2024 | Reading time: 11 Minutes

The 20 most common CV mistakes

The most annoying CV mistakes: A practical overview for anyone who wants to prevent their job application from being unnecessarily rejected.

CV Mistakes

CVhero.com spoke to recruiters, analysed hundreds of CVs, and looked for recurring mistakes.

Mistakes in the CV: content

Gaps and lies

Your CV should present your career to date without any gaps. However, every employer knows that seamless transitions are not possible in all biographies. It is therefore not a mistake in your CV if you take four weeks' holiday between two positions - for example, between graduating and starting your career. However, breaks lasting longer than three months can be a problem.

If you have not been employed, completed an internship or further training during this time, these gaps in your CV are likely to be addressed during a job interview. So don't try to fill in the blanks with made-up career stages. It is also not worth trying to hide your gaps by dividing your CV into annual rather than monthly steps. After all, recruiters are trained to spot gaps in your CV.

Instead, focus on your strengths by giving a meaningful explanation for your time off. For example, mention how you expanded your knowledge and skills during this time.

2. Unfavourable indication of unemployment

Another common CV mistake is the wrong wording. Don't write "unemployed", write "looking for work" or "job-seeking". This gives the impression that you are active and committed.

3. Lack of information

You should list activities and achievements that are relevant to the job you are applying for. A common CV mistake is to be too vague when describing your work. This makes it difficult for recruiters to identify your qualifications, skills, and experience. Use bullet points to give a brief overview of your duties and skills.

4. CV not up to date

You can avoid this common CV mistake by always adding your most recent experience, skills, and achievements. Make sure that your current employment is recognisable or correctly presented.

5. Exaggerations

Present your strengths, but don't exaggerate. If you make this CV mistake, you could find yourself in an uncomfortable situation when your skills are put to the test. Experienced recruiters have an eye for lies and may verify the information you provide in the job interview - for example, fluency in written and spoken German can easily be put to the test.

6. Impersonal CV

A common CV mistake is to send the same cover letter to several employers. Your job application should be tailored to the job, the advert, and your personal situation. This will ensure that you're presenting the qualifications, skills and abilities that best match the job you're applying for.

7. Irrelevant information

The CV serves as an overview of your professional career. To ensure that it adds value, you should include only the most relevant and important data for the position. This way, the most important information is visible at first glance.

You can omit optional details, for example your parents' occupations or the number of siblings you have. You don't need to list every internship or mini job you've had, unless the skills you gained are relevant to the job you're applying for.

8. Skills & abilities

One CV mistake many applicants make is listing skills without enough detail. Simply stating 'IT skills' on your CV will not tell the recruiter anything about your qualifications.

Instead, mention the specific software you have used in the past and specify the tasks you have used it for. If you have experience of editing photos in Photoshop, you should mention this - but only if it's relevant to the job you're applying for.

Mistakes in your CV: structure

9. Order of the CV

Many people make the CV mistake of listing their careers chronologically, starting with their education. However, it makes more sense to start with your current position and work backwards. That way, recruiters see the most relevant information first, because it is the most recent. This so-called anti-chronological CV is becoming the standard for job applications.

10. Length of the CV

Your CV should be no longer than two pages. Ideally, you can summarise all your experience on one page. It's a common CV mistake to list every job you've ever had - instead focus on the most recent and relevant information. You can omit past positions if they do not add value to your job application.

11. Almost empty second page

If your CV is too long to fit on one page, but too short to fill two pages, you may want to reconsider the information you have chosen to include. It makes a bad impression if you submit a CV with only two bullet points on the second page. Review what you've written and check whether it's relevant to the job you're applying for. An almost blank page allows recruiters to draw conclusions about you - especially about your sense of structure and priorities.

Errors in your CV: formalities

12. Spelling mistakes in your CV

Always check your job application carefully for spelling and formatting mistakes before you send it off. After all, you want to make a committed, reliable impression and demonstrate that you always work with care.

13. Discovered a CV mistake after sending the job application?

If the mistake is minor - a missing comma, for example - it is better to do nothing. However, if there are more serious errors, it is a good idea to send a corrected version of the CV and explain this in a short message.

If the CV is sent to a large company via the Internet, it is possible that the previous version may be automatically deleted from the application portal.

14. Missing personal details

Avoiding this CV mistake is more of a recommendation than a must: even if you are not legally required to include certain personal details, many employers still expect you to. A good example of this is your job application photo and date of birth. Although you are not legally required to include either of these, it is still common practice in Germany. So, it could be to your disadvantage if you omit these personal details.

15. Unspecific dates

A common CV mistake is to give periods of employment in years rather than months (e.g. 2011-2012) to cover up gaps in your CV. However, employers are usually aware of this trick. So, even if you have nothing to hide, you should include the months (e.g. 01/2011-11/2012).

16. Forgetting your signature

CVs are signed for authentication. Not doing so is a formal error. Many employers overlook this, but there is a risk that your job application will be rejected if you are not careful. Some employers may also conclude that, by omitting your signature, you don't commit to the information provided.

17. Incorrect formatting

Inconsistent or even incorrect formatting indicates inexperience with computers and sloppy work. It can ruin the first impression before a word of the job application has been read. Some of the most common CV mistakes are:

18. Inappropriate file name

Pay attention to the file name when applying by email or via job application portals. The file name should contain your first and last name as well as a description of the content:



19. Missing contact details

An important formality. If your contact details are missing, it is not just a case of negligence. Invitations to interviews are usually made by telephone. But recruiters also like to pick up the phone when they have questions.

Nowadays, an email address is also part of the contact details. If you can't be contacted online, you look out of date. Above all, make sure you use a reputable address for your application. It's best to create an email address with your first and last name.

CV mistakes: Job application photo

20. Private pictures

Do not use a private photo as your application photo as it looks unprofessional. The same goes for full body shots, selfies, and passport photos (especially biometric ones). Graduates and applicants with work experience should invest in a real application photo. Half or three-quarter profile photos are common.

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