2019’s Most Common Graduate CV Mistakes


The reality for many graduates is that when they finish their course, they’ll immediately need to begin applying for their very first full-time role.

The problem is, that there’s a lot of competition for each and every graduate job advertised – to stand a chance against the masses, you need a perfectly written, impactful CV. There’s no room for silly mistakes!

Here are the most common graduate CV mistakes and how to avoid them:

Using a generic, recycled CV

With there being such high volumes of applicants for each graduate job, you’re likely to find that you need to apply for numerous jobs before you find ‘the one’.

For this reason, you may think that it’s fine to send the same, generic CV each time you apply for a different role. But using this approach will lead recruiters to think that you’re not as eager to work specifically for them as other applicants are – at least, the ones who bothered to tailor their CV to the role!

Recycling your CV is a huge mistake, so take the time to tailor your CV for every role you apply for by matching your skills and experience to the job requirements.

Underestimating the importance of language 

When there is a limited number of interview places up for grabs, every aspect of your CV must be perfect, and this is particularly important in regards to the language used in your CV.

As well as making sure that there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes, you should take care not to use unnecessary clichés which add no value. You’re a “hardworking team player”? Well then, you should probably give recruiters a reason (such as a tangible example or achievement) to believe you!

Graduates often use complex, industry-specific jargon, too. Whilst you may believe that technical language will impress recruiters, the first people that read their CV is likely to be the recruitment team. They may have limited specialist industry knowledge, so packing your CV with an overload of jargon is pointless – after all, they may not even understand it!

Thinking it’s okay to lie

Don’t be tempted to over-exaggerate your skills or work experience. When it comes to the interview, you could get caught out when they ask you for more details – which will not only be embarrassing but could also ruin your chances with the company altogether.

It’s best to be honest about a lack of experience or skills and, rather, show that you’re eager to learn them and willing to put in the hard work. Your personal statement and cover letter are the best places to do this.

Packing it with unproven claims 

Similarly, unproven claims are not at all credible. Ideally, you should fill your CV with facts and figures to solidify your potential to recruiters. Use real examples and results from any work experience and your education – for example:

  • Graduated with a first-class honours degree with a grade average of 89%.
  • Increased online sales by 17% over a six-month period.
  • Resolved 95% of customer enquiries and complaints.

Failing to acknowledge gaps in employment

If you’re one of the many students that took a gap year during or after University, then don’t leave the details out.

Any gap in employment or education should be addressed in your CV, even if you were travelling. If you fail to acknowledge it, recruiters may become suspicious and chuck your application straight in the ‘no’ pile. You may even be able to use the gap period to your advantage if you can pinpoint transferable skills or experience you developed in that time through volunteering or part-time work.

Don’t make one of these common graduate CV mistakes! By taking the time to create a polished, targeted and results-focused CV with no mistakes in sight, you’ll significantly increase your chances of winning an interview. Good luck!

About the Author

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV– he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.


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