CV Tip #5: 3 rules for what NOT to do to make your CV stand out

There’s a lot of advice available about how to write and present your CV but there’s still some confusion about what you should or shouldn’t do to make your CV stand out.

Before I tell you my 3 rules, let’s look at some absolute ‘no-nos’:

  • The ‘NO because it’s unprofessional’ items are well known and obvious – using unusual fonts, adding splashes of colour, including photos, graphics or emoticons
  • In recent years, the ‘NO because it’s illegal’ is to exclude personal data that could potentially be used to discriminate against you, such as your age, gender, sexual orientation or religion
  • There are also the ‘NO because times have changed’ items such as stating ‘References are available on request’ or putting ‘CV’ at the top of your CV.


But did you know that there are other perhaps less well-known ‘Don’t do it’ rules that are equally important to make your CV stand out amongst the many that a recruiter will scan through?

After many years helping people develop their CVs, get new jobs and advance their careers, here are my 3 rules for what NOT to do to make your CV stand out.

Rule 1: Don’t include anything that isn’t relevant to the role you are applying for.

Your CV isn’t a list of everything you’ve done, only what you’ve done or can do that is required by the role you are applying for. Cut out the rest. (Or at least condense and summarize it).

It isn’t a partial truth or picture you are presenting. Instead, you are filtering information, making it easy to see why you applied and why you’d be a good candidate. You are making the recruiter’s task easier so they don’t have to sift through lots of unnecessary information and by doing so, you are already on their good side.

Rule 2: Don’t overcomplicate things.

The recruiter is going to read a lot of CVs so make yours stand out by being clear, concise and jargon-free. You aren’t going to impress anyone by using complex language or littering your CV with acronyms. By all means, use the latter if they are relevant to your industry or role, but make sure they will be understood outside your current place of work.

Avoid CV speak, those words or phrases that you think sound professional, but you wouldn’t use in real life. I used to play ‘graduate application bingo’ with a colleague when faced with 1000+ CVs to review. We got a point for any no-go words, which included my personal favourite, ‘moreover’. Nobody other than foreign students of English use it, so why would you use it on your CV?

Rule 3: Don’t be anything other than authentic.

A CV is a professional document but it should still sound like you. And you absolutely should be the author. There could be a confusing, embarrassing and potentially career-halting situation if you arrive for the interview and what you say doesn’t match what is on your CV.

Yes, get someone to help you, someone like me who can help you define what is relevant and articulate why you are suitable but don’t use a CV written by someone on your behalf.

Finally, using an anonymous CV template only makes your CV look like one of the thousands of other anonymous job applicants. You won’t be noticed if you don’t stand out.

I can work with you to personalise your CV so the ‘you’ on your CV matches the real you to get the role you want.

Why not get in touch and see where a session of CV Therapy can take you?


Photo by Georgie Cobbs on Unsplash
Photo by FANJ on Unsplash

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