With the economy being what it is, you can be sure if you apply for a job, your CV will be one of many that land on someone’s desk in a big heap. The bigger the heap, the less time the prospective employer will spend on scrutinising each one.

All people going through CVs assume that your CV reflects you putting your best foot forward. Dirty marks on the pages, spacing errors, spelling errors, and missing information all make them think you don’t really care about presentation and that you don’t really want the job.

Look on the internet to see what CV formats look like before you put yours together.

Also that you will be a sloppy employee who doesn’t follow instructions. Whether that is fair or not is beside the point – your CV is all they have to go on. That – and the letter of application that accompanies your CV.

Make sure you get the name of the person right to whom the letter is addressed, as well as the correct name (and possibly also the code or reference) of the position for which you are applying.

Also remember that prospective employers can look at your social media presence. Watch what you put on Facebook or Twitter or any other platform.

Steer clear of the following ten mistakes, which will see your job prospects disappear more swiftly than a R100-note lying in the gutter:

Getting the format wrong

As with clothing fashions, CV formats also undergo changes from time to time. Look on the internet to see what CV formats look like before you put yours together. Make sure the information is up to date, and not from a website last reviewed in 2009.

Ignoring instructions

If they want a scanned CV, don’t fax them yours. If they ask for a maximum number of two pages, stick to it. Get your CV in at least a day before the closing date. Making the cut-off point by minutes makes you look slightly disorganised.

If they ask for certified copies of qualifications or ID Book, make sure you send these. If someone has 100 CVs to go through, they are not going to chase after you to get the info they asked for in the first place.

Too much information

They wanted two pages, and you send them ten – that is the quickest way to land in the Definitely-not pile. Unless it is pertinent to the job, they really don’t care whether you got a self-defense certificate in Grade 11, or were a runner-up in the local singing competition.

Give the necessary info, and assume that if they want to know more about you, they will ask you if you get to the interview stage. Also rather don’t include glossy pics of yourself.

Spelling errors

This just looks plain sloppy, and is almost guaranteed to cut your chances of success down to zero. Where spelling errors often slip in is when someone is updating an existing CV to make it longer, or shorter, and it is not as carefully scrutinised as the original was before you sent it off.

Any hint of trouble with a previous employer

No employer wants to hire trouble. Even if you were in the right, never mention any problems/disciplinary actions/ sudden resignations/ disputes with a previous employer. If asked for a reason why you left a job, try and make it sound positive (needed a new challenge/always interested in this line of work) and never criticise someone who was your boss, or even your former colleagues. It makes you look like a troublemaker, even if it is completely untrue.

Unexplained gaps in your employment history

Few people don’t have a gap here or there when they were between jobs. Long gaps (a year or more) might be queried. If you were looking after a sick relative, or travelling, or you had health problems, or you helping your aunt with her triplets, say so.

If you spent a year doing nothing at all (not even volunteering for a charity) it doesn’t look good on paper, even though it might be the economy’s fault and not yours. Get involved at the library, or the animal shelter, or at your local school – even if it is once a week. This will impress employers, and help gloss over the times you were between jobs. 

Nothing creates a worse impression if the reference cannot remember who you are.

Insufficient qualifications

Don’t waste your time and money applying for a job if you are not qualified or experienced enough to fulfill the minimum requirements.


The days are over when people worked for the same company for decades, and slowly rose through the ranks. Movers and shakers do just that – they move.  But if you don’t stay anywhere for more than a year, it looks suspicious. Prospective employers might wonder whether you are a team player, whether you get on with your colleagues, and whether you do your fair share of work. It looks even more suspicious if you moved from a high-powered and well-paid job into something a lot less glamorous.

Read more: 6 things you need to know before you send your CV to a recruiter

References who are not expecting a call about you

This is a killer. It is essential that you ask permission from the people you put up as references, and that you warn them that they might be getting a call. Nothing creates a worse impression if the reference cannot remember who you are.

Big glossy photos

If you must put in a photo, make it no more than passport size. For most jobs you are being hired for your skills, not your looks. Rather don’t send photos or portfolios unless you are specifically asked to do so (such as for a modelling assignment or a job in graphic design).