January always comes around like a wake up call, like an alarm going off or a slap across the face.. you put down that tub of quality street (I mean you’ve eaten all the good ones), sign up for pilates, pick up that clean eating quinoa obsessed cook book that’s remained unopened on your book shelf for most of the year and you start to think, “I need a new job!” You look at your old CV which has not been updated for a while and start to update it and then a sense of dread descends as no matter how you word things, it always sounds a bit naff, a bit disingenuous and a bit show offy.. Having seen 1000s and 1000s of CVs over the years, here are few things that frustrate me and other employers and could be stopping you from getting interviews.
- No contact details or incorrect details
This seems blatantly obvious but you’d be surprised how in the rush of sending a CV off people can mistype emails or forget to put on a phone number. Ordinarily if a CV is being emailed to you, it doesn’t really matter as you can simply reply, but if you are applying online through an automated application process then that information can get lost. People also like a phone number on the CV so that they can contact you and chat to you quickly. There have been a number of times when I’ve tried to get in touch with people to offer work or invite in for an interview and I just haven’t been able to get hold of them.. so make sure that the your contact details are correct and up to date, I don’t want to be calling and leaving messages for a random person thinking that it’s you. If you have multiple email addresses use that one that feels most business like, generally your name and initials work. Although I did love emails like slagsgotswag and hornytiger (actual starts of people’s email addresses), think about what your email address says about you and the impression that you are creating.. you may have loved Care Bears and One Direction at one stage but keep them out of your email address.
- Not enough info
This is where I need to get all Poirot and Sherlock Holmes and come to my own conclusions about what you did and what your role was in that job. This does you a disservice. Yeah you can put the word runner and no further explanation and most runner roles are relatively similar but when you put no detail I will presume you did some filing and made coffee and won’t know about what you actually did. I am not suggesting that you go into heaps of prose about your daily routine but talk about your achievements and the level of responsibility that you had. If you think that you are ready for the next level then you need to demonstrate that with the work that you have been doing and that needs to be clear on your CV. Employers can presume but by doing that they can jump to the wrong conclusions or simply put you to the bottom of the pile because what they are looking for is not jumping out from your CV. I often talk to people trying to break into the industry and as our conversation flows, I find out about films that they’ve made or skills that they have that aren’t on their CV, things that would get them an interview. So make a list of your achievements, the things that you are proud of and think about how relevant they will be to getting your next job and if you think they are relevant then get them on your CV.
- Too much info
The opposite of not enough information is far too much information. A CV should really be no longer than two pages and when it stretches to five you know you have problems. You need to edit the information, ask yourself in the back of your head “so what” to each sentence until you get a finally honed concise sentence that really sells what you are trying to say about yourself. Remember that the person looking at your CV is generally a busy person who will have a list of things that they want from this hire, if they have to dissect through reams of prose about your dissertation to find out what they are looking for then the likelihood is they won’t be bothered with you. Keep it relevant and keep it focused to what they are looking for and ask yourself does this CV best reflect me??
- Stats and graphs and ratings
This is a relatively recent phenomena and to be fair it does make your CV eye catching but what purpose does it really serve? If you are rating your skills in terms of out of 5 stars, or a graph or a chart, what are you trying to tell me? If you give yourself 3 stars for attention to detail then I will come to the conclusion that that really is not something that you are good at. Alternatively if you are 5 stars in everything – whoopee 5 stars in communication then I will go into the interview trying to discredit that.. By simply having a list of words or skills and your subjective rating of how good you are at them, doesn’t really tell me much other than your perception of yourself. You may be being honest when you say that you’re a 2 star communicator and even if everything else is 5 stars I will only remember the 2 star. You are drawing attention to things you are not good at and that’s all the reader remembers so stay clear of these things.
- Having No References
The world of television moves quick and fast and often you see someone one day to start a job the next day. The world is also relatively small and insular and lots of people will have worked together before. Often you can be faced with two options and you take up references, if the references are there and easy to hand then that makes things easier. Also as people have invariably worked together before, managers may like to ring your references and check out what they have to say about you. Now they can easily ask you for the references but sometimes it makes life much quicker and easier and creates a rapport if they are already there on your CV. Do make sure that the people that you have as references know that they are your referee and are happy to give a positive reference. I’ve contacted references in the past who have no recollection of working with the person or that person just worked there for a day, or alternatively they did such a bad job that the referee couldn’t possibly give them a good reference. So make sure that’s all sorted and you’ve got the best referees you could possibly have before putting them on your CV.
6.Using unnecessary business language
How do I make myself sound intelligent and ready for the cut and thrust of the business world.. well I will use some big words and put them in a sentence that grammatically and logically doesn’t make any sense. Why say something plainly when you can jazz it up with words that no one in everyday life really says. Now I am being sarcastic but I feel that this is the thought process that some people go through when writing their CVs. Especially in the opening paragraph when you are trying to sell yourself but just throw together a series of big words which effectively tells me you are great with people and like to organise things. Big words might impress some people but ask yourself, “does this sentence make any sense”? Often people use these words to impress or convey a superiority, some people are impressed with that but more likely people will think you sound pretentious. Also stay clear of phrases like “I can communicate with people at all levels”, bully for you, it sounds patronising and slightly grandiose (I’m using fancy words now).
- Trying to be funny
Now we all love to laugh and be funny and irreverent, I know I most certainly do, but humour can often be so subjective and can often not easily translate when written on a page. You may be a crazy hilarious bantz merchant and have your friends in stitches at your wit, but when you try to relay this on your CV you can often look like a bit of an idiot. Sometimes it can work and can work well but often you look like you are trying too hard or not taking things seriously. Funny anecdotes about the places you have worked or learning experiences written in a bantering tone can be engaging but also can take away from the hard work you’ve done and your achievements.
- Glamour shots
We’ve all learnt a lot from America’s Next Top Model, we’ve perfected our walk, we know how to smize and have mastered the subtle but effective differences between catalogue, commercial and couture and that’s great, really great for Instagram and great if you want to be a model or an actor but not necessary for your CV. It’s a very European thing to have a photo on your CV and it can make the reader remember the individual but it is unnecessary. I’ve been sent CVs for runners and researchers accompanied by beach shots, toasting a glass of champagne or leaning provocatively against a tree as if you are in Harpers Bazaar all rather lovely but unnecessary. Your work and your experience should get you the job not the way that you look. If you insist on having a photo on there a simple head shot is all you need, but be mindful people judge photos so best not to have one on their at all.
This can work exceptionally well in many industries and can even work well in the TV industry but it’s about knowing your audience and doing something that stands out but for all the right reasons. Having an origami CV in the shape of a swan might be beautiful but can you read clearly the CV and your experience or do you need to spend half an hour delicately unfolding it all? . I know of someone who sent their CV on an actual front door for an entry level job which was actually pretty genius but not for the guy in the post room who had to cart it to the third floor.. or the talent manager who was left with a front door that they didn’t really need. It tends to work well though when a CV is attached to cakes or biscuits.. who doesn’t love that eh.. well maybe not in January when everyone is detoxing but that is one gimmicking thing that people love.. I’m not against gimmicks and done well they can really make you stand out but ask yourself honestly if I were to receive this would this annoy me or I would I love it..
- Upscaling your experience
We all want to be seen as important and we all think about where we should be in our careers and exaggerate a little on the CV. Most of the time that is fine but be very careful about this as you can easily get found out. Oh you were a researcher on that show, oh why were you credited as a runner? You were instrumental in developing that idea, funny that someone I interviewed last week said the same thing. Oh you were on that show for 3 months, strange that the Production Manager thinks that you were there for a week. I totally get that you want to get the job and that you want to be seen in the best light but just be careful that your selling yourself doesn’t turn into lies.
One thought on “Ten things not to do on your CV”
Very useful tips here and definitely something all newcomers to the industry should take on board.