With high unemployment on the African continent, competition for every job opening is fierce. The first step towards securing your dream job is putting together a professional curriculum vitae (CV) that gets the recruiter excited about the skills, experience and qualifications you have to offer.
But many great candidates fail at this first hurdle in the job search process by making some basic errors when compiling their CVs. Here are a few of the common mistakes we see in the CVs that come across our desks when we’re recruiting – if you manage to avoid them, you’ll already given yourself an edge in the job market.
1. Irrelevant personal information
In today’s competitive job market, recruiters may get hundreds of CVs for every job they advertise. Do them a favour by focusing your CV on the experience and qualifications that make you stand out. Avoid anything that could bias the recruiter against your application, be controversial in his or her mind, or simply pad your CV with unnecessary information.
Although it is good to give an overall picture of who you are, don’t go overboard listing your hobbies, interests, or beliefs, unless they’re particularly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Also, be wary of detailing your S£xual orientation, religious beliefs or political convictions in your CV. They’re simply not relevant.
Recruiters sometimes access social media platforms to gain insight into job applicants. Make sure that the image projected by your social media accounts is one that you’d like to portray to prospective employers.
2. Falsehoods and half-truths
It’s important to cast your achievements and qualifications in the best possible light in your CV, but you should also be truthful about the facts of your career and personal history. Don’t claim to have qualifications you don’t have, don’t inflate your job titles or salary in the hopes of advancing your career, and don’t lie about your previous achievements.
Recruiters will check on your background, and they will usually find out if you’ve embellished the truth to try and get a higher salary or to secure a job for which you’re not qualified. With so many high-profile people under scrutiny in the press for lying about their qualifications, recruiters are being extra careful in their screening of candidates at the moment.
3. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors
Few things get a CV thrown in the dustbin faster than glaring spelling or grammar errors. Recruiters will assume that you’re lazy or incompetent if your CV is full of typos. Read your CV and read it again a bit later to make sure you catch all of the errors before you send it off. Check headings, subject lines and cover letters carefully. If you’re not good at spelling and grammar, ask a family member or friend to proofread your CV.
4. Employment history
An unexplained gap in your work history makes recruiters nervous. Rather be upfront and explain that you took some time out to travel or raise children or that you were ill for a long spell than leave a mysterious hole in your CV – don’t let a recruiter imagine you spent that time in a maximum security prison as he or she deletes your application.
To help the recruiter assess your application quickly, start your CV with summarised career chronology. Begin with your most recently held position and provide an overview of your experience and expertise that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For your less relevant or recent experience, you can offer less information.
5. Current salary or salary expectations
You have little to gain from highlighting your salary expectations in a CV. If they’re too modest, the employer may wonder if you’re qualified for the job, or you might weaken your chances of negotiating the best possible package. If they’re too high, your CV will be dismissed out of hand. That might be unfortunate if you’re desperate for the job or if you have a good enough story to tell to justify your cost to the company. Rather let the recruiter raise the issue of remuneration during the interview process.
By Anja van Beek, HR Director for Sage VIP and Chief People Officer for Sage AAMEA (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia)