Stand Out from the Crowd: Write a Winning CV
Your ability to write a good CV is a crucial step towards landing an interview and getting a job. A CV is only good if it helps you get job interviews after employers and recruiters have taken a look at it.
Let us walk you through the process of writing a CV that shows employers that you are the candidate they need to hire. To give you a better picture of what your CV should look like, we will look at the following:
- How to give your CV a professional touch
- Things to consider before you even start writing your CV
- What it should look like
- Personal details you should include and those you should keep out of your CV
- How to fill your career history section
- How to include your education in your CV
- How to Decide whether to include your hobbies
How to Give Your CV a Professional Touch
A well-written CV is one that highlights your strengths and achievements and how they are relevant to the needs of the employer. For instance, the fact that you have written speeches for two Nigerian presidents doesn’t make you a good fit for the role of a product manager. Instead, highlight the relevance of your achievements to the role. For the role of a Product Manager, instead, highlight how you strategically transformed a brand into a household name. This will include specifics like dates and budget.
When searching for a job, you should focus on the skills and experience that you have to offer a company and not a bullet-pointed list of tasks you worked on in the past. You can achieve this by making your achievements visible. This gives them enough prominence that helps them jump off the page.
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When employers want to hire, they do not expect the top candidates to put every single thing that has happened in their career on their CV. What they look forward to are the CVs of candidates that are the best fit for the job role. When you copy and paste details from other CVs, you only succeed in making the job of getting your CV tossed into the trash easier. Sadly, many candidates have formed the habit of lifting responsibilities of other CVs and pasting them into theirs. This will work against you because the interviewer might conduct a background check and discover irregularities. Remember to focus your CV on specific achievements that are directly relevant to the role they are applying for. Always remember that the employer or recruiter will see your CV once and will make a decision in a space of 10-60 seconds.
Things to Consider Before You Write Your CV
Before you even start writing your CV, you should remember that you are competing against thousands of other candidates also interested in the same job. It is important for your CV to be well optimised with keywords that are strongly relevant to the types of jobs you are interested in. You need to decide on the types of jobs that you intend to target while hunting for a job. For a moment, step out of the mindset of a job seeker and think like an employer.
What are the things you would look out for in a CV? You are bound to find answers that will guide you here. Focus on keywords and phrases that employers would be interested in. When you have established these, then it is okay to begin writing your CV.
What Your CV Should Look Like
When writing your CV, learn to keep it simple. Avoid infusing too much design into the format of your CV. The danger of over-designing your CV is that it distracts the recruiter from focusing on the important qualities you really have to offer. The only exception to this is graphic designers.
The very nature of their job calls for the infusion of graphics in their portfolio but even for them, it should be done in moderation. Below are other points you should take into consideration:
- Your font should be legible and not smaller than size 11.
- Stay away from dramatic fonts like Comic Sans and Merriweather. Use Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial instead.
- Keep the length of your CV reasonable else the employer might begin to see you as someone who can’t summarise information.
- Employers are most interested in the things you have done and achieved recently. Remember that they scan through CVs. If they need more information, they ask you at interviews
- When saving your CV as a document, save it as your name as it looks more professional
Personal Details That Should be Included
There are personal details that should be included in your CV and there are those that should be left out. Below are 3 things that should definitely make it into your CV.
Name and Address: For obvious reasons, your name has to be on your CV. Your address should also be clearly stated.
Telephone Contact: Your CV should have at least one phone number, which should be your mobile contact. It is better if you can set up a voicemail on your phone number and ensure it is personal, short and professional. Your voicemail offers recruiters a peek into your phone and messaging culture. Develop a habit of returning missed calls as voicemails are not yet fully embraced in Nigeria.
Email Address: For your e-mail address, make it professional and clean. How would you feel as an employer if you received a CV from email addresses like Heartbreakkid@yahoo.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com? These are email addresses that have the capacity to do you more harm than good.
Personal Details You Should Leave Out
You should not include everything about yourself in your CV. Avoid adding the personal details below in your CV as are not relevant to the job or your capacity to get the job done.
Date of Birth: This should not be included unless requested in the requirements.
Picture: What you look like should have nothing to do with what employers need to know
Marital Status: There is no point including this in your CV. The information will not help you become more productive at your work if you eventually get hired.
Nationality: This is only necessary if you applying for a job outside Nigeria especially when the company has a history of hiring foreigners.
Consider Adding a Personal Statement
A good personal statement is one that clearly encapsulates what you have done in the past and how it makes you a great fit for the job. The purpose of a personal statement within your CV is to grab and hold the interest of the recruiter. Remember to keep it short. It should be written in a way that it summarises your CV.
Write a personal statement that helps your CV stand out from all others that the recruiter would have to scan through. What your actual CV would then do is to provide evidence and additional explanation about your personal statement.
You should steer clear of lines about yourself that do not present you as the best fit for the role the recruiter is hiring for. An example of such lines would be “…self-motivated team player keen on working in a challenging environment.” Instead, go for specific statements like “Digital Marketer with 6 years experience with startups and specialising in lead generation.”
Lay Out Your Career History Strategically
This is where you should highlight your achievements, relevant working experience and details that show that you are the most suitable for the role. Each job on your CV should be presented with the following information:
- Job title
- Date of employment (This will include months and years. For instance, May 2007)
- Company Details (This will include brief description of the company. For example, XYX – Nigerian glass manufacturer, employing 230 staff across 7 offices)
- Brief information on your line of reporting and the context of the role (For example, Reported to Creative Director and held KYC responsibility for increasing revenue by 10 per quarter)
Each job on your CV should have some bullet point achievements. These would show that you are competent at your job. These are tips to help you recall some of your achievements:
- Instances of where you went the extra mile
- Instances of solving specific problems
- Instances where your creative ideas turned things around
- Compare and contrast the business when you joined and when you left
- Ways you contributed to the growth of the business
- Specific details of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused and Time-bound) goals achieved
Your Education is Crucial on Your CV
Your Education is just as important as your career history. However, as you add details of your education on your CV, ask yourself this question, “Why am I telling the recruiter this?” The answer to this question will help you weed out what is not supposed to be there. For instance, do you need to add your Secondary School Leaving Certificate to your CV when you already have a degree?
If you are a graphics designer, does anyone need to see that you took Fine Arts in school? Some professionals put their Educational and professional qualifications before their career history while some put it after. There is no right or wrong way to do this but if the role you are applying for is keen on educational qualification, then it would be wiser for you to put your educational qualification above career history.
Pay attention to the job specification. it will help you decide how prominently educational attainment is expected to feature on your CV.
There is a Place For Your Hobbies
In the past, employers were not particularly concerned about whether you enjoy watching cartoons or crime series. However, the future of work has seen organisations paying more attention to company culture and how well different applicants would fit in.
Use your skills and hobbies to your advantage on your CV. Take a good look at the role and what skills you are expected to have. This will help you ascertain how well your skills and hobbies fit into the CV you are sending for the role in question.
Tips for Writing a Good CV
- Start by brainstorming what you have achieved in the past. Prepare the first draft, edit and proofread for any spelling or grammatical mistakes.
- Review each section of your CV to check whether you have presented your abilities, skills and or achievements you want to focus attention on.
- Prepare a rough outline of your CV.
- Make sure that your final CV is free of errors. Ask a professional to read it and to make sure you are on the right track.
- Tailor your CV to meet the needs of different industries and employers.
- Research your area of interest by reviewing several job descriptions and job openings to understand the needs and the key words frequently used in a specific industry. You can then include these in your CV.
- Include the most important aspects of your CV on the first page. Focus your attention on what employers are looking for. This includes your qualifications as they relate to the employer’s job requirements.
- Make it short, organized, clear and easy to read. Usually, two pages in length are ideal, as employers are busy people and have no time for long CVs.
Before You Send Your CV
Just before you attach your CV and click send, remember to give your CV a final proofreading. Take about 15 minutes off the laptop or PC and go back to it after the break. This gives you a fresh pair of eyes to proofread the CV.
Avoid copying and pasting from the CV of others as you will discuss it in detail with an employer during a job interview. Seek help and advice from one of our career advisers or get a CV rewrite by experts.