4th Nov 15
Everyone wants their CV to stand out from the crowd, but there are some mistakes that frequently crop up that can make recruiters want to tear their hair out. These are grammar mistakes. This is because it is incredibly time consuming and frustrating having to go through a CV correcting basic grammar, and if the CV went directly to the potential employer these mistakes would definitely increase chances of rejection. Unlike things such as formatting, there is virtually no personal preference when it comes to grammar – it is either right or wrong.
Thanks to the internet, there is no excuse. If you are confused, google it, because a CV with bad grammar is far more confusing and will make you seem like you just couldn’t be bothered to check it through properly, and actually also makes your CV harder to understand. So to make sure that your CV gets you a job, and doesn’t become an anecdote, have a read through these common mistakes and how to avoid them!
1) Full Sentences vs. Bullet Points
Something that often comes up is when people don’t write in full sentences but don’t put it into bullet points. A full sentence must always contain at least one main clause that expresses a complete idea and makes sense standing alone. If it doesn’t fulfil these criteria, then it is a fragment. Fragments can be great in CVs for succinctly and effectively conveying your responsibilities or a summary of your skills, but they cannot be presented as full sentences with a full stop within a paragraph. For example:
“Proven track record of success in strategic planning & execution”
This is a fragment so should be presented as a bullet point, even if it in a summary paragraph at the beginning. If you want your summary to be in continuous prose, make sure everything is a full sentence. You can also put full sentences into bullet points, but it is often more effective to have all bullet points starting with the same type of word e.g. a verb:
This follows on from the last point – you can’t just string together a load of fragments using commas to make a full sentence. This is not a full sentence:
“Gather data, define needs, create specifications, business cases and follow through to delivery.”
When it comes to commas, there is more personal preference involved, but the best way to work out if you need one is to read the sentence out loud; if there isn’t a natural pause, you don’t need a comma.
Furthermore, if you have two independent clauses, i.e. when the two clauses would make sense on their own, you cannot connect them with a comma. You can either use a full stop, or if the clauses are closely linked, use a semicolon.
3) Capital letters
You also can’t make a full sentence by simply capitalising the first word and you definitely can’t put capital letters after commas. For example:
“Testing technologies, Works closely with engineering, developer, stakeholders and management services.”
You can’t simply capitalise random words to add emphasis – it is grammatically incorrect. Instead highlight words or phrases using bold fonts (although be wary not to overdo it) and using succinct bullet points.
Use the correct tense – if you are talking about your present job, use the present tense. If you’re talking about a previous role, use the past tense. The worst mistake you can make when it comes to tenses, is switching between them within a sentence as this makes a CV very confusing.
Overall, the most important thing when it comes to CVs is clarity. If a CV is confusing and difficult to understand, it makes it far more difficult for the content to stand out. Grammar may seem pedantic, but it really is there to improve clarity, so double check everything to give you the best shot at success!