Definite CV \’No-No\’s

my associates and I come daily through several candidates\’ CVs (we have a repository of 15000+ Ghanaian CVs). Over the years, I have also read several -unfortunately- bad books on CV writing and a lot of outdated online advice. And while there is plenty of advise on what to write and the how-to, there is also good to know what to avoid in a CV… those CV mistakes known as \’CV-Killers\’.

So, kindly allow me to offer some brief but absolute \’no-no\’- tips coming from experience.

List of CV \’No-No\’s
1. Don\’t put on top \’Curriculum Vitae\’ or \’Resume\’!

Is there really a chance that someone will think that it is something different? Thus, assume that you are addressing intelligent people, please.

2. No unnecessary obvious words.
So, don\’t use words like \”address, phone, email\” in front of the actual information

3. Absolutely no unprofessional email address.

Avoid using things like or , or, etc.

4. No business contact information.
This is both unethical and stupid. Do you really want employers calling you at a work- number? Do you really think it is ok to use your current employer\’s resources for your own job search? How would that look to your future employer? FYI: Your current employer MOST likely can monitor your emails, web activity and possibly phone calls.

5. No Meaningless headlines/ introductions.
Avoid those classic outdated opening statements like: \”Young, enthusiastic, results- oriented/ driven with several years experience seeking in… blah blah blah\”. Your CV is there to get an interview invitation, so an opening paragraph so generic that says everything and nothing at the same time, is not going to do it.

Use a short, simple, focused and high- impact headline about yourself and a few bullet- points below it for explanation/ justification. For example: \’Junior Marketing Practitioner\’.

6. No irrelevant personal information.
Sure you are most proud of your church singing or your local/ neighbourhood football club performance or your excellent fufu and peper sauce awards, but unless these are somehow relevant to a specific role, they do not need to occupy CV- space.

That implies also no political affiliations and views or information on how you are going to vote in the upcoming election.

7. Do you need to mention your high school diploma?

You got a BSc or HND or a Masters and you are an experienced professional and still keep mentioning that you are a high school graduate? What is the value of it?

8. Don\’t list degree- courses attended.
A recruiter or a hiring manager, we do know -more or less- what courses are part of a HND or Bsc. in Accounting or Chemical Engineering or Marketing or whatever degree program.

9. Never simply List just your tasks/ duties.

We all know what an accountant or an electrician or a receptionist or a software developer does; if not, we recruiters & hiring managers can google it or look again at the Job Description. Instead, put your (partial or selected) list of accomplishments.

10. Limit the bullets under a job description to ideally no more than five.

It has been proven that we humans, can\’t memorize more than 7 items at a time (for those of you who want to know the details please refer to,_Plus_or_Minus_Two )

11. Please NO Lying or Misleading information.

Don\’t assume that we recruiters are stupid and we can\’t spot it. We always look out for \’too good to be true\’- stuff like :

  • Job titles (have you noticed that Ghana is full of CEOs of non existing companies?)
  • Accomplishments
  • Qualifications
  • Salaries
  • etc…

These days, employers are conducting increasingly vigorous background checks on candidates – there is even software for that.

12. No Unexplained gaps in your employment.
When I See that you are missing 1- 10 years of employment history, this makes me nervous and naturally wondering what happened during those missing years. It is ok to put something like 2010-2016 Stay-home Mom

13. Don\’t go too far on time.
How is it relevant what you did 10-20 years ago? Especially in an IT & Telecoms CV?

14. No List of References.
This is sooo 80s – we all have references! If an employer wants references, s/he will ask for it. Plus in 2016, the employer or the recruitment agency (HIREghana does that) will find real actual and relevant references using social media – especially LinkedIn.

15. Don\’t go beyond 2 pages.
Let me say it in a different way please: when is the last time that you read a 800-page book? It is unfair to expect that someone will spend 30 minutes to \’understand\’ your employment history. Even if s/he does, do you really think that this person can retain all that information after a quick reading of a lengthy document? Leave those overwhelming details for a relevant question(s) during the interview. Also inability to explain something clearly and briefly implies bad communication skills.

16. No Personal pronouns.
Your CV shouldn\’t include the words \”I,\” \”me,\” \”s/he,\” or \”my\”

17. No Spelling errors, typos and poor grammar.

This should be an obvious \’no no\’ . But it …obviously isn\’t. Use your spell- checker please!!

18. Never describe past work experience using the present tense.

Straightforward, I hope.
19. Don\’t use more than one font- type.

OK, Maybe, really maybe, 2 max. More that that, It\’s too distracting in the eye when reading your CV. ideally use Helvetica fonts (the new standard replacing Times- Roman) or Garamond or Arial.

20. Stop overdesigning your CV.
I see \’resume- experts\’ (Ghana seems to have plenty of them) who treat your CV as a desktop publishing document. This is so wrong because:

(i) it makes the whole thing tiresome for the eye to read it,

(ii) it destructs from the real meat & potatoes\’ of your CV: your accomplishments and

(iii) it creates \’junk\’ when your CV is scanned / entered in most ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems); same is true with most webforms.

So please not too many lines (ideally none), colors, funny/ special symbols, or other \’creative\’ stuff. These days your CV will most likely be read on someone\’s screen and it might even never get printed.

21. Obviously NO Headers, footers, tables, images, or diagrams & charts.

Exception is a page- counter footer
Also please don\’t insert any of your information in tables – please!

In Conclusion
I hope that this list of \’no-no\’s will help you in improving your CV. I tried to give the most exhaustive possible list; but please, if you notice any missing \’no-no\’s, kindly do take the time to communicate them to me. Thank you.

Please, use excellent Grammar, correct Syntax + your Spell- Checker!

Writing a good CV without any of these mistakes, it should now be simple. And, it does place you ahead of the crowd.

Good Luck please.


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