Does the world really need another blog post about how to write a CV? Probably not.
So how about what not to do?
Let’s kick this off
As a Talent Lead at Cleo, I see a lot of CVs every day. Over time, I’ve developed a list of pet peeves that I think**** most other recruiters would agree with. And let’s be real, in most cases your CV has to be as optimized for recruiters as it is for the hiring manager—aka the actual expert.
Note: not all of these points will be true for all roles. I recruit mainly for non-tech roles at a Series C Fintech, which is pretty specific. You can see our open roles here 👀
We also have a pretty big talent team at Cleo, and all of us care deeply about our work. We spend a lot of time assessing your application, which may not be the case in other places. I wanted to make this list useful and applicable to CVs in general, not just for your application at Cleo.
So with that disclaimer out of the way, here’s my personal list of 10 things I hate about your CV.
1. Your links don’t work
Test them before you submit your application.
I often go from joy to grief because I see a link to a portfolio/website/LinkedIn profile (all super helpful), only to realize that the CV is actually a screenshot of a scan of a photograph that once upon a time might’ve had aworking link.
Please make sure everything works.
BTW I’m not going to your LinkedIn profile to judge your profile picture. I go there because I can get easy access to the company profiles listed in your experience.
2. Your font size destroys my eyesight
Shorten it, don’t shrink it.
Please don’t think that getting your CV into two pages is more important than using a font size that doesn’t require me to squint. Fair enough, I chose a desk job where I stare at a screen all day, so that’s on me. But I’m not ready for laser eye surgery just yet.
On that note, most of the content you’re trying to squeeze in there may not be necessary. I just need an overview of your skills, not your entire life’s work. For most roles at Cleo, the ability to communicate efficiently and concisely is actually a great skill to have, so show it off.
Flo tip: ChatGPT can do summaries.
Just don’t submit something like this actual application I received.
3. You’re not actually saying anything
Your CV needs to make sense to someone who doesn’t know you already. Most of the time when I see lengthy CVs, there isn’t actually all that much relevant information.
It’s a bit of a balancing act. As mentioned, recruiters have a lot of CVs to go through. The reality is, most of us don’t have the time to research all the technical terms you use, consult an expert, and then sleep on it before making a decision.
Flo tip: read the job description, then read your CV. Does your CV show that you’re right for the role? Even better… let a friend/colleague/family member/dog read through it. It should make sense to someone who might only know the basics of the role.
4. You upload your CV as .docx, .png, .text
PDF is your friend here. Stick to your friend.
This isn’t always an issue. But most companies use an ATS (applicant tracking system), and they aren’t always great at displaying file types correctly.
There is usually a workaround… but please just use PDF.
5. Email and Zoom are not skills I need to know about
This one is maybe a bit of a stretch. It totally depends on the role, but for roles at Cleo, you’re applying to a tech startup. If you’re listing “Internet” as a skill my alarm bells go off. It makes me wonder if you’ll be able to keep up with the speed of a startup.
Oh, I also don’t need to see that you rate yourself a 5/5 on each of these.
6. You talk about yourself in the third person
I don’t know who started this, but I hope someone stops it. Your CV is there to introduce yourself.
Unless you’re talking about yourself in the third person in real life (please don’t), why would you do so on your CV?
I’ll always read this in my head as if your mother wrote it about you.
7. Acronyms everywhere
We’ve got a strict no more acronyms (NMA)-policy here at Cleo.
While I do have knowledge in the field I recruit in, and I likely will know a lot of them , I’m no expert. Don’t make me google half of your CV.
That being said—anecdote time 🕺—I’m currently hiring for a Compliance role and I see so many CVs where applicants assume that knowledge of specific regulations is implied by the nature of their current job and company they work at. That’s not always the case.
Flo tip: if a job asks for specific knowledge and you have that knowledge, name it explicitly. It’ll instantly stand out to me in my first scan of your CV and chances are, I’m diving a lot deeper into your CV.
8. Spellign mistakes.
This is another small one that won’t make me reject you, but it can be irritating.
If you don’t use spell check on your own CV, then how much attention to detail can we expect from you in your role?
Of course, I should point out that there are perfectly acceptable reasons for spelling errors, like dyslexia for example.
So not a big one, but I promised 10 reasons, didn’t I?
9. All the colours
Like, way too many different colours.
I wanted to start this with something like “ignore if you’re applying for a Design role”, but if my impression is *AGH way too many colours* then you’re probably not a great designer…
You can absolutely use colour in your CV, or use different layouts and get creative. I love seeing something else than a variation of the top 3 CV templates you can find on Google.
But please don’t forget that I still have to be able to make sense of it and find what I’m looking for easily.
10. The restaurant menu
Confused? Me too.
I mainly included this to get some help.
Every once in a while, someone submits a scan of a restaurant menu as their CV. I thought it was a simple case of selecting the wrong file, but nope, I’ve seen this like 7 times…
Is this just dumping a file to tick off the “I applied for a job”?
Why always a restaurant menu? Help me, I’m so curious 🧐
I feel like that’s a suitably random note to end on. All I can say is thank you for reading this far…
If you do fancy submitting your CV, you can find our open roles here.