Your CV is often the first impression a company gets of you, and so it is crucial that what is written on it gives the reader a positive feeling. Without a positive first impression, it is unlikely that you will proceed any further in the recruitment stage for any finance role.
We have compiled a list of the most common mistakes that people make when writing their CV. These are often very simple to rectify with a little more time spent reading through.
1. Spelling and grammatical errors
It is worthy to note that the first person reading your CV will often not be the hiring manager. It will probably be someone who is hired to weed out the people who couldn't be bothered to use a spell checker or to read through their CV.
The big investment banks, for example, will use either an external company or a recruitment analyst to scroll through the thousands of applications received for their internship and graduate programs to reject those with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors on their application or CV. The bones of the CV are likely, therefore, never to be read.
Why do they do this? For such programs, the banks receive vast numbers of applications, so they need to whittle them down to the very best. The very best do not include people who are seen to be lazy or who do not have a good command of the English language. If recruiters were to put such a CV in front of a hiring manager, that is precisely what the hiring manager would think. The recruiter would then look incompetent for selecting such a CV.
With computers spell-checking for you, there is no excuse for having any spelling mistakes in your CV.
For any role in finance, you are selling yourself as an educated, maybe experienced person, so you should be able to write grammatically correct statements and sentences at the very least.
2. Incorrect information and embellishments
You would be surprised how many people write the wrong contact information on their CV. It is as if they spent ages writing the perfect descriptions of their achievements, read and re-read it all but didn't think to check the most basic part of the CV, which is your name and how to get hold of you.
You would kick yourself if you knew that you had written the perfect CV but did not get a phone call or email about the job because you missed one digit on your phone number or miss-typed your email address. When reading through, do not forget to read the most obvious and most straightforward CV parts.
Incorrect information in terms of your achievements or experience is also a common error and one that some people cannot help themselves make. Writing blatant lies is simply a bad idea. In the best case, you will get caught out in an interview and so look pretty stupid. In the worst case, you could get the job based on false information, get found out to be a liar later on and so sacked, humiliated and possibly blacklisted in your industry, therefore making it harder or even impossible to get another job.
It can be easy to get carried away when trying to sell yourself. You may think that embellishing the truth slightly will never be found out. It is easier to write such things down than to say them to someone face to face. The strong desire to 'just get that interview' can throw all morals out of the window, but by doing this, you are putting yourself in a difficult situation as you will have to talk about those embellishments at the interview and therefore lie to someone's face and not get caught out.
Be true to yourself and others; start as you mean to go on. If you need to lie to get a job, then perhaps this isn't the job for you. Look at what your CV is lacking, what do you want to lie about, and then go and make it real so that the next time you apply for that type of job, you can write only factual information down.
3. Poor formatting
Many people seem to want their CV to stand out so much that they use funky fonts or colors or trendy boxes with information inside. Trying to be overly creative can be a dangerous tactic as, unlike possibly the design industry, the finance industry values simple formatting. When they talk about people 'standing out', this is not what they refer to when looking for people to work for them.
If your paragraphs are all over the place with different spacing between them and different fonts and sized fonts all over the place, then this will look a mess to the reader. They will also wonder if you have copy and pasted some of the content and so question your credibility.
It is easy to keep the formatting simple. Times New Roman or Ariel font, font size 12 for the main body of the CV with a slightly larger font for your name if you wish. Consider printing it out before you send it off. Look at it. Are the spaces consistent? Can you see any obvious errors?
If you can, then the people you are sending it to most certainly will.
4. Employment gaps
If you have a gap in your CV, the hiring manager or recruiter will wonder why and often view it negatively. They will undoubtedly ask you about it during an interview.
It makes a lot of sense to write a one-liner explaining what you were doing during that time. It could be studying, contract work, freelance work, traveling, etc., but writing something is better than leaving it blank and perhaps leading them to put your CV on the reject pile.
5. Keeping details relevant
Most people have one CV and use it for every role that they apply for. What you should do is tailor your CV to the role that you are applying.
This is not embellishing the truth as we advised you against above, but instead, selecting accurate information to add to your duties and responsibilities relevant to the job. You won't be able to write down everything you studied or everything you have gained experience in, so you pinpoint the ones that the hiring manager will find most interesting.
You can also look on the company's website and see their code of conduct; what are the keywords that they use when describing what they look for in an employee on their recruitment pages? You can use some of these words in your CV to show how much of a match you are for the company. Just remember to tailor it when you apply for a different company.
Now that you know what not to do in your CV, don't forget to brush up on your finance skills and revise the key roles in finance with our Career Buddy videos to help you crack that finance interview and take your career forward.