The thought of constructing a new CV and a good one at that, fills many people with dread especially to the newbies. Your CV is that tool that creates the first impression with a potential employer. Notwithstanding, all you need is a cut-out plan that covers both lay-out and content. Note that each country has their peculiar method of writing their CVs. Study what is prevalent in your environment as to serve as guide. For the purpose of this article, my focus is on Nigeria. Here is a complete step by step guide to writing a successful CV with screenshots and a sample as a whole at the bottom.
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The plan below therefore may be of help to you in writing a CV that is easy to read and packed with relevant facts recruiters want to see. I’ll try as much as possible to explain each of the aspects you may need to include when crafting your CV and of course with relevant screenshots and a complete sample at the end of this write-up.
CONTACT DETAILS AND PERSONAL INFORMATION
A common mistake that some make when writing a CV is to include ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as the title of the document. Your name should appear first and it serves as the title. Others such as: your address, phone number, and email come immediately after your name. Let your name and phone/email address also appear on each page of your CV just in case hard copies are to be printed to avoid mix up. Use only professional-sounding email address. An email address such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and the likes must be avoided. I’ll advise that you use some variation of your name to make it sound realistic, marketable and professional i.e. email@example.com. You may also include your professional Linkedin profile if you feel it’s worth flaunting.
With respect to birth date and marital status, it is not incumbent on you to include either detail. Although in some cases, situation may warrant that you add your status especially if expressly requested for by recruiters. Otherwise, leave it out. The same goes for age. However, if you believe displaying your birth date would be to your advantage , then slot it in.
Here, just keep it simple. The font size should be easy to read. 10.5 or 11 point Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri (11 or 12 points for Calibri) should be used. Personally, I like Calibri. Use bold for headings and no need to underline them.
‘Career Profile’ can also be termed ‘Profile Summary, Professional Summary, Career Summary, Career Overview’. Most people start their CV with ‘Objective’ or ‘Career Objective’. An Objective states what you expect an employer to do for you. However, a Career Profile/Summary might be preferable. Employers want to know what you’re bringing to the table. If you must therefore include your ‘Objective’ because you feel it would work in your favour, then input it at the end of the Career Summary, Profile or Overview. Your Career Summary should be in a few sentences and composed as one paragraph. It is there to make sure that the employers actually read through your CV.
DO NOT WRITE “to use my skills in a professional manner for the mutual benefit of the employer and myself”. That’s weak.
KEY STRENGTH SUMMARY
This can be done in two ways. Either through a list of Key Strengths represented as dot points or by creating a section under a heading like Career Profile. The purpose of this section is to give the reader of your CV a quick snapshot of what you’ve got to offer so they place high regard on you.
Five to six points are good but there is no fast rule to this.
This can also be represented as ‘Work Experience’. Outline this in reverse chronological order.
The structure to follow is: employer, job title, dates and your responsibilities. Note that for ‘freshers’, your education section may come before the work experience because that’s where your strength lies for now. As your experience improves with time, then, work experience may come first.
Description of Employer
Here, the name of the employer (company/organization) must be written followed by the address especially the town and city it is located primarily.
You must include the specific ‘month to month’ and ‘year to year’ of your work experience. If you can’t remember the specific months, you may have to make them up or input any.
Responsibilities or Duties
Some believe that the more responsibilities or duties you write, the more you gain the employers’ attention. That’s not true. Only list the important ones in a bullet point format. four to six should be alright. Here, develop your responsibilities with action or power words. Basically, your CV must be ‘Keyword Optimized’. It’s no longer a hidden knowledge that most highly placed organizations/companies make use of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software applications which are keyword centered to automatically screen CVs in order to select suitable candidates. So, build your duties around the keywords for your career path.
The important key here is results. It is suggested that you include these accomplishments to add more credibility to your CV. This is the focal point of your document. Employers want to know what you’re bringing-in rather than the usual functions you perform. Add at least two to three achievements immediately below each work experience. This is where most job-seekers are highly deficient. These include: special commendations, staff awards, ideas you put forward that led to cost saving, increase in revenue or resulted in improved levels of customer service. Make sure you indent your achievements on your CV to make them outstanding.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
This should also be in reverse chronological order. First, begin with your highest qualification. Leave out your primary school history. In fact, at some point, as you acquire or obtain more educational status and highly experienced, your secondary school history becomes inconsequential. This aspect covers: university training, industry courses and any other professional training.
Only include those ones that are relevant to your career. See example above.
Hobbies and Interests
Include this section only if what you’re adding have any relevance to your experience. Otherwise, it may work against you.
This is a controversial one. Before I ventured into CV writing/rewriting service, I did a thorough research on major aspects of CVs. I found out that adding. reference or referee was a common preference of applicants in this part of the world, using Nigeria as a case study. As a result of its ineffectiveness, I started discouraging my clients from adding it. I however came across a prospective client who insisted I should include his referees and when I studied the supposed CV, I had to agree with him because his referees were heavy weights in Nigerian politics. Being a Niger Deltan, he was asked to submit the CV to one of the top oil servicing companies in his area. He stressed emphatically that without the ‘cabals’ being mentioned, he may not get the job. I therefore submit that adding referee is relative. If you think it will serve an undeniable purpose, why not? Add it. Otherwise, as some have opined or argued, it would only be a waste. If you must include it make sure it’s not placed haphazardly but neatly.
WHAT IS THE LENGTH OF A CV?
For school leavers (newbies) and those that have few years of experience, a two-page CV is fine but the highly experienced may go farther than that as the competition at their level is no longer stiff. As a matter of fact, employers have their time because of the sensitive positions they are going to occupy.
Below is the sample as a whole:
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- Well-constructed job duties/responsibilities that are key-word optimized or leverage strategic keywords.
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