Writing it Right – CV basics

Teaching people to write CVs and prepare for job interviews makes me a grammar Nazi whether I like it or not. Written English is full of nuances and rules that we were never taught (or if we were we have long since forgotten). Add to that the common words, phrases, grammar and punctuation errors that trip us up every time. In some instances spell checkers or online supports like Grammarly fail to pick up on our misuse of a word, phrase or a punctuation mark.
Some misused words that I see regularly on CVs include compliment vs complement, principle vs principal, advice vs advise and a triple whammy ensure vs assure vs insure. Other more subtle punctuation examples (pointed out to me by my daughter) spaces inserted before question marks and exclamation marks. The latter only becomes obvious after it’s pointed out to you and then it’s impossible to forget, consequently you see it everywhere you look! It’s fair to say that any document will contain inoffensive errors that most people will not spot and in reality who cares?

On the flip side when submitting a CV for a job application it is vital to minimise the error content as this is one document that is guaranteed to be scrutinised. It is your one and only chance to impress and first impressions really do matter. If we take one illustrative example from the list above, for instance, addressing a job application to the ‘Principle’ of a school rather than the ‘Principal’- a shot in the foot before he/she even opens the envelope.

Another mistake that people commonly make is the ‘cut and paste’ hastily amended CV or cover letter. There is nothing that will irritate a potential employer more than to read a document with random or part finished sentences; this is often made obvious by a change in the style or size of the font. The hiring manager is thinking about two things (1) lack of attention to detail and (2) that the applicant is ‘winging it’ in terms of demonstrating their commitment to the application.

My advice to anyone preparing a CV for a job that they really want:

• Prepare your CV carefully and thoroughly for EVERY job application – avoid the one size fits all approach
• Use Grammarly (it’s free) or a similar application to check for errors
• Ask someone to proofread your final draft – you will never pick up on all your own errors
• Focus on quality rather than quantity – be objective (better for you to find the errors than for the hiring manager to discover them later)
• Focus on aspects of the application process that will get you results and stop doing things that are not productive. If you are sending out CVs and not getting interviews it’s a strong indication that there is a problem with the CV
• Make sure that your CV is unique and tells your story – avoid cliché statements and cutting & pasting generic words/phrases from the internet – employers are seeking to learn about you as a person – they are not looking for a shopping list of skills

The Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) informs us that 20% of our actions will cause 80% of our results. Using the Pareto Principle as a guide we should place more emphasis on the effort of applying for a position; taking account of how we approach each and every step. If we begin with the end in mind we are increasing the chances of success immeasurably – the devil is in the detail!

If you need assistance with writing or updating your CV you can contact us at: https://www.newlinkstraining.com/careers-centre/

Janet Tumulty