5 things NOT to put on your CV

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Did you know that around 80% of CVs don’t make it past the first round of screening for a job vacancy? With the competition being so fierce for those precious seconds of a recruiter’s reading time, it’s just as important to know what NOT to put on your CV as it is to know what to include.  

Here’s what you need to know to increase your chances of getting in front of the right people.

1. Unsolicited demographic information 

According to a recent CIPHR study, it’s estimated that over a third of adults have experienced workplace discrimination, with age discrimination being reported as the most common – particularly during the job search.  

Including details like your age (via your date of birth), ethnicity and gender can give rise to both conscious and unconscious bias, so it's better to leave this information out where it’s unnecessary. Instead, make sure the focus is on your skills and experience.  

This goes for photos too, as these aren’t standard practice for UK CVs. A photo undermines the strict processes that need to be followed to make sure a company’s hiring process isn’t discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010, so including one may find you ruled out before your CV has even been read. 

It’s also unwise to include your full home address on your CV for security reasons – there's no need for this information to be public. 

2. Paragraphs of irrelevant information 

Trying to shoehorn in every single job you’ve had will probably do your CV more harm than good. We’ve previously written about why it’s important to keep your CV under two sides of A4 to keep the attention of the person reading it, so making it succinct and highly relevant will always be the best way to go. 

Unless it’s your first job, mentioning your hobbies within your CV is usually going to be a waste of time. You can often use your cover letter to dive into more detail instead if it’s relevant to the role you’re applying for – for example, if you’re moving into a new industry related to your recreational interests. 

Also, avoid using up valuable space by adding references or “references available on request”. This goes without saying, so the hiring company will ask for your references when the time is right. 

3. Excessive decorative features

Even if you’re applying for a role in the creative industry, it’s a good idea to use a classic font that’s easy to read, like Arial or Times New Roman, rather than decorative “handwriting-style” fonts.  

Some employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to pick out keywords to screen potential candidates. If your CV is unreadable because of squiggly text, decorative graphs and a non-linear layout, that damages your chances of even making it past the initial screen and onto a candidate shortlist. 

Also avoid using a font that’s either too large or too small to read – around font size 12 works well. Whether your CV is read by human eyes or a computer, adequate sizing and logical spacing will make it easier to scan for key information and will promote a better reading experience overall, which can’t hurt! 

4. Meaningless clichés

Everyone is passionate about their industry and has great teamwork skills – so what? These clichés are overused and often don’t mean anything of substance. 

Instead of being vague, pick out concrete examples of your achievements in your previous roles. For example, rather than talking generally about teamwork skills, a marketing professional could describe how they “increased sales by X% by working with the team to design and introduce a new social media strategy for Instagram”. 

Employers are looking to hire people who can bring measurable results to their organisations, so take the opportunity to show off your achievements with tangible figures whenever possible. This will help you stand out in a competitive local job market and, if you’re signed up to New Job Today’s candidate database, will also increase your chances of being found by the right employers. 

5. Negative vibes 

On the other hand, being too negative about your past experiences can be off-putting to potential new employers. If anything, they will likely be suspicious that you’ll eventually end up badmouthing them, too. 

Your CV isn’t the place to share why a previous role didn’t work out – you can save that information until your interview, where you can reframe the experience as a learning opportunity rather than dwelling on the negatives.  

Instead, your CV should be a place where you highlight your skills, accomplishments and potential to future employers. When you focus on the positive aspects of your previous experiences, you show potential employers your ability to handle challenges while maintaining your professionalism.  Melody Sadé Abeni