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The worst CV mistakes, according to Google’s HR chief

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HC Online | 22 Sep 2014, 12:17 PM Agree 0
He's viewed more than 20,000 CVs, so what mistakes does Google’s chief of HR Laszlo Bock consider to be the worst?
  • Louise | 22 Sep 2014, 01:34 PM Agree 0
    I always consider the email address they have provided. I am always concerned when people use a work email address, particularly when they also say they want their application treated in confidence. And if it's an email address like "" (I didn't make that up) for a corporate job, it's straight in the no thanks pile.
  • caca | 22 Sep 2014, 02:51 PM Agree 0
    My favorite is when the cover letter has a different job/company noted so obviously just recycled.
    I get quite a few follow up emails from people who don't have a great grasp on English that say things like, 'i got job?' or 'when do i get respons from u yet....'
    Then they ask for feedback and you think there really doesn't need to be a conversation.
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 22 Sep 2014, 03:11 PM Agree 0
    While I certainly agree with most of the ideas expressed by Mr Bock from Google, such as the need for absolute accuracy, no typos, good formatting, honesty etc, I do think the article contains one unhelpful generalization. While brevity, or at least succinctness, is generally a sensible goal, to say that one page per 10 years of experience is a good "rule of thumb", is inaccurate in many settings. Maybe at Google this fits the culture and requirements, but many organisations in other sectors and industries, such as large banks, the public sector, academic organisations, international organisations etc, might well see this as insufficient coverage of what a person has done. It could then be misinterpreted as laziness, lack of attention to important detail, or simply that the person has not done much that is worth mentioning ! While some organisations, perhaps in areas such as marketing and perhaps IT (?) do look for the "snappy grabber" in an application, many others are more interested in knowing exactly what the person has done in the past. CVs have to be carefully crafted so as to target the particular role, organisation, industry and sector in which the vacant position exists. The goal is to achieve a form of CV which appeals to senior managers who make selection decisions in that particular situation. Applicants are better advised to seek specific advice on that rather than going for any rule of thumb CV. That is why I do not think these generalizations are helpful to a lot of potential applicants. I make these observations having been a practitioner in HRM for over 30 years including a Director of HRM in several large organisations, followed now by over 20 years as an academic in this and associated areas of people management.
  • Lizzie | 23 Sep 2014, 08:13 AM Agree 0
    I am always amazed at the number of non-specific and obtuse CVs we get. The best CVs make it easy for me to see why they are right for the job. I shouldn't have to dig and make inferences from what they have provided. If we want significant experience using InDesign, tell me about it!
  • Michael | 23 Sep 2014, 01:33 PM Agree 0
    I love that Dr Arthur Shacklock argues against brevity with what is arguably one of the longest comment posts I've ever seen on these pages.
  • caca | 23 Sep 2014, 02:29 PM Agree 0
    I like your observation Michael.

    In response to @Dr Arthur Shacklock - that one page rule is specifically for the US. In truth, I think most Recruitment professionals will highly prefer 1-2 pages over the 4+ pages I often get(more often from those 1 yr out of Uni) that I get bored reading through to find their suitability.
    One - two pages is more than enough for most people. No need to repeat skills you already learned in a previous job over and over again.
    Also, if there are many data points to note (ie: Generated 3 million revenue for FY2012, Managed 12 high level analyst, won the Gatsby award, etc - then perhaps as an extension to a resume there is a Selection Criteria or something like that depending on the job.
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 24 Sep 2014, 01:50 PM Agree 0
    Michael, Clearly you did not even read, or did not understand (?), what I said. I did not at any stage argue against brevity. In fact I referred to it as a "sensible goal". But not with any "rule of thumb" about it, that works in every situation.

  • Georgie D | 26 Sep 2014, 02:58 PM Agree 0
    The whole point about writing a CV is to inform the person hiring what they have accomplished over a period of time. This may be 1-5 years or maybe even 18 plus years in the work force. The person may have come up the ranks and should show the number of skills that they have acquired and accomplished further education this too should be noted. Whether the CV is one or 10 pages all is important to analysis. Yes it takes time to read and valuate the candidate otherwise your hiring a monkey.

    Dr Arthur Shacklock is correct.

  • caca | 30 Sep 2014, 03:15 PM Agree 0
    @Georgie - Although you are correct in that the length is not one size fits all, it really is meant to be a brief summary as to why the candidate fits for the role being recruited for.

    The interview is when you really get into one's accomplishments.
    Unfortunately there's not enough recruitment staff to actually take the time to read through every page of every candidate that applies for a job.
    Brevity and getting to the point are king.
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 01 Oct 2014, 07:09 AM Agree 0
    Yes I agree with Georgie, that CVs should be as brief as possible, but that they do need to fully reflect the range and length of one's experience, development, education etc. The other thing that may well be worth debating here is the fact that the applied research overwhelmingly, suggests that the interview, which is still used as a major part of the selection process, is in fact highly ineffective as a means of assess a candidate's deeper skills. The jury is not out on this at all, even when interviews are "done well", e.g.: using well-designed and sharply targeted behavioural questions.
    Secondly, the proper and effective use of referee reporting is, I think, where we really get it wrong. I have always said, as an applicant, but also as a requirement, that any applicant should agree that the organisation doing the selecting should be able to reserve the right to go to anyone, not just to those that the candidate has nominated, for a view on their past performance. I include in that, previous and current bosses, peers, subordinates, clients etc. I think this should be much more extensive than it usually is, to round out what is after all a fairly imprecise process. If we are having scant CVs, over-relying on the interview and not checking with others to the fullest extent possible, then it does not auger well for successful selection processes. I know the arguments against referee reports and that is why I use/suggest the above open-ended back-checking. If a candidate is worried about what might be said by someone, then that sends a worrying signal right there. Many times, if we asked the prior subordinates or peers of applicants for managerial roles, there is no way we would pick them to manage our people !
  • Georgie D | 01 Oct 2014, 08:48 AM Agree 0
    I’m not telling you how to suck eggs here.

    There are two forms of documents that can be presented to a recruiter / potential employer. They are a résumé and curriculum vitae (CV), both of these documents have there reasons and specifics.

    A typical résumé contains a summary of relevant job experience and education and is presented with a cover letter for employment.

    Whilst a CV is also used as a summary for a job seeker generally this document is lengthy. The CV is used in academic circles, medical, engineering careers and other specific areas as a "replacement" for a résumé as this is far more comprehensive and it elaborates on employment history, qualifications, education, publications, and other achievements to a greater degree than a résumé, but it is often expected that professionals use a short form of a CV that highlights the current focus of their academic lives and not necessarily their full history.

    Again, I’m not telling you anything new but unless you as the HR manager / recruiter seriously know what the organisation and the manager recruiting for the position to be filled knows what they want first, only then you can decide what document is required to identify the candidate for that position. It’s your role to drill down as to what is required for that job. Job descriptions these days are too fluffy with extras saying, “and as directed from time to time”.

    If you don’t have the time to read the document/s then you need to find extra assistance or seek a career elsewhere.

    I hold a Master of Business in Human Resource Management.
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 01 Oct 2014, 11:57 AM Agree 0
    Hi Casa, I totally agree and you have explained it well. Many thanks.
    Arthur S.
  • caca | 01 Oct 2014, 12:41 PM Agree 0
    @Georgie -
    I'm not sure why you would add to the bottom of a comment - 'I hold a Master of Business in Human Resource Management.'
  • Margie | 01 Oct 2014, 12:52 PM Agree 0
    I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that caca is young and Dr Arthur Shacklock and Georgie D are of the older generation. The credential at the end of Georgie's comment was a big giveaway.

    Older workers feel insulted that a work history at their age can be condensed to just a few pages. Sometimes they are right and sometimes it's pride.
    Younger workers think that recruiters, HR, hiring managers will more than likely not take an extended period of time to read your resume, CV or cover letter. This is accurate in the majority of organisations currently.
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 01 Oct 2014, 02:13 PM Agree 0
    Well your guess is a good one in my own case. However, I do know that my MBA students who have been much younger get frustrated by what they see as "shallow selection processes" that they feel do not do justice to their skills and experience, even if that is 10 years or less.
  • Georgie D | 01 Oct 2014, 11:53 PM Agree 0
    It doesn't matter what my age is, the point is to recruit the right person for the position and get the results that's required for the organization in the shortest time possible.

    If you employ the right person you save the organization thousands of dollars because hiring the wrong person will cost more and even possibly damage the organization.

    You didn't make a comment about Dr Arthur Shacklock credential's yet you comment about mine. I could have added more but felt providing one would be enough. ie one page resume.

    Don't you provide your title or qualifications?

  • Renie | 02 Oct 2014, 11:29 AM Agree 0
    Adding a little comment here - I have recently received applications including a brief resume; and stating that "a full and detailed CV is available on request". I have found this to be sensible and helpful; and I wonder if it is a new trend. It quickly points me in the right direction for relevant experience; and then I ask the applicant to bring their CV to interview.
  • Helen Smith | 09 Oct 2014, 06:38 AM Agree 0
    Interesting that the number 1 red flag is "typos".
    In almost every article presented there are a multitude of "grammar" if not "typos".
    Sorry....just saying
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 09 Oct 2014, 07:43 AM Agree 0
    While this is not a contest on who has the best grammar and CVs must be much more strict about this than online chats, I'd be interested for you to point out the grammatical errors in the para quoted from my earlier statement, except maybe for a few optional commas, which always depends upon which school you went to anyway. Thanks.
  • Renie | 09 Oct 2014, 10:11 AM Agree 0
    ...."there IS a multitude of grammar mistakes?"
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 09 Oct 2014, 01:55 PM Agree 0
    Well point them out then !!
  • Margie | 09 Oct 2014, 03:22 PM Agree 0
    @Georgie Do you regularly leave qualification on your comments in forums? Do you see yourself as more valuable to a discussion than anyone else?

    That is how it comes across. As if it to dismiss others.

    I'll tell you what, in my years I've noticed that an advanced degree doesn't mean much without the current experience to accompany it.
  • Georgie D | 09 Oct 2014, 03:43 PM Agree 0
    I'm offering you the same opportunity as I’ve just had and that is reading this article. Good luck.
    It will be interesting to read the next instalment of feedback.
  • Michael | 10 Oct 2014, 09:01 AM Agree 0
    I think the typos and grammar mistakes referred to are largely directed at the comments left by Georgie D. Georgie proclaims a Master of Business in Human Resource Management and refers us to a Linked In article which lists typos as the number one mistake on resumes. Despite this Georgie D seems unable to avoid littering most of his / her comments with grammatical errors and typos. I suggest, Georgie D, that you proof read your own resume before submitting it anywhere. And to quote from one of your own comments: “If you don’t have the time to read the document/s then you need to find extra assistance or seek a career elsewhere.“
  • Renie | 10 Oct 2014, 09:35 AM Agree 0
    @Arthur - I was merely pointing out that Helen Smith had also made a grammar mistake in her "just saying" comment. She wrote "there ARE a multitude" instead of "there IS a multitude". No offence - just a light hearted comment!
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 10 Oct 2014, 01:15 PM Agree 0
    Hi Renie, Thanks for that feedback. I wasn't sure what you were referring to, but all clear now. Yep, I agree, let's keep it friendly and light-hearted. Regards.
  • Katy Jordan | 31 Dec 2014, 10:47 AM Agree 0
    Great article, thanks!! I wonder what employers think about these mistakes? I'd like to hear more from recruiters about job interview and what common resume mistakes should be avoided. By the way I know that a vast majority of employers say that they are influenced by a resume with impressive cover letter. I like reading about professional resumes format,writing and editing CV, cover letter on various reliable professional resume writing services, like that provided with complete information about these essential documents.
  • Stuart | 29 Jan 2015, 06:36 PM Agree 0
    Should Cvs' be in PDF format or not? For security reasons I hav ebeentold to submit in PDF and not Word. Advice in this regard would be appreciated. Thank you
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 30 Jan 2015, 09:54 AM Agree 0
    Hi Folks,
    I used to think this too, i.e.: that a PDF was more secure, but these days I doubt if it matters much. Someone (not sure who would ?) could change a Word doc CV more easily, but it is simple nowadays to save a PDF as TXT and change it and re-save it in Word, if someone you really wanted to do that. In fact I think there is even software now which does the straight conversion from PDF to Word. But it all begs the question: who would want to sabotage a CV anyway ? Unless they were in HRM and had applied for the same job, in which case they should not be handling the selection papers anyway. So I doubt if it really matters much which you use.
  • Deb | 30 Jan 2015, 10:40 AM Agree 0
    I prefer to send and receive CVs in PDF as they have locked formatting - you can control how they print. Word documents reformat for each printer - often I print a Word CV received via email and the formatting is off - headings separated from detail, etc. Doesn't look good
  • Stuart | 30 Jan 2015, 09:17 PM Agree 0
    @ Arthur, Deb.
    Thank you for the advice. It is appreciated.
    Hre in South Africa everyone is so security conscious.
  • Elwell | 13 Feb 2015, 06:07 PM Agree 0
    I've read some good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you place to make the sort of great informative site.
  • | 22 Jan 2016, 10:59 PM Agree 0
    A CV reveals so much about the applicant. It is actually frighting if you receive CV's for a position and by the way the candidate present him/herself in the CV through spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, "slang" language or using the abbreviation "etc" immediately directs the CV to file "13" for me. Take care of your CV, its your first and only chance to make a good first impression.
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