In my last blog post, I wrote about removing certain words from your CV to make it more effective and therefore significantly increase your chances of securing an interview. Now I am going to write about letters. No, I haven't lost the plot or become off-the-scale picky; I am referring to the No 1 reason your CV will be rejected by recruiters.
Every recruiter and employer I have spoken with on the subject of CVs comes up with the same top reason for rejecting applications in the initial pre-selection stage, and that is spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. (OK, that's technically three, but I think we can tar them with the same brush and club them together – hence the is and not are preceeding them!)
On average, your CV will be scanned visually for only 8-10 seconds in the first instance, then some earmarked for the read later pile. Even so, spelling and grammar mistakes can stick out like a sore thumb to even readers with limited recruitment experience so it is crucial that you don't allow these errors to cloud the judgement of the recruiter. It would be such a shame if your CV has some fantastic content, but ends up in the shredder.
Personally, my biggest bug-bear is the use of American-English spellings. Specialize, maximize, organize and prioritize are serial offenders on most of the CVs I read. Great if you are applying for jobs overseas, however, in good old Blighty, these words should have “s” in place of the “z.” It may seem fussy of me, but if you have stated on your CV that you pay attention to detail or have excellent admin skills, (and if you have, I recommend that you read my last blog on words that should be banned) mistakes such as Americanisms can throw your claims into question. Check your computer's language settings to ensure that you are typing in UK English.
Proof read, proof read and proof read again. Get someone else to cast a fresh pair of eyes over your written work. Read it backwards, upside down or standing on your head if you have to, just make sure that it is error free before you press the send button.
Basic errors are unforgivable by most recruiters such as the muddling up of similar words – your, you're – their, there, they're – two, to, too and the incorrect selection of punctuation for common CV words such as company, companies, company's or customer, customer's, customers'. Oh yes, my favourite (or not)…I have 10 years experience…apostrophe, please! It should be 10 years' experience.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that a spell or grammar checker will identify all the problems with your CV. It won't. CVs are not written in the same way as a book with regular paragraphs, so errors will slip through or worse still, your PC or tablet will auto correct words you actually had right. As the computer tries to second guess what is coming next or how the sentence should read, it can change certain words to fit in with what it thinks it should be. Typically, small words like to, it, in, on, at, if and of may auto change without you realising, which will in turn make your sentence not read in the way in which it was intended and could result in your CV being rejected.
Another clanger is the use (or not as the case may be) of capital letters. Time and time again, I see Cvs with capital letters missing from place names, postcodes, titles and companies. Even worse IS A CV WRITTEN COMPLETELY IN CAPITALS. This is regarded as shouty text, so put a silencer on your words by only capitalising the first letter of words in which they should be used.
Put yourself in the mind of the recruiter. If you know that the number one reason your CV will be rejected is the above, then maximise (with an “s”) your chances of success by casting a beady eye over yours and make the changes today.
Author Jules Halliday