5 mistakes international students make in their UK CVs

Claire Guy is Employability and Careers Consultant with the University of Exeter Business School.

In the UK, employers will tell you exactly what they want from the perfect candidate.

CV writing is much harder than most people think. They are difficult to get right. UK students make lots of mistakes in their CVs. Creating a UK CV can be a challenge for international students, especially if you are used to your country’s CV or resume writing rules.  

We see some common mistakes at the Career Zone in the CVs that international students write. Here’s our top 5: 

1 Adding a photo to your CV 

In the UK we have employment laws which are designed to protect people from discrimination. The laws stop employers from hiring people based on their gender, age, or nationality (as well as other things). Photographs reveal a lot of personal information (like gender, age and nationality) and can lead to discrimination. Research has shown that attractive people have an advantage when applying for jobs. The effects are not usually deliberate – interviewers don’t realise they are influenced by how someone looks. UK employment laws are designed to prevent these effects. This means that UK CVs do NOT include information such as nationality, marriage status, date of birth or age, and definitely not photos. The only reason to add your photo is if you are applying for a modelling or acting role!  

2 Including a “declaration of truth” 

Although common in some other countries, UK CVs do not contain a declaration of truth.  Employers trust that you will only include information which is true, and not write anything which is false.  

3 Spelling and grammar 

I can imagine how hard it is to write a CV in a different language! Correct spelling and grammar is important. UK employers will reject a CV with spelling and grammar mistakes. This is because UK jobs require good English. You will be expected to write reports or communicate with colleagues and clients. A CV with bad spelling and grammar will make an employer question if you can do those things. Bad spelling and grammar show poor attention to detail (an important skill for many jobs). Bad spelling and grammar also imply that you didn’t try very hard to write a good CV and that you don’t really want the job. Use a spell-checker! You can also use CV360 – it will give you feedback on spelling and grammar, as well as other things. 

4 Using the same CV for each job  

In the UK, employers will tell you exactly what they want from the perfect candidate. Job adverts usually contain a list of skills that they want. You must look closely at the job advert, highlight each skill they ask for, and then include them in your CV. This means you must change your CV for EVERY job you apply for. It takes more time but is much more successful than sending the same CV each time. If you want to understand more about how to tailor your CV, book onto one of our regular CV workshops on Handshake.  

5 Missing soft skills 

In many countries, soft skills are not an important part of a CV. You may not have added soft skills to your CV before. Don’t simply add them to a bullet-point list. Instead, think about where you have used that skill. Was it during your studies? An internship? In the family business? Choose the most relevant part of your CV and add it into your description of that activity. For example:” Collaborated in a team of 5, to produce a presentation. Met weekly to plan content. Negotiated responsibility for tasks. Presented to an audience of 30 students and academics, developing strong team-working and communication skills”.  

Top tip: It’s a really good idea to look up the definition of a soft skill – they are much more complicated than you think. Simply search online for the skill you are trying to include in your CV like this “communication skill definition” or “teamwork skill definition”.  Reading a skill definition will also help you think about how to add it to your CV.  

CVs are an important part of your success in finding work in the UK. Let us help you get it right. Find out more about the help available from Career Zone with CVs.