Curriculum Vitae Writing – Writing an interview-landing CV is a hard task for many. How do you write one that stands out from the many CVs human resource managers and recruiters receive when recruiting? An ultimate rule for CV writing is – be different and show your selling point.
It is worthy to note there’s no one right format to write a CV. One rule you should note, however, is that your CV should be able to put you in the spotlight for the role you’re applying for, this will inform the HR manager or recruiters decision to invite you to an interview.
The world is rapidly changing every day, especially in the labour market. The competition is getting stiffer, professionals are acquiring more skills and hiring managers are paying more attention to the little details when hiring remotely. Things are not as ‘easy’ as they used to be, but it doesn’t mean you cannot overcome these hiring hurdles.
What is a CV?
Let’s start with your CV. This is usually the first document any hiring manager will see before you will be called for an interview and when applying online, your first priority is that your CV gets you that interview.
A curriculum vitae popularly known as CV is brief synopsis or account of your educational, professional experience, skills and more typically used for job applications.
There are 2 types of CVs – the educational CV and the experience focused type. The former focuses on educational/professional qualification and academic work and is usually for applicants who have no work experience while the latter focuses on professional experience, skills and achievements.
Listing either educational or professional experience is best done by starting with them from most recent to oldest. It’s Important to always adapt your CV to a job industry and consistently tweak them for advertised job roles.
The CV Writing Format
1. Personal Details
This section consists of your name, address, age (not be compulsory), phone number, email. Put these in a strategic location and in legible fonts so that they can be easily seen by the HR manager or recruiter. Ensure the information provided are current.
Pro Tip: Never use an email that is not yours. Avoid stating your state of origin, religion (except if specified in the job advertorial) and unprofessional email addresses. Examples of this would be firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Keep it professional.
2. Work Experience
Start with your most recent job role. For each job role, it’s important to state your role and achievements. An example would be:
Iceberg Communications Limited 2016 – (Present)
Job Title: Marketing Executive
Iceberg Limited is Nigeria’s number one marketplace for electrical home appliances.
- Individually increased the monthly revenue from N15 million to N25 million in 6 months.
- Worked with the marketing team to spread our products from Lagos to all the 6 states of the Western Nigeria within a year.
- Won the ‘Salesman of the Year” award consecutively for November and December 2016.
Pro Tip: Always remember to tweak your job experience in line with what you are applying for. It will increase the employer’s preference for you.
Always start with the most recent educational qualification. Professional certification that is relevant to the job should also be added to this section.
E.g. University of Port Harcourt – 2013
Qualification: B.A. History and International Relations.
- Excellent diplomatic skills and versed in three foreign languages – French, Portuguese and Chinese
- Graduated with a first class grade of 4.56 and won the ‘Best Graduating Student’ award.
Pro Tip: If you have a qualification from a tertiary institution, it’s unimportant to include your primary school first leaving certificate unless you’re a fresh graduate with no work experience. This section includes professional certifications, affiliations/membership, training and seminars; they can appear as a sub-section under education.
4. Interests and Abilities
This section should be kept short and simple. Key things to note here are:
- Avoid clichés such as “creative” “motivated”, “team player”, “problem solve”, “self-starter.” Instead, be specific about your hobbies – Replace ‘running’ with ‘I jog about 300 km every weekend’. This shows you are disciplined and committed.
Pro Tip: Add interests that align with the prospective employer’s corporate social responsibility.
The standard number of referees is three, although some organisations request for two. The lesser the pages of a CV, the greater attention it receives. As an employer, you would not want to be bothered by CVs that look like handouts. A 2-page CV is excellent. Therefore, be direct, clear and convincing.
Pro Tip: “Never use a referee that you’re not familiar with and has knowledge of using them as referees,” – Prince Ihemegbulam, Jobberman CV Services Analyst pointed out.
Some Tips How to write a good CV
- Use active verbs wherever possible. For example, you could include words like ‘created’, ‘analysed’ and ‘devised’ to present yourself as a person who shows initiative.
- There should be no spelling or grammar mistakes in your CV. Use a spell checker and enlist a second pair of eyes to check over it.
- Avoid using generic phrases such as ‘team player’, ‘hardworking’ and ‘multitasker’. Instead, provide real-life examples that demonstrate all of these skills.
- Take a look at the company’s website, local press and the job advert to make sure that your CV is targeted to the role and employer.
- Decide whether the chronological, skills-based or academic CV is right for you. For more information, take a look at example CVs.
- Don’t put the term ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of your CV.
- Provide a professional-sounding email address.
- Never lie or exaggerate on your CV or job application. Not only will you demonstrate your dishonesty to a potential employer, but there can be serious consequences too. For example, altering your degree grade from a 2:2 to a 2:1 is classed as degree fraud and can result in a prison sentence.
- If you’re posting your CV online don’t include your home address, as you could be targeted by fraudsters.
- You should always include a cover letter unless the employer states otherwise. It will enable you to personalise your application for the job. You can draw attention to a particular part of your CV, disclose a disability or clarify gaps in your work history. Find out how to write a persuasive cover letter.
Things Employers Look Out For
One survey of employers found that the following aspects were most looked for
(From the brilliant 2010 Orange County Resume Survey by Eric Hilden)
|Previous related work experience
|Qualifications & skills
|Easy to read
|Spelling & grammar
|Education (these were not just graduate recruiters or this score would be much higher!)
|Intangibles: individuality/desire to succeed
Why is your CV structure critical?
Before your CV lands on any recruiters’ table, it would probably go through a bot. This bot is called the applicant tracking system (ATS) and what it does is sieve out the relevant CVs from the hundreds that the recruiter would have gone through without the ATS.
What the ATS does is collect all CVs and applications, compare them to the job posting and then rank the top qualified candidates based on the matching keywords from the CVs and “knock-out” questions from the applications.
Then your CV will get to the recruiter; they don’t see you, they probably won’t hear from you but they will see the 1 or 2 pager CVs that have passed the ATS.
Simply put, you’re not only writing for the readers, you’re also writing for the computer too.
So how do you beat the ATS and seize your next opportunity?
First Critical Tip – Always edit your CV according to every job description. Don’t have a one CV fits all. This is important because the ATS filters CVs based on the requirements of the role. If you want to pass this initial electronic screen, your professional CV needs to be tailored for each specific position.
What CV writing methods should you adopt?
Use relevant keywords related to your field and the job you’re applying for – CV keywords and phrases are specific abilities, skills, expertise and traits recruiters and hiring managers look for in a candidate. Keywords are important because the majority of companies pre-scan applications electronically with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which screen specifically for keywords and phrases related to the job. So when you don’t get called back for interviews, it’s not that you aren’t good enough sometimes, but your CV isn’t good enough to pass through the ATS before even getting to the recruiter.
How can you optimize your CV to include the right keywords?
When we talk about customizing your resume to fit each job listing, we don’t mean that you should write a brand new CV and cover letter every time you submit an application. Instead, it’s about adjusting and choosing which parts of your career story you want to be highlighted.
If you want to successfully fit each job description, you’ll first need to read it — thoroughly. Let’s take this Marketing executive JD for example –
Responsible for the company’s marketing initiatives. Uses market research and analysis to direct marketing strategy and planning. Production of all promotional materials and marketing campaigns. Reports marketing and sales results to senior executives.
– Develop strategies and tactics to get the word out about our company and drive qualified traffic to our front door.
– Deploy successful marketing campaigns and own their implementation from ideation to execution.
There are several keywords here, see how you can translate it to your CV below –
Develop strategies – Strategists,
Responsible for the company’s marketing initiatives – Proactive, Researcher, Effectively developed marketing strategies
Reports marketing and sales results to senior executives – Effective Communication skills
Read between the lines and take a dive into the mind of the employer. Once you read any job description, ask yourself – “What are they looking for and how can I fit into this position?”. Don’t let desperation and the notion of “I want to be the first to apply” allow you miss out on these critical points that could either make you the loser or the winner. When you speak the hiring manager’s language, they’ll see that you’re the right fit. You can also look through the organization’s website, this provides you with more keywords that reflect their brand and values. Using these keywords, provided they fit your own values, will show you’re a good fit for the company.
List your Professional Experience from most recent to the most relevant – The purpose of a resume is to quickly communicate your qualifications for a job. The professional experience or work history section is one of a few key sections employers will look at to determine whether or not you might be a good fit.
No matter your position or level of experience, you should always place the most relevant and important qualifications at the top of your CV. Here are some ways to effectively organize your CV.
Chronological resume: For candidates with rich, consistent professional experience. Start with your most recent experience and work your way backwards. Feel free to briefly list out experiences that aren’t relevant to the position you are applying for.
Functional resume: For candidates with several gaps or changes in their career. If you have experienced career transitions and gaps, then you might want to list your experience in order of relevance rather than the most recent.
Combination: For candidates with a diverse background of experience or when skills and abilities are more relevant than work experience. This format works for fresh graduates or individuals that have been unemployed for a while, it puts more emphasis on your transferable skills and abilities may be more beneficial to potential employers. In this format, you focus on highlighting your skills rather than any actual work experience.
Throw out the irrelevant information – When writing your CV, ask yourself one question; “If I was the employer, what information would I be interested in?”. It’s 2021 and a lot of people still have so many irrelevant information on their CV. Let’s give you some examples –
REFERENCES – Available on request (This is so old school)
INTEREST AND HOBBIES – Getting to meet people and having a better knowledge of human nature. Driving, Travelling and Singing (No, no, no)
SCHOOLS ATTENDED – Nigerian Secondary School, Lagos First Nursery and Primary School, Lagos (We only need to know about your tertiary institution and above)
Multiple phone numbers
Unprofessional emails e.g firstname.lastname@example.org
Do what’s best for you and take these out right now. Recruiters only need information that will help them determine if you’re a good fit for the role or not. Narrow down your CV to fit only vital information; nobody wants to go through a 3 page CV that could actually be summed up in less than a page.
Your Career Summary/ Personal Profile should be enough – A personal profile, also known as a personal statement, career objective and professional profile, is one of the most important aspects of your CV. This brief paragraph should sit under your contact information, before your professional summary. You should tailor your profile to every job you apply for, highlighting specific qualities that match you to the role. Aim to keep your personal statement short and sweet, and no longer than a few sentences.
To make the most of this section, address the following:
Who are you?
What are your key skills and achievements?
What can you offer the company you’re applying to?
What are your career goals?
Don’t forget to write in the third person e.g instead of “my name is Eseosa and I am a copywriter and blogger” – try “ A steadily progressing content creator and blogger with over 3 years of experience….”
Get a professional’s touch – Writing a global standard, door opening CV is much more complex than you think. Now if you simply can’t do it or you just don’t have the time, we strongly advise you get a professional to do it. Don’t leave it to chance or hope your crappy CV is enough to get you a good job. A genuine CV writing professional will know how to exploit your skills, achievements and experiences in order to convince recruiters to get in touch with you.