The worst & the best C-level CVs

If writing a CV is so easy, why do most CVs we receive from experienced managers and (senior) executives contain most basic mistakes?

We were asked to review a CV by 376 experienced managers since 1.1.2017. 424 times in 2016… a total of 1530 times since 2014.

Here is the data for 2017 only. If the CVs were graded on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest score:

  • lowest: 0.4
  • average: 4.8
  • best: 8.9

Allow us to spell this out: the majority of CVs of executives – people who should understand the power of marketing and personal branding and the necessity for a well-prepared document – achieved an average score at best.

Good news: it is still very easy to positively stand out as a candidate
Bad news: approx. 90% are miss-represented on paper

How does the grading system work? Are we maybe too picky or too tough?

We look at the document from a technical aspect and grade:

  • Technical elements: e.g. the format and name of the CV file
  • Basic information: professional email address, only relevant contact details, professional, good-quality picture (if applicable), a unique profile summary etc.
  • Professional experience: legible responsibilities, concrete successes etc.
  • Education, other: only tertiary education, language skills that you can work in, concrete interests and skills
  • Punctuation consistency: quotation marks, dashes, lack of spaces, double spaces, punctuation at the end of bullet points etc.
  • Style & formatting: dates & names, bullet points & letters at the beginning of sentences, margins & background, title sections & fonts etc.
  • Language accuracy: linguistic correctness as typos or grammar, capital letters in proper names, neutrally written (not in the 1st person), no tautologies or pleonasms or wordiness
  • Overall legibility: how easy or difficult is it for your target reader to find what is relevant for them?

On top of that we also assess whether the CV communicates the candidate’s USP and personality.

So you see, we set the bar very high – but so do you as managers, executives and leaders.

To make a long story short: we are on a mission of educating the market and have created a dedicated website on every single detail of the CV, including trends:

For those of you who would now say, “spelling mistakes or inconsistent margins can’t be sooo important” – we operate under the worst case assumptions of your CV reaching recruiters, HR professionals or decision makers who say, “if the CV has mistakes, I won’t invite them to an interview”, in other words: “sloppy CV = sloppy manager”.

Having said that – yes, there is a difference between “headhunted” and “proactive” candidates: managers that are direct searched are given much more leeway in terms of document quality as the recruiters are simply thrilled that they got the person even involved in the recruitment project.

Re-phrasing this: if you are actively looking for a job, having a great / well-prepared / perfect / flawless CV is not an option. It’s a must.

Wanna know how your CV does compared to you competitor? Send it to us confidentially at or via this form, and you will receive a CV Report with market-relevant tips within 3-5 business days.