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What Are The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make Before Sending Out Their CV?

So, the time has come when you either need to look for a new job, due to redundancy or you decide the time is right for a fresh challenge or a change of career.

What is your first step?

Do you immediately dust off your CV, consider updating it, adding relevant new information, then fire it out to as many companies, organisations, recruitment agencies and job boards as possible? Does this approach sound familiar?

The ‘scattergun’ approach

People often contact me asking to help them re-write their CV’s. Although this sounds positive and proactive, it’s also one of the biggest mistakes that many job seekers make.


Because, just updating and re-writing your CV and ‘blasting it out in cyberspace to the universe’ is unlikely to get you on the interview ‘YES’ pile, without first taking stock.

This is what I call a classic ‘scattergun’ approach and is unfortunately very typical. I have written about the ‘scattergun’ many times in my Career & Personal Development books, articles in Trade journals, blogs and discussed this on radio and podcast interviews, over the years. A recent experience has yet again triggered my motivation for this blog.

Before the CV

I learnt to challenge this typical job search approach, many years ago, when I was an associate for a well-respected Outplacement/Career Management provider. The usual first client session was to help the person rewrite their CV. In most cases their CV was way out of date or just dire, so clients went along with the process, as they didn’t know any different.

So, what is wrong with this approach, I hear you say?

Three main reasons:

  1. Unless you have clearly established and understood what your career objective is and why, you are shooting in the dark and you can’t hit a target you can’t see, can you? Your why’ is your purpose and will always be your key driver and call to action, so needs to be your focus
  2. Most people have very poor self-awareness of ‘who they are and what they have to offer’ an employer. You may be aware of some of your key skills but little else, so this makes it mighty difficult to sell yourself in the best light
  3. This leads onto the third reason, which is often ‘hidden’ and something that should be established immediately to ensure time, cost and energy are spent in the most productive way for the client and Career Coach…

I started asking people in advance of their ‘CV Session’ “do you want to do more of the same and secure a similar job or is it time to consider a career change?”

Invariably, there would be a stunned silence or an intake of breath, followed by ‘, maybe it is time for a change’. Great, so we now know the key objective, in which case there is absolutely no point in wasting time on your CV, at this initial stage. CV’s and LinkedIn profiles will become much more important, further down the line.

Even if you are applying for similar jobs, if your CV is lacking in impact and not selling you in the best light, I guarantee that a quick dust down and revamp, is unlikely to make a huge difference. 

What if you are unsure about various job opportunities and want to keep your options open?

This is quite common, from my experience. However, we are back to the key issue in point 1. I’m a firm believer that “success goes where your energy flows”. Therefore, establishing and having clarity on your ‘why’ will help you focus on what is important to be able to target specific jobs more effectively. But we are still missing a key ingredient to ensure you create maximum impact with your job search!

Establishing your true marketability

‘Marketable’ means that you are a sought-after commodity and in demand. Your true marketability is the term I give to the value you offer an employer in relation to your ‘complete package’.

I liken this to the typical iceberg analogy i.e. what you can see (mainly obvious key skills) is only the tip of the iceberg but ‘ what lies beneath’ is much bigger, hidden and should be explored.  

Skills are undeniably important and a vital ingredient for success in all job roles. For some jobs, the more specific or the more transferable the skills, the better. Specialist, technical or clinical jobs, having exactly the right skill set and proven ability to do the role could certainly be the determining factor. Regardless, skills alone do not provide the full picture of the person, do they?

What does ‘lie beneath’ that you have ‘for sale’?

It is a fact that most skills can be learnt or developed, and many skills are portable so can be transferred into other jobs or careers. So, what else ‘lies beneath’ that you have ‘for sale’ to help establish your true marketability’, so you will become a stronger candidate for the right jobs?

This list will help you along the way:

Your full range of skills and competencies, not just obvious ones

  • Natural talents
  • Personal attributes/ attitude
  • Knowledge base
  • Strengths
  • Achievements
  • Network of contacts
  • Reputation / Personal Brand
  • Personal Values
  • Passions

I’m sure you will now agree that by establishing your true marketability, is an infinitely more powerful proposition than just focusing on your skills, when looking for your next job.

Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude! 

I love this quote from the late, great Personal Development guru, Zig Ziglar. I have proven it to be true, time and again with clients and friends to help them secure jobs they never expected, when on paper they were not the ‘ideal candidate’.

Enthusiasm, determination, passion, willingness to learn and a positive ‘can do’ attitude can leapfrog you over the competition, even when they have more experience and ‘better skills’, as these can add real value to the job and organisation.

By establishing your true marketability, you can really sell and market yourself, much more effectively and with greater confidence and self-belief.

Back to Your CV – Imagine the scenario…

Two CV’s landing on an employer or recruiter’s desk, one is purely skills focused and the other really brings you to life in a very positive and powerful way so your personality, work ethic, career objectives, achievements and energy leap off the page. Unless the skill level is the only pre-requisite who are you going to invite to interview?

How to stand out from the crowd

I trust you will now resist the temptation to fire out your CV before having followed these steps. Developing an in-depth self-awareness of what you are looking to achieve in your career, along with establishing and understanding your true marketability will help provide focus and clarity to ensure that you apply for the right jobs and sell yourself in the best light, not just on your CV but also LinkedIn profile and in any networking or interview situations, setting you up for a successful and fulfilling career 😊.

Steve Preston is known as The Career Catalyst ®. A leading Career Coach to professionals and executives, the Career Coach’s Coach, MD of specialist Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltdmotivational speaker and Internationally acclaimed Author of Career and Personal Development books and products, including Portfolio Careers – How to Work for Passion, Pleasure & Profit, Winning Through Career Change – Six Steps to Navigate your way to a Brighter Future and Winning Through Redundancy.