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  • Stacey Baker

Be selective: what not to include in your CV and job applications

You don't need to tell all to an employer. Sometimes, what you choose to leave off your applications is as important as what you include. Along with not revealing why you left a job or if you were fired, here are some other things you should keep to yourself to avoid damaging your chances.

Any hint that you're unsure about the job or your career choice

Few people have a detailed career path mapped out in which a particular employer takes center stage. But with such a large pool of applicants, employers will choose the one who seems most interested in them and in the opportunity.

Make sure your CV is coherent, making sense of each step or career progression. If your work history is fractured, pull together more general career themes (such as customer service, marketing and so on) which are relevant to the job you're applying for. Then support these with selected details that show you have the required skills and experience.

Your CV should position you for the role. This means you can present your work history in any way or format you want, in order to highlight the most relevant or outstanding details for that job.

Be clear (in your cover letter and at interview) why the job and company appeal, and how they fit your career goals. If you're a recent graduate with a diverse work history or an unrelated degree, you'll need to explain why you think this role is the perfect match for your skills and interests.

Lack of confidence in your abilities

Most employers want someone who can work with minimum supervision. Don't reveal a lack of confidence about the crucial, technical elements of the role. Read the job description and person specification thoroughly so you can prepare solid examples of how you've deployed vital skills or demonstrated key personal qualities.

At interview, be prepared for "strengths / weakness" type of questioning. Answer honestly – admit to (minor) shortcomings to demonstrate self-awareness – but then say how you're remedying the situation.

Academic failure

Some companies insist on a solid history of achievement. But many others go straight to your experience section, overlooking academic qualifications. Don't let any educational shortcomings discount you – you don't need to broadcast a failed module or year, or poorer marks than expected.


Avoid mentioning previous physical or mental illness in your initial applications. You can discuss any special arrangements you might need to carry out your job at interview. A blog post on facial disfigurement by Rich McEachran illustrated how prejudice can derail applications:

"A 2008 survey by Changing Faces showed that 90% of people questioned unknowingly associated negative thoughts with facial disfigurements. At the same time around 90% of the job applications in which I brought my disfigurement in to a positive light in the covering letter were rejected. Of course I cannot claim that my disclosure was the reason ... But it did make me wonder."


If you're applying for a full-time role, don't apply asking for part-time hours. Likewise, if you're applying for one type of role, don't drop heavy hints that you'd rather be interviewing for another.

Inability to get on with others

Personality and attitude are crucial elements in candidate selection, so admitting that you found it hard to create good working relationships will raise red flags. Avoid criticizing previous managers. Instead, emphasise how difficult decisions were made mutually and make sure no note of bitterness creeps in.

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