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Beating the Grammar Gaffe

By Lauren Jones in Advice and Guides

Bristol’s very own ‘Grammar Vigilante’ made headlines yesterday for his ongoing crusade against local shop fronts featuring incorrect punctuation.

Dubbed the Banksy of the South-West, he has spent the last 13 years ‘Apostrophising’ businesses around the city under the anonymity of night.

Antics aside however, this case does bode a cautionary tale to all jobseekers in the Motor Trade:

‘If it’s not you… it’s probably *you’re* CV.’

The mark of a well-crafted CV or Cover Letter isn’t always a wealth of professional experience; a simple spelling mistake could mean the difference between nabbing that interview or being on the tail-end of a rejection email.

As the UK’s leading Automotive recruitment specialists, we know exactly which ingredients make up a stellar job application - and which ones you should leave to the prose.

From third-person faux pas to the infamous apostrophe, we’ve compiled the Top 5 grammar gaffes that candidates make in their job applications.

1. Third Person Narration

An effective CV should demonstrate both your experience and ability to be concise – not your narrative technique. Avoid referring to yourself in the third person (eg. he/she or your own name) and opt instead for personal pronouns such as ‘I’ or action verbs such as ‘Achieved’ and ‘Developed’ when describing your professional responsibilities.

The same rule applies for grammatical tense – remember to use present tense when detailing your current job and past tense for all those you have left, leaving no confusion for your potential employer.

2. Capital Letters

The use of capital letters or bolded text can be an excellent formatting tool for your CV, but only when used in moderation. Employ capitalisation only when differentiating between titles (eg. EDUCATION and SKILLS) or different job roles on your CV.

Another thing to avoid is bolding or capitalising ‘keywords’ in your career summary – research has shown that employers spend an average of 8.8 seconds viewing each CV they receive… so chances are they won’t need a map to know exactly which terms they’re searching for.

In short, if you capitalise everything important – nothing becomes important.

3. The ‘Apostrophe’

The biggest grammar gaffe of them all. Not only will a misplaced homophone or contraction stand out on your cover letter – but it also shows your lack of attention to detail. The most common misuses include:

Your/You’re: e.g. ‘Thank you for you’re consideration…’
Its/It’s: ‘Its a great company to work for…’
There/Their/They’re: ‘My key responsibilities their were…’
Affect/Effect: ‘I had a large affect on this project…’

Don’t miss out on your dream Automotive job due to a grammatical technicality. Read every sentence out loud or have someone proofread your CV and Cover Letter to avoid the dreaded apostrophe pitfall.

4. Formatting

A CV and Cover Letter should showcase your practical experience and professional skill set - not your artistic ability. Cursive fonts and colour coded titles are much more likely to irritate your potential employer than attract their attention.

Stick to an easy-to-read font style and size (we recommend Arial Size 10), coupled with a minimalistic layout. For example:

• Career Summary
• Education
• Employment History (most recent first)
• Skills
• Interests
• References (if any)

Avoid cluttering your CV with unnecessary text boxes, pictures or company logos and be sure to save the finished product in a universal document format such as PDF or Microsoft Word.

5. Less is More

In the Motor Trade job market, attention is a valuable currency. Keep your CV and Cover Letter reader friendly – ie. A concise and well-formatted document (eg. bullet points) of no more than two pages in length.

Potential employers don’t want to fish for reasons to hire you - avoid long sentences/paragraphs when listing your job responsibilities and keep the superfluous synonyms to a minimum.

Listing hobbies or interests on your CV can showcase your unique personality, but know when to draw the line at TMI. No one needs to know your marital status or your dog’s name – save that for water cooler chat.


A no brainer - spellcheck! And don’t forget to watch out for those pesky American ‘z’s.

For more tips on writing your CV or Cover Letter, visit our step-by-step Career Toolbox or call our Automotive recruitment experts today on 01603 701 077.


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