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CVs and Resumes: Help! Why isn't my CV working?

Updated on May 16, 2015
Resume/CV writing tips from
Resume/CV writing tips from

Diagnosing An Ineffective CV

You're looking for a new job and have sent out countless CVs.

- Your qualifications are in order.

- You have loads of experience and excellent references.

- You believe you should be getting a much better response (more invitations to interviews) than you have been getting.

What could be wrong?

There could be a few reasons why your CV is failing to generate as many interviews as you would like. It could be anything from typos or grammatical errors in the CV down to the kind of paper your CV is printed on. However, these can sometimes be forgiven.

The primary reason why a CV fails to generate interviews is because the applicant's suitability for the role is not immediately apparent.

"To interview, yes or no?" Employers generally make this decision almost instantaneously, at least within seconds, after briefly scanning each candidate CV in front of them. This is particularly the case with advertised positions which result with hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants.

The employer's paper screening process is meant to eliminate applicants from the pile in order to reduce the pool of candidates to a manageable level.

Having a well-presented, clean and easy-to-read CV that is free of typos and grammatical errors is a minimum requirement. But, in competition with the possibly hundreds of equally qualified candidates, clean and neat is not enough. This is where an applied strategy is a necessity.

As a starting point to find out why are you are not getting the responses you would like, it could be that you are being eliminated from the 'candidates to interview' pile. Use the checklist below as a primer for analysing how and where your CV might not be doing its job to represent you as well as it should:

  • First, eliminate the obvious. Double check all of your contact data, especially telephone numbers and email addresses which can be prone to transposed and missing digits. If your contact data is wrong, your prospective employer will not be able to contact you.
  • Throughout the CV, look for typos as well as missing or incorrect punctuation. Check for those tricky words which are easy to overlook and that the spell-checker would not pick up such as 'their', 'they're' and 'there'.
  • Make it as easy as possible for the reader by ensuring that the spacing and formatting is consistent. For example, your employment history should be listed in a consistent format. It is fine to use either Year to Year (1998 to 2005) or Month/Year to Month/Year (May 1998 to September 2005). Do not use one format for some jobs and a different format for others. Using the same format for every job you list will help the reader focus on the important content.
  • Have you ever held the job title that is stated in the job advertisement? If so, have you made this clear in the objective or the top summary of your CV?
  • If you have NOT held the job title stated in the job advertisement, you should include an objective with the advertised job title. Also, it would be wise to structure your CV using a more functional (rather than strictly chronological) format. Be sure your objective is followed by a summary that clearly highlights how your experience is related to the advertised position.
  • Is your CV and/or covering letter populated with key words and phrases from the prospective employer's job description or advertisement? Let the employer know, as clearly and concisely as possible, that you know what job you are applying for and why.
  • Are you sending out a 'generic' CV en masse? Success with this approach is not unheard of, but it is rare. It might not be specific enough for many employers who are looking for candidates who know something about their organisations. Also, similar to the point above, employers like to know why their prospective employees want to work for them and what they have to offer specifically to their companies.

Of course, the best way to know why your CV might not be working is to have a professional critique. The small investment to have a pair of professional eyes review and provide feedback could make all the difference. The more interviews you get from your CV, the more the chances you have of getting a job you really want.

For more advice on writing your resume/CV, please see the links below:

If you have a lot of information to manage on your CV, this hub will help you to strategically use the space on your CV to keep it concise and effective:

Sometimes you realise afterwards that the CV you sent may not have said what it needed to. Should you revise and resubmit? Here are some guidelines:

Managing your CV length is an important part of getting past the paper screening. Ensure that your CV is not too long and the emphasis is where it should be. Here are some ideas for managing this:

Should your Resume/CV be chronological or functional or both? This hub will help you decide:

Is your resume/CV selling you as well as it could do? Learn about Personal Value and what it means to your resume/CV:

© 2010 M Selvey, MSc


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      dclarencelion 7 years ago

      Thanks, I will have a look!

    • M Selvey, MSc profile image

      M Selvey, MSc 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi dclarencelion,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you found the information useful.

      I have answered your question regarding resubmitting your revised CV in another hub:

      Hope you find this information useful as well and I wish you all the best of luck!


    • profile image

      dclarencelion 7 years ago

      Good information regarding why a CV doesn't work. I have been getting very little response from my CV. I have both mixed date formats and was sending out a broadcast generic CV. I just thought the employers would judge that I was suitable from the description of my duties under the jobs. Now, I have something to work with to rework my CV. Is it ever good practice to re-send a revised CV to the same companies that you already applied to?