Why even top techies can't make CV typos

It wasn’t going to be one of the steps I was definitely planning to include in my CV masterclass for ContractorUK readers next Tuesday, because it’s rather obvious.

But for the avoidance of doubt, writes Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors, spelling correctly and spell-checking is a tad fundamental when it comes to your CV.

There’s no point in me arming with you detailed instructions on how to create each key section of your contractor CV, as I’ll do on January 29th, if whoever reads it doesn’t get beyond your ‘Profile’ because a spelling clanger puts them off from reading any further!

The incidence of literals in CVs is so high, at least according to one recent study, that it’s possible recruiters and end-clients might eventually need to relax their standards. That’s if this trend continues but for now, I’d assert that having spelling errors in your CV is a sure-fire way to spoil your chances of getting to the interview, bid, tender or client-meeting stage. Probably the quickest way in fact.

The justification

For some really technically-sharp freelance techies who let like to let their programming skills do the contract-winning, it might be tempting to wonder what all the fuss is about. They might think, “Who cares about ‘i before e…’ if my skills are so in-demand I can’t catch a break between contracts?” Well, it will likely catch up with you, or your reputation one way or the other.

The problem

Let’s say you are a developer going forward for a programming role. If a hiring manager sees a spelling error in your CV, would it be fair for them to assume that you may make errors in your code? I would say so! You work in a detail-orientated environment where mistakes can have a big impact on your client’s business. If YOU were selecting for a shortlist, would you put through the meticulous or the slightly sloppy?

Some realism is of course required. I of all people know how easy it is to make mistakes -- my company writes approximately 100 CVs every month and I know for a fact that there has been the odd occasion where a CV has gone through our quality control process but still managed to hide a spelling or formatting error. Wherever there are human beings, there are errors -- but we should strive to keep these to an absolute minimum.

Spelling is perhaps a little thing, but it’s an important thing and it’s often unforgiven by fastidious agents or hiring managers because it’s also an easy thing to fix.

The disconnect? It’s stark  

Spelling errors aside, CVs in general are still very prone to missing the mark. A trusted contact of mine who is a senior manager within one of the UK’s leading high-end recruitment businesses surveyed his team, and let on to me last week that more than 80% of CVs that they had received for ‘Executive’ openings are either weak or need improvement.

I have also seen some research by a national newspaper that found that 83% of job-seekers thought their CV needed to be two pages. Compare that to the 76% of recruiters who disagreed! It just goes to show the stark disconnect that exists between what recruiters and hiring managers need from a CV, as opposed to what they receive from candidates.

Must try harder

The cold hard truth is that too many job and contract-seekers alike place far too little emphasis on the unique importance of their CV. Combined with a LinkedIn profile, there is very little else that can influence an agent’s or hirer ’s decision. Your CV and LinkedIn profile are as important as your company’s website, and in most situations, they are your primary tool for winning work. They convey that all-important first, lasting impression -- even before your shiny website gets a look-in. And poor spelling can stop that look-in from happening altogether.

Common mistakes

Other than spelling, typical flaws in CVs include ambiguous positioning, the use of clichéd skills (rather than homing in on the skills that clients are really looking for), and a lack of tangible achievements.

The key to a killer CV for the contract market is to tailor the positioning to each opportunity or contract you are pitching for, to highlight the skills that are most important for that opportunity, and to back everything up with tangible, measurable and statistical evidence that you have delivered positive outcomes or / and business benefits.

Help is at hand

For my deeper insights and how your own CV measures up to them, why not submit your CV for a free 1-2-1 appraisal here? You can also register for the free CV-building workshop on January 29th at 7.15pm, due to reveal detailed instructions on how to create each key section of your CV, here.


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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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