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DON'T DO THIS!

8 Things Not To Include In Your CV

Red pedestrian crossing light
Stop right there!

Another day, another list. And there are plenty out there (including by Yours Truly) telling you all that you need to include in your CV or resume. Let me just take a moment, however, to remind you of a few things you shouldn't. So, when you're settling down at the computer, whatever you do, don't...



  1. Use weird and wonderful fonts. In your head, these may appear to make you come across as quirky and original. In reality, they can have the effect of you trying a little too hard. More practically, they're often more difficult to read, for both humans and ATS (applicant tracking software.) There's a reason that most emails and letters are written in relatively plain fonts. By the same token, don't use text speak or colloquial abbreviations such as lol or omg. & is fine (as long as it's used consistently,) as are technical abbreviations based upon the industry you're in. As an employer, I won't be LMAO reading what looks like a snapchat message from a 14 year old.

2. Use too much colour. A splash of blue or green for your headings or to break up text is fine. But stick to one colour or, at most, two shades of the same. The detail should be in black or dark grey; for a start, it's easier to read when printed (and cheaper to do so!) But colour can also be divisive. Apparently, orange is one of people's least-favourite colours; red can appear angry or in-your-face. You don't want any kind of subconscious bias to stop you getting your foot in the door.

Multicoloured crayons
Colours are for colouring. Not CVs.

3. Make your font size too big or too small. Size 11 is about as small as is comfortable to read when a Word document is opened on a screen, or when a document is printed out. Yes, people can zoom in on a screen, but if you're creating extra effort on their part, that unconscious bias is going to creep in again. If it doesn't all fit onto two pages, you've probably written too much. Which brings us on to...


4. Write more than two sides. Unless you're a university professor, a research graduate, a doctor or a senior financial executive with some serious data to share. People often don't even read beyond the first side anyway, which is where you want all of your big achievements and stand-out moments. Side two is your education, courses you've attended, jobs that you left years ago... Let's be honest, even the ten pages of research is just a professor showing off a little...


5. Try to be too clever. Your CV should, of course, use standard English with correct grammar and spelling. But you don't need to sound like you've swallowed a thesaurus. If you're applying for a PhD in English literature then there is an argument for being somewhat more erudite. However, you have no idea if the person reading your document has dyslexia, or poor reading skills, or speaks English as an additional language. The important thing is to be clear, concise and to the point.


6. Leave gaps in your employment history. As I wrote in a previous blog, there's no need to be embarrassed or ashamed about time spent job seeking, freelancing from home or raising a family. This is life. Some people are fortunate enough to leave education, get a job and then retire. For others, careers are a lot more messy. Just like life. If you're just starting out in employment, it's okay to write down those jobs we'd rather forget as well: the Sunday paper round when the papers were bigger than you. Or the letterbox. The nightshift on the sandwich factory conveyor belt. Building sheds for chickens. (And yes, these are all mine...)


7. Lie. If you didn't receive an OBE for services to the Crown, or an Oscar for best supporting actor in a little-known Lithuanian masterpiece, please don't say that you did. Likewise, write down what you have actually achieved in a role. By all means big it up a little and don't downplay your role just because it was a collaborative effort. But be honest.

Musician holding guitar aloft after concert
Let everyone see how great you are.

8. Forget that you're great. You may not think it, but you have a lot to offer and, no matter where you are in your career or life right now, you will have achieved some incredible things. Maybe it's juggling a young family with a career; perhaps it's caring for an elderly or struggling relative; it could be doing the shopping for people who were isolated during Covid. You will have made a difference to many people in many different ways. You just need to write it down.


And don't forget, if you're ever struggling with any of that, you know who to contact! Just drop me a line at simon@nextstepscv.com or contact me via the website at www.nextstepscv.com


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