no formatting, and that does not correspond to the position applied for.
Jocelyne also gets CVs with all kinds of errors: spelling mistakes, duplicate or forgotten words and others. These are mistakes that are easy to fix, but not fixing them will likely have a fatal effect on a candidate’s application.
Mélanie says that the biggest, most unforgivable mistake a candidate can make on their CV is to forget to include any contact information!
6- The Flamboyant Artist
Ingrid understands that candidates are always searching for ways to make their CV stand out from the pack. But the use of many artistic flourishes can be annoying, as it makes a CV hard to read and can obscure the candidate’s value proposition.
Nadine D. sees CVs that more closely resemble comic books, with logos, colors, framed text and multiple fonts distracting from the candidate’s profile.
7- The Martian
Marilou has received applications where the person clearly had no idea what the nature of the company’s business was. She was surprised that these candidates hadn’t taken the time to do a simple Google search of the business or visited their website.
André has had similar experiences, where a candidate has no clue what the business does or what challenges they face. Sometimes candidates even apply for positions that don’t exist!
8- The One Who Talks Too Little (Or Too Much)
Nadine T. gets exhausted by CVs that lack precision. For example, a candidate might say that they worked for an employer from 2014 to 2015. But without any details about which months they started and left the company, a recruiter is left to guess whether the person worked for two months (December 2014 to January 2015); almost two years (January 2014 to December 2015); or somewhere in between!
Nadine D. dislikes it when a candidate adds an “etc.” at the end of a list – she doesn’t know what it refers to.
On the other hand, Lida, who counsels new arrivals who are seeking work, stresses that candidates shouldn’t put too much information on their CVs – for example, their country of origin.
In terms of providing too much personal information, Thérèse mentions that photos, Social Insurance Numbers (SINs) and dates of birth should never be included on a CV.
9- The Red Carpet That Never Ends
Some candidates want to show how much respect and admiration they have for the company they’re applying for, but going on too long isn’t a good idea. Recruiters aren’t dumb!
Nadine T. sums it up succinctly: Long phrases of flattery exasperate me.
10- Sending Your CV to the Wrong Company
One time, Mirian received a CV addressed to a different company than the one she recruits for.
It’s like getting a love letter written to someone else – definitely a bad start!
If you’re writing an application letter based on an existing template, make sure to change the name of the company accordingly, as well as the name of the person you’re sending it to.
Other Annoying Things to Get Rid Of
Suzanne told me that she once interviewed a candidate who, she discovered, had flat-out lied in their CV. Clearly, the interview was a waste of her time.
René suggests that job seekers should update their LinkedIn profile to ensure that it reflects the information found on their CV. According to his sources, around 60 percent of recruiters will consult a job applicant’s LinkedIn profile.
Martin believes that the way a candidate looks for a job is also the way that they work – and that for this reason, a job search demands preparation and reflection. It’s a way to show respect to recruiters.
Marie-Josée adds that it’s essential for candidates to take good care of their CV, as there’s no excuse for a poorly-prepared CV. If you have trouble with details because, for example, you suffer from ADHD, find someone who can help you develop a strong, accurate document.
Thanks to all the people who shared their stories with me for this article.
- Lida Aghasi, Managing Director at CSAI
- René Beaulieu, Consultant-trainer at RBeaulieu Consultant
- Marie-Josée Bélanger CRHA, HR Business Partner at MPC
- Marilou Cyr, Strategic Advisor and Associate at ST Marketing et planification stratégique
- Nadine Dubois, Talent Acquisition Specialist
- Jocelyne Favreau, HR Consultant, Recruiter and Coach at Demers Ambulances
- Samuel Fisher, HR Services Coordinator at Commission scolaire de La Jonquière
- Marie-France Godin, HR Strategic Consultant at GO RH
- Martin Guénette, Senior Counsellor – Operation Excellence at CIMA+
- Diane Lafond, HR Administration Agent at Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal
- Mirian Lebeau CRHA, Primary Account Manager at Latesys Canada
- Suzanne Mailloux, Workplace Relations Service Officer at Centre universitaire de santé McGill et IR-CUSM
- Marjorie Milliard, Orientation Counsellor at Groupe GCRH
- Camille Pelletier, HR Counsellor at Stageline
- Mélanie Phaneuf CRHA, HR Deputy Director at Groupe Connexion
- Ingrid Nagot, HR Administration Technician at AQCPE
- André Rousseau, Managing Director at Cible Retour à l’Emploi
- Thérèse Thémélis, Owner – Consultant at RH Recrutement
- Coralie Valeix, Employment Counsellor at La Maisonnée
- Luc Vallerand, Managing Director at Suicide-Action Montréal
By: Mathieu Guénette, Guidance Counsellor at Les Chercheurs de sens