Beginners Guide to Curriculum Vitae (CV) Writing
Why should you take your Curriculum Vitae (CV) writing so seriously/soberly? Well let us start by saying your application for a job starts with writing a compelling CV. Virtually, all employment starts with a review and shortlist of a CV, I doubt there are any organisations who won’t require you to submit your CV while applying for a job. So what exactly is a CV and why do I need to get it right when writing my CV?
A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a documentation of who you are, your skills, experience, and qualifications and what you have to offer a potential employer. In my own terms, your CV is an electronic version of your professional side so it’s important it is branded well. Remember we are in an age where branding is king, so why not treat your professional career like a brand.
A CV is different from a resume in that a CV is an in-depth document that can be about 2 pages long and contains high-level details of your achievements, awards, honors etc., while a resume is a concise document typically no longer than 1 page. Most organisations use CVs to match skills and person’s specifications to the job openings they have. Essentially, this is what helps them determine if you are a good fit for the job or not.
Because your CV is a digital copy of you, it has the tendency to reach places you can’t as it’s just an email away. So your CV has to be the best representation of you as you never can tell who would see it.
So what should I know before writing my CV?
Here are a few things to take note of that help in writing a compelling CV:
- It helps if you study the job description of the role you are applying for. Understand the job responsibilities, key success factors, and skillset required to do the job. Then map out a clear list of essential skills /experiences that you possess which addresses this. Then look for key phrases that describe the personal qualities and skillsets documented in the job description as these would be included in your CV. Take note of the industry-relevant acronyms and other important keywords that are directly applicable to the role.
- Stick to a CV writing format. Traditionally, CVs tend to be arranged in a chronological format and makes it easy for the recruiter to get an overview of an individual’s full work career. There are also other formats such as skill/functional format which focuses on skills, your experience or expertise and the achievements that you have gained throughout the course of your career. Unlike the chronological, it doesn’t care about the chronology of your employment to date or what your previous jobs were. And my personal favourite is the hybrid/Combined which is a combination of the chronological and functional CV formats. Other formats are academic, technical, mini (resume), profile etc.
- Figure out your professional level (entry level, middle level, senior level, executive level) as this would help in what content would go into your CV and how it would be structured. For instance, graduate resumes prioritise educational qualifications and skills over experience and are mostly one page, while experienced CVs prioritise expertise and experience (for much more senior roles value proposition is added) over educational qualification.
- Build a checklist that helps you in checking that you have captured all relevant information that is required for a CV. Your checklist could contain things like; Did you use the right font? Have you added your name in a bold format and at the top (preferably the center) of the page? Have you included a professional email address? did you list all your work experience in a dated format? Have you checked the layout? Have you done a spell check? Did you proofread the document? etc.
So how do I write my CV?
How your CV looks depends on the format you selected (remember we talked about knowing which CV format to use) and it won’t hurt to google different CV formats. A well-structured CV can direct the eyes of recruiters exactly where you want them to go and emphasise your strong points (expertise, qualification, experience, value proposition, etc.).
- Start off with your personal information which should be; full name, email address and personal phone number (can be mobile or home)
- Personally, I would favour a positional statement over a career objective as a positional statement shows your experience and value you would add along with what type of role you are looking for, but any of both would do as the next item.
- As an experienced hire, I would focus on my experience detailing my progression from the most recent to the earliest. Always remember its important to focus on achievement rather than daily responsibility. An example of this; “Built a learning program targeted at teaching 178 students in 17 Secondary Schools for a duration of 4 hours over 12 weeks how to code using CSS and html” vs ‘Built learning programs for secondary school students”. This positions you as someone who is performance focused with a clear understanding of how to measure your impact on the job. For graduates, focus more on your educational qualification and any volunteer experience you might have as this is where potential employers would see value add.
- Now you can detail your educational qualification, trainings attended, volunteer experience and interests. Employers love people with volunteer experience and interests.
- For concluding the CV, in this day and age of data protection it is wise to use “Referees available on request” rather than listing out your referees details for anyone who has access to your CV to see. You can take it a step further by adding a signed declaration that the information in the CV describes you and can be verified. Remember your CV needs to speak professionalism of the highest order.
Hope the steps above helps in crafting that winning CV. Good luck!!!