Nearly 9 in 10 UK jobseekers are making at least one avoidable mistake in their CVs, according to new research by smarter job search engine Adzuna, with evidence showing Brits are getting sloppier at double checking their applications. In the current tightening jobs market, these mistakes could be the difference between landing an interview and being automatically rejected.
Adzuna analysed over 267,000 UK CVs uploaded to ValueMyCV in March 2023 to highlight the most common errors made in job applications. Each CV was parsed using semantic text-mining technology to extract full work history, years of work experience, contact details, and key skills. Location data and keyword analysis highlighted trends in regional applications.
87% of CVs contain at least one mistake
Of the 267,140 CVs analysed, a mere 13% (35,071 CVs) were flawless. The majority (232,069 CVs) contained at least one mistake. Compared to a year ago, Brits are getting sloppier fast when writing their CVs. Fewer than 100,000 CVs (62%, 91,931 CVs) analysed in 2022 contained one or more errors, and only 5,011 CVs (3%) contained 20 or more spelling slip ups.
Alarmingly, this year, 99,716 CVs (37%) contained 5 or more errors, and 4% (10,717 CVs) contained 20 or more mistakes.
Most job applicants with failing CVs made spelling mistakes, with nearly 762,000 misspellings spotted in the CVs analysed. Close to a third forgot to add a personal summary highlighting their strengths and career ambitions (33%), submitted their application without a valid postal address (29%), or had unexplained employment gaps which could become a red flag for many potential employers (29%). If a jobseeker has a gap of more than a month on their CVs, they should provide context to clarify why they need to take the time off and highlight any skills and experience they gained during the gaps.
Other common jobseeker mistakes are improper CV length (22%) and using an inappropriate file name (16%). This means that they included words such as “draft,” “V2,” “untitled” or “document” in the file name, which leaves a thoughtless and unprofessional impression. An ideal CV should have a filename that includes the applicant’s surname and the word “CV,” for example “John Smith CV,” so that a recruiter or hiring manager can locate the document quickly and easily.
A handful of jobseekers failed to provide vital contact information in their CVs such as phone number (10%) and email address (5%), and some were overusing capital letters (5%) which are harder to read than lowercase letters.
Top 10 most commonly misspelt words
Using American English was revealed as a common pitfall, with the 10 most frequent spelling fails all based on the incorrect use of American English spelling (see Table 2a) – for example, using a “z” instead of an “s”. The top most common misspellings are “organisation”, “analyse”, “optimise”, “centre”, and “utilising”.
In addition to unfitting American spellings, many jobseekers are often confused with the spacing in words, such as “skill set”, “cash flow”, “in-house”, “ad hoc”, and “up to”. (see Table 2b)
Uncountable nouns are also proving tricky to many Brits. As seen in many CVs, many add an unnecessary “-s” after uncountable nouns (see Table 2c). The eminently forgettable uncountable nouns are “equipment”, “software”, and “feedback”.
Other frequent spelling fails include omitting or adding an unnecessary letter(s) to words, such as “transferrable”, “anagram”, “communicate”, “marketing”, and “client”. (see Table 2d)
Interestingly, a significant number of jobseekers have trouble spelling or capitalising the first letter of some months correctly, especially for “September”, “October” and “February”. Meanwhile, many are also adding a needless “the” in front of months.
London and Oxbridge regions harbour the sloppiest illiterates
Londoners are most prone to making mistakes on their CV (see Table 3). Despite being the cradle of Oxford University and Cambridge University, jobseekers in the South East and Eastern England tend to make most mistakes. By contrast, jobseekers in Northern Ireland made the fewest CV errors, while those from the North East and South West also proved more fastidious.
Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, comments: “One CV mistake and your application can go straight into the virtual bin. In today’s tightening jobs market, it’s concerning to find that jobseekers are making CV mistakes that can easily be avoided and that these errors are becoming more prevalent. Having an error-free CV demonstrates to your future employers that you are meticulous and pay attention to details. Run a spell check and take the time to double-check everything before submitting your CV. Don’t let a CV error cost you an interview opportunity and even a job.”
Jobseekers looking to perfect their applications can use Adzuna’s CV checker tool. ValueMyCV automatically checks CVs for common mistakes so jobseekers can get their CVs battle ready and secure more interviews.
Table 1: Top 10 most common CV errors in the UK
RankingCommon CV mistakes1Spelling mistakes2Lack of personal summary3Missing or invalid postal address4Gaps in employment history5CV too long or too short6Inappropriate file name7Invalid or omitted phone number8Invalid or omitted email address9Excessive uppercase
Table 2a: The most misspelt words in British CVs
RankingMost commonly misspelt words Common misspellings 1OrganisationOrganization2AnalyseAnalyze3OptimiseOptimize4CentreCenter5UtilisingUtilizing6MaximiseMaximize7TrainingTrainings8ModellingModeling9BehaviourBehavior10VisualisationVisualization
Table 2b: Top words with erroneous spaces in British CVs
RankingTop words with erroneous spaces in British CVsTheir common misspellings 1skill setskillset2cash flowcashflow3in-houseinhouse4ad hocadhoc5up toupto6company widecompanywide7in storeinstore8walk-throughswalkthroughs9as wellaswell10sign offsignoff
Table 2c: Most commonly misspelt uncountable nouns in British CVs
RankingMost commonly misspelt uncountable nouns1equipment2software3feedback4legislation5compliance6conformance7advice
Table 2d: Top words with missing and extra letter(s) in British CVs
RankingMost commonly misspelt words Their common misspellings 1transferabletransferrable2anagramanagem3communicatecommunica4marketingarketing5clientcient6paediatricpediatric7empatheticempathic8liaisingliasing9skillsskils10managementmanagment
Table 3: Top 5 regions for CV spelling errors
RankingRegion with most CV errors1London2South East England3Eastern England4North West England5West Midlands