Common CV mistakes and how to avoid them


Writing a curriculum vitae (CV) is one of the most important career management tasks for any job seeker. However, as the workforce and ways of working continue to evolve, the way a successful CV is written, developed and presented has also transformed.

ManpowerGroup South Africa’s managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar, looks at the most common CV mistakes that candidates make, and provides tips on how to avoid these.

Avoid Misrepresentation

The most common CV mistake that job seekers make is deliberately misrepresenting themselves – whether in terms of qualifications, skills, or experience,” she says.

It’s been reported that the new National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 2019, signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, means prospective students or job seekers could face up to five years in jail for misrepresenting their qualifications.

Proof read

Another common mistake is not proof reading your CV in terms of correct spelling and grammar. “This might sound like a simple and fairly obvious detail, but having bad grammar or spelling errors in your CV certainly has a negative impact on the first impression you make on your potential employer. Make sure you pay attention to the finer details,” says van den Barselaar.

Focus on impact

Many candidates will focus on listing job descriptions and skills acquired in certain roles, without giving details of the impact they made. “Highlighting the value you created in each role is important, as it gives the potential employer tangible reasons to interview or hire you for the role in question,” explains van den Barselaar.

For example, instead of stating that ‘relationship building’ was part of your role, explain how this led to business creation, retention or increased revenue for the company.

Find balance

Van den Barselaar highlights the importance of finding balance between too little and too much detail. “While it is important to include important and relevant details on your experience, skills and impact, you also need to keep your CV as precise as possible. Avoid including unnecessary details that are not relevant to the hiring manager.”

Unexplained gaps

If there have been any gaps in your employment, van den Barselaar suggests being transparent about these. “Whether you went travelling, dedicated time to a personal project, fell ill or decided to study further – being transparent about gaps in your employment is important to the hiring manager reviewing your CV, and could even help them to get a better feel of who you are on a personal level.”

Remember that your CV is your chance to make a good first impression on a potential employer. Not only does it need to include all the necessary information, but needs to be a representation of who you are as a professional. “Pay attention to the finer details, put time into perfecting the format and ensuring your CV is tailored to the position you’re applying for,” concludes van den Barselaar.