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Much ado about the CV! According to Glassdoor, each job vacancy gets an average of 250 applications. Little wonder it takes a recruiter six seconds to glance through a CV!

Making a good inpression

A CV is your first and perhaps only opportunity/contact with a recruiter/potential employer and this means you must make a very good first and lasting impression. There are lots of good offers out there for re-writing and upgrading your CV to professional standards. However, it is imperative that you are involved in the process of upgrading your CV. Why? Your thoughts, the real authentic you, your actual skills and abilities, all need to be captured in a way that you can successfully defend in an interview.

A guide to the basics of a good CV

  • There is no ‘perfect or magic’ CV. Google can only give you a format but not authenticity or originality and certainly does not understand the peculiar nature of your environment.
  • For CV, content is king. A recruiter wants know at first glance, which professional am I looking at; an IT professional? A banker? A graphic artist? A marketer? What does the opening profile summary say about you? Does it say “A sales and marketing expert, software engineer and beauty expert”? That would surely confuse a recruiter.
  • As much as many people say you should tailor your CV according to the job you are applying for, please do not apply for a job you are not qualified for or have the competence for. No matter how much you use beautifully crafted words in your profile summary to suit the job requirements, a recruiter will match your profile with the work experience on your CV. For example, when you say ‘Risk Analysis and Management Expert’ and your work experience is ‘two years as Front Desk Officer’, we often wonder where you got the skills and experience as a Risk Management Expert!
  • Essential/Major components of a CV in order of arrangement are: Profile Summary: A section that highlights your career path/profession, as well as your key strengths and competencies. At first glance, your profile summary should identify you in your chosen career field and pronounce the major areas in that field that you skilled at. Core Competencies/Skills:A summary of your key skills and competencies. Competencies refer to the embodiment of knowledge, skills and abilities you possess. While you may be multi-talented, it would be advisable to put your best foot forward, especially in the areas you can defend with real-life examples and scenarios. Example, if you indicate an ‘Expertise in Trade Policies’, it must be backed up with real-life examples and experiences of how and where you gained and applied this ‘expertise’. Key Accomplishments: Here, you are meant to pick out major accomplishments in your career, regardless of the organization or the year. An example statement in this section is “Successfully initiated, developed and implemented strategy for Business Development that resulted in increase of sales by 30%”. Be sure, however, that this statement can be defended. Professional Experience: This section chronicles your work experiences, from your most current to your oldest. If you have had many years of experiences, some older ones might not be necessarily included such as NYSC. If you have had fewer years of experience, include as many as you can recall, including volunteering experience. Most important thing is to write your work experiences in terms of results and accomplishments. Do not just copy and paste your Job Description. Education:List your educational qualifications, starting from the latest ones. There is no need to include primary and secondary education. However, there is no harm done if you include them. Certifications/Trainings: No pressure to include these if you don’t have any. References: Some organizations contact your references even before they contact you. If they like your CV, they might want to conduct a background check to verify your claims before bothering to contact you. So, putting ‘references available on request’ might hurt your chances more than it would help. It might indicate that there’s something to hide. If you are putting up any references, kindly seek the permission of the referees and inform them ahead that you would like to use them as your references. That way you have their permission to put out information such as their email address. I would advocate for including references, as long as you have obtained their permission.
  • Length of CV is not equal to wealth of experience! Keep it short and succinct. You cannot have one year work experience with a 5-page CV. Red Flag!
  • Grammatical errors, spellings and mistakes are unacceptable. Also, use words and phrases you are sure of their meaning and you can defend in an interview. When you say ‘adept at’ or ‘proficient in’, ensure that you can ‘prove’ your ‘proficiency’.
  • Remove your personal details: marital status, age, gender, local government, religion, tribe etc. Major on the major. Don’t allow yourself be subject to someone’s personal bias. Do not put your pictures on your cv or attach on the body of the mail except otherwise instructed. Someone can take a look at you and just decide he or she doesn’t like your face while you might actually be qualified for the job.
  • Use readable fonts and formatting. Colored and graphically designed CVs do not guarantee automatic shortlisting, except you are actually a graphic artist, in which case it MIGHT be a plus for you.
  • DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS! It indicates shouting.
  • Your CV attachment must be named properly, not named “CV for other jobs” or “CV edited by Mary”. Also, what you write on the body of the email is important. Don’t write “here it is” or “here am I”.
  • No one is really interested in your hobbies! You say your hobby is reading and learning new things but your Facebook and Instagram profiles say “Partying & chilling, all day every day”, “I love chilling and doing nothing”, “Reading is overrated” etc. Recruiters check out your social media profiles to see what you are really like outside work.

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This article was first published on 20th August 2018 and updated on October 7th, 2019 at 8:49 am


Soluchi Ogugua is a HR Business Partner with a strong passion and commitment to people and skills development. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Global Human Resource Management. She has garnered over 15 years of hands-on experience in leadership, coaching and mentoring, assisting individuals and organizations to achieve their development objectives.

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