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

by HCA22 Sep 2014
Google’s chief of HR, Laszlo Bock, says he has personally viewed more than 20,000 CVs in his career, so it's fairly safe to assume he knows a thing or two about what makes a good, or bad, CV.

Bock, who heads People Operations at Google, recently shared with LinkedIn followers the most common mistakes he sees on CVs.
For the HR expert, typos are the number one red flag on a CV and one that keeps happening far too often. In fact, he mentions a 2013 CareerBuilder survey that found that as many as 58 per cent of CVs contain typos.
“People who tweak their resumes the most carefully can be especially vulnerable to this kind of error, because they often result from going back again and again to fine tune your resume just one last time. And in doing so, a subject and verb suddenly don’t match up, or a period is left in the wrong place, or a set of dates gets knocked out of alignment,” says Bock.

“Typos are deadly because employers interpret them as a lack of detail-orientation, as a failure to care about quality,” he adds.
According to Bock, lengthy CVs should also be on an HR manager's rejection list. The rule of thumb, he says, is one page per 10 years of work experience. Formatting is also a big issue, as he says many CVs aren’t clean or even legible enough.
Bock has also come across CVs revealing confidential company information which, in his opinion, should also mean instant rejection. Lastly, he says HR managers should turn down any CVs with blatant lies. In the age of the internet, any lies can easily be uncovered.
In the opinion of Google’s head of HR, these are the things that can send a CV straight to the recycling bin. What do you look for in a good CV?


  • by Louise 22/09/2014 1:34:13 PM

    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.

  • by caca 22/09/2014 2:51:39 PM

    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.

  • by Dr Arthur Shacklock 22/09/2014 3:11:25 PM

    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.

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