Challenging the Myths of CV Writing

By David Smith

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In my time as a CV writer, I have heard many things to describe what we CV writers do, and it ranges from ‘not a true science’ to ‘a dark art’. I really like the latter one, it brings out the Sith lord in me.

Sith Lord 

Seriously though, CV writing is such a personal thing that it could be easily be construed as art. Actually, I like to think of it as part-science, part-art, part-engineering, part-tailoring!

Because of the variable factors, namely, people have a unique skill-set, coupled with the fact that organisations demand talent of varying degrees.

Throw into the mix, geography, personal circumstances, salary expectations, age, level of experience; you end up with a pretty complex equation.

Addressing the ‘science’ aspect of CV writing, it is said that ‘Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths…’ So, with that in mind, here are six CV myths that must be challenged. A great start to removing some of the multitude of variables and making your job search journey as uncomplicated as possible.

Mud – Wall….Wall – Mud…!

Projecting a sufficient quantity of moist soil at a stone/brick/plasterboard partition in the hope that some part of it will become permanently affixed to such an edifice may well work in the real world, it most certainly does not equate to finding a job.

Copying and pasting the same CV and covering letter for every single vacancy you see will not work – just because you see an ideal job specification, that you know in your heart you would be ideal for, doesn’t mean to say that the recruiter will know you are the perfect candidate – you have to reflect the experience, skills and qualifications [perhaps with a little garnish or frosting to seal the deal] within your CV – take your pick from the following statements. ‘Quality not quantity’ - ‘Less is more’ – ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’.

Déjà Vu


If you have been in the same job, or same industry for a number of years, you might start to see the same words pop up throughout your CV, or in the case of a person who has had a similar job but with a number of different organisations, it can be hard to vary the language. The end result can start to feel a little repetitive.

I did some work for a contractor who moved around two or three times per year, highly skilled at what he does, which is why he is always in work. However, his original CV was excessive in length, more than ten pages.

This can all be streamlined into a section that captures your main skill-set. You may have to summarise more in your career profile, but the overall effect will be much less ‘glitch in the matrix’!  

No-one has the Time to Check ALL the Facts….

Oh but the facts will be checked! If your CV makes the cut through whatever keyword grinding software is being used, the checking process begins, and as your application proceeds toward the inevitable offer of a job, the checking will become more……stringent!

It will start with your references, next comes your Facebook or Twitter feed, to verify whether the person they have on paper corresponds with who you are IRL. Recruiting is an expensive and time-consuming business, when it comes to candidate selection, recruiters are even more than ever, measuring twice and cutting once. I have even heard of Linkedin profiles and personal blogs being vetted, not looking for radical behaviour, just seeing if you would be a good fit.

Obvious…but Google yourself, are you happy with what you find?

 I’ll Just List Everything!

‘The Recruiter will just go through everything in my CV and see where I will be a good fit….right?' Wrong! Listing absolutely everything you have done back to the 1970s is not the way to go. Firstly, for some ATS, excessive word-count is a knockout factor, secondly, a CV Carpet Bomb is hardly targeting a CV at the vacancy specifications, and thirdly, recruiters are not known for their propensity to scroll through a CV of Bayeux Tapestry proportions.

Trim, crop, tailor!

I’ll Show my ‘Outside the Box’ Thinking…


I’m all in favour of showing [in real, measurable terms] how creative and innovative you are, but there is a fine line between ‘outside the box’ and ‘out of your box’!

Random and multi-coloured fonts, vertical text, images [with the exception of when a photo is necessary], logos, watermarks…I have seen my fair share of CVs that are a little off the beaten track, so be careful if you have this in mind.

There has to be a very good reason why you would do any of this, and I have seen some wonderful examples. For example, for a web developer, a website that portrays the skills of the developer as a CV, I have seen graphic designers demonstrate their skills in their CV. These are all amazing, but just keep a couple of things in mind. Most Applicant Tracking Systems expect to see a text-only file, they may be able to handle some basic formatting within a file, but nothing will throw a digital spanner into the works quicker than a file that is full of tables, grids, charts, Jpegs and so forth, so give it what it wants.

Having said that, if your skill-set does warrant such artistry, do it! Just make sure it is going direct to a person…you know…a human being…he or she is more likely to be impressed than the cold, unreasoning lines of code embedded in a piece of software.

Surely it is Easier if I Just Download a Template?

Pardon me while I give you a gentle Biff Tannen-style knock on the head, and roar a sarcastic ‘Hello!!!???’ in your ear. Whoever said you can use a shortcut in your job search?

I’m joking of course, I have seen some excellent templates available online, but I would encourage some caution if you decide to do this.

Going back to the previous section, make sure there is no weird formatting within the temple that could de-rail the ATS process, also, make sure the template doesn’t contain data points that are irrelevant on a CV in the geographical region you are applying for work. To give you an example, a student I once worked with had downloaded a helpful template that contained data fields to include her date of birth, nationality and marital status. Perhaps she had downloaded it from 1985?

Also worth considering is the layout of the template, does it use more premium space than it needs to, is the default font an acceptable one? Personally, I use a bespoke layout for every CV I produce, but that’s just me…just make sure you don’t cut corners that you can’t afford to cut.

This is just a sample of myths that I wanted to challenge, there are others. If you have any concerns about your current CV, feel free to send it to me for a free Health Check, you can also connect via Linkedin or Twitter, or just get in touch for a chat, I really, really appreciate feedback!!

David Smith [that's me] is a Professional CV Writer | Linkedin Builder and Optimiser and Job Search Coach with, I am not very photogenic, I think I should limit the number of times my image should appear online, so feel free to visit my Linkedin profile if you feel a burning desire to put a face to a name!






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