In this unprecedented climate with increasing numbers of  talented people in the job market, it’s even more important that your CV makes it through the 30 second scan*.  Despite technology making it easier to present a great CV, there are still big mistakes that we see candidates make.

Here are 5 big mistakes that interfere with your CV getting the attention it deserves.

Mistake #1   Your CV is too vague

A long list of activities is not what recruiters want to see.  They are interested in what you achieved in your roles and particularly in the hard evidence to back up your claims.  The exception is where you covered some aspect atypical for the role or something significant that you want the reader to note. You need to be specific when you describe the overall purpose of your role in each organisation.   Give the reader some idea of the scope of what you were dealing with by quoting some key criteria such as total revenue, number of employees, geographic locations either of the company or your division.  

Mistake #2   Your CV is  hard to navigate

In an effort to stand out many people have favoured graphic design over substance.  Design features usually reduce the amount of space available for information and prevent you from following a logical sequence.  Your primary objective should be to spoon feed the reader so avoid anything that requires the reader to page backwards and forwards to connect information.  For example, career highlights can be mentioned in your Professional Profile, otherwise slot them in at the relevant chronological point in the CV rather than summarizing at the beginning.  

Mistake #3   It wastes space

The ideal CV is about 3 pages** so there is no space to waste.  As the legislation in many countries becomes tighter and tighter around what is relevant to consider in making appointments so too you can leave out a lot of information that used to populate CV’s.  Your marital and parental status, your photograph even your ID number are not relevant to recruitment.  Yes, they will probably be needed for onboarding when you get the job but at the CV stage they waste space better used to explain how you have applied your skills and expertise or demonstrated your leadership style in practice.

Mistake #4  You’ve missed keywords

Whilst the technology to customize CV’s is easily accessible, a one size fits all CV is still the norm.  The problem is that with both technology based screening and manual screening by a recruiter, the search is for keywords that match the job specification.   If you’re a Private Equity Analyst but the job spec asks for a PE Analyst you may very well be screened out – especially in electronic screening but very possibly in the 30 second scan.  Spending time on key words is time well spent and customizing your CV for every application is a must.

Mistake #5  LinkedIn mismatch

You can be almost 100% certain that if your CV passes muster, the recruiter will search for you on LinkedIn or the other way around if you have been approached to furnish a CV.  Discrepancies between your CV and your profile are a cause for concern.  They should mirror each other even if the language used on LinkedIn is less formal.  It’s also advisable to keep LinkedIn as your professional networking tool and not be tempted to use it for personal social networking.  Recruiters look at who you’re connected to, what you post and your activity on this site and expect you to be professional.

Writing a professional CV has become a specialized art.  If you would like assistance, please contact us at or +27 82 444 0375.

*Recruiters and Executive Search Consultants take 30 seconds to scan a CV and decide whether they want to read it in detail.  The key things they look for are where you have worked, the roles you held and specific achievements.

**The CV for a professional interim executive is a slight variation.  This person will have had many roles generally focused on achieving specific objectives.  We encourage creating a library of case studies per project that you can draw from to attach the projects most relevant to the job spec in an appendix.