Applying for a job can be stressful. It can also be extremely depressing. After you’ve sent your CV out 20 times with no response, it’s natural to feel like the world is being a bit of a dick. Well, have you considered that you might be making some critical mistakes in your CV, cover letters or social media presence?

As folks who have reviewed CVs and cover letters, we often see the same mistakes made by Singaporeans, young and old. The next time you apply for a job, run through this checklist of 17 job application mistakes before you hit ‘send’.

CV mistakes

  1. Typos & grammatical mistakes. If you haven’t proofread your CV and cover letter at least 20,000 times before sending them out, why bother? Sure, some employers are more forgiving than others, but that’s a risk you should not be taking. Get a friend or family member to read through your documents. You can try free spellcheck services (like Grammarly) to catch mistakes but remember: algorithms aren’t 100% foolproof.
  2. Your CV is more than 2 pages long. Having a 5-page CV does not give the impression that you have more experience. In fact, it says the opposite. Keep it concise. Employers look for relevant experience, so select the ones that fit the job you’re applying for best. Don’t feel the need to pad your CV, a 1-pager is perfectly acceptable.
  3. Your email address is [email protected] Get an email with your name in it. Please.
  4. Having a hobbies section. You love karaoke, cooking and travelling (btw, 99.9% of people say they love travelling). Do employers need to know? Probably not. If your interests are relevant to the role, share the details in your cover letter. Save precious space in your CV for experience and skills.
  5. Ugly formatting. You don’t need to be a design expert (unless that’s the role you’re applying for) to create a legible CV. Use bullet points. Play with font weights. Keep colours to a minimum. If all else fails, there are plenty of free templates on the Internet to choose from.
  6. Not including the right keywords. Big organisations rely on recruitment software to filter and pre-shortlist candidates. If you think that’s unfair, welcome to the real world. Study the job description and try to include as many listed key skills (without resorting to lying) in your CV. For example, for a social media manager role, it’d be wise to mention things such as engagement metrics and social media tools.
  7. Ignoring requests for information stated in the job posting. If the job ad asks for writing samples or a portfolio, include them in your application. Recruiters aren’t asking out of fun.

Cover letter mistakes

  1. Forgoing the cover letter. Some employers have made cover letters optional, but should you write one anyway? Err on the side of caution. A well-written cover letter may give you the edge over another qualified candidate.
  2. You’re rehashing your CV. A cover letter is for introducing yourself and providing more details about your key accomplishments. In reality, most cover letters are read after your CV, so if you’re simply providing a written summary, start over.
  3. Not tailoring it to the job. Hiring managers can smell a mass-mailed cover letter from a mile away. Dedicate a short paragraph to what you admire about the organisation, and give specifics. For example, highlight what you like about the company’s values, past work or culture.
  4. That said, do not focus company perks. You want to join Google because you want free meals every day, but should you be saying that in your cover letter? That’s a rhetorical question, btw. You’re being hired to work, so focus on the company’s accomplishments and not its amazing medical coverage.
  5. Sounding too casual. You may think the company is cool AF, but keep your letter professional. There’s a fine line between showing off your personality and sounding like a complete idiot.
  6. Starting every paragraph with ‘I’. This is an easy trap to fall into, but just as easy to avoid. It is visually unappealing, and also comes across self-obsessed. Try rephrasing your opening sentences.
  7. Again, keep it short. Cover letters should strictly be kept to a page. It’s not a memoir.

Social media mistakes

  1. Forgetting employers will Google your name. Online stalking isn’t limited to crazy ex-lovers. Does Googling your name turn up embarrassing emo blog posts or your political rants? You might want to do something about that.
  2. Complaining about ex- and present employers on social media. This is a major red flag for any potential employer. Delete those posts or keep your social media profiles private.
  3. Not having a LinkedIn profile. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but it is highly recommended that you sign up for LinkedIn if you haven’t done so. Increasingly, hiring managers study LinkedIn profiles to find out more a candidate, and it’s a great space to elaborate on your work experience.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers plenty of the common job application mistakes that people make. Like everything else, being good at job applications takes practice. Everyone, even the most experienced candidates, has made dumb errors on their CV or cover letters. The most important thing is to work on refining your CV or cover letter strategy until you find a style that works for you.