Sunday, 10 March 2013

How to get your CV thrown out in one easy step

Ok, so first things first, the promised guide on what you should and shouldn't do when applying for jobs.

This is my own personal rant based on my experience of sifting through CVs, but I'm fairly sure the rules apply universally.

First and foremost, the golden rule:


Yes, this should be common sense. I always put a question at the end of ads, asking applicants to tell me something interesting about themselves when they apply. This is dual purpose - I genuinely want to know the answer, to get an idea about the kind of person they are, but also if they don't answer the question, then they didn't read the ad properly. We advertised a job a couple of years ago and out of over 200 applicants, only two answered this question. Everyone else was rejected.

Also, look out for specific details like the name of the person recruiting. This is another little test that I put in job ads - if the applications still come in addressed to 'Sir/Madam' or 'Manager' that doesn't bode well.


It's amazing how often I get covering letters applying for a position I haven't advertised. My favourite was when I posted a finance job and someone applied wanting to be a paralegal. The same goes for 'I want to work at ...' This is great as long as you put the right company name...


First of all, remember to include a covering letter, don't just send your CV on its own. Secondly, don't send a generic 'I believe my skills can be of great use to your company' letter. Show that you've taken note of the company, Googled them and now have some understanding, however vague, of what it is they do. Then explain why you're the ideal person to work with them on that. And don't start every sentence with 'I', it ends up reading like a list and that's a good way to make a recruiter's eyes glaze over.


Whenever our company posts a job, I know that within minutes (or even seconds) I'll have applications flooding in. There's nothing wrong with looking keen, but if you're able to dash off an application that quickly then it's obvious you're applying for everything and haven't put a lot of thought in to your application, which doesn't go down well - companies like to feel special (the same rule applies when online dating - but more on that later). Getting in first won't do you any favours and might even damage your chances of getting any further.


Assuming you've observed all the above rules, the next step a recruiter will take is to look at your CV. If it's a mess, all your hard work on the covering letter will be wasted. Not everyone's great on the computer, but if you're not able to do it yourself, ask a friend or use a template. Try to keep it concise; nobody wants to read a ten-page list of your achievements since you were five years old. Lay it out nicely, and check you've not gone one line over on to a new page, especially if that line happens to be something really important.


There's no excuse for poor spelling and grammar, and being a bit particular on that front, I will more than likely reject any applications that have more than a couple of errors. You'd have to really impress me on all other fronts to get away it.


Finally, when applying for jobs, have a little bit of sympathy for the poor person (i.e. me) who has to sit and go through all the applications. Recruitment is not a fun job - it's tedious and frustrating, and if your CV can break that monotony, you're far more likely to progress. Try and put across your personality and enthusiasm in your application, because at the end of the day, we want to work with people, not machines.

If you can think of any more do's and don'ts, or have committed any of these sins, let me know in the comment box. I promise not to judge (too much).


  1. It's difficult to get work these days so all these tips are important to follow. Luckily in my third year of uni all these things were spoken about so it helped me to have a good CV.

    1. To be honest I felt a bit silly even writing some of these because they're so obvious! Everyone knows them but a lot of people do forget the basics when applying for jobs. I think the last tip is the most important - remember it's a real person who's going to read what you write, and address yourself to them. Anyway I hope this post is helpful, even if it just restates the obvious :)

  2. I think I should send this to everyone who applies for one of the jobs I advertise! I'm shocked and amazed by the amount of applicants who say 'I am interested in this marketing position' despite the fact the job is for a translator! I.e. people who clearly havent read the job title, let alone the description before applying. Seems obvious, but s lot of people need to be reminded of all the above!!

    1. I know, it's so frustrating! Sometimes I really want to write back to people and explain where they're going wrong. Maybe I should start doing that...

    2. We tried doing something a bit like that once i.e. tried writing to applicants for a locum position who apparently had relevant experience but had completely ignored the job spec. I sent a few of them a letter explaining that if they provided more information and demonstrated the relevant skills, then we would be willing to consider them for an interview. I'm not sure any of them responded, so presumably they weren't that interested in the first place!

    3. Yes I think that's why I've never tried, because I figure if people don't put in the effort the first time they don't really want to work for us anyway. It's hard though, especially if it looks like someone's qualified but just not that bothered.