A Simple Guide to Writing Your First CV
Does the thought of writing your CV fill you with dread? Fear not, you are not alone. Writing a CV from scratch is an unavoidable step in the job search process. The purpose of this post is to provide a framework for writing a CV that showcases your qualifications and professional experiences in the best light.
What is a CV?
A CV is a document that sums up your skills, professional experiences, qualifications, and achievements. It provides the reader with a snapshot of your career progression, helping them understand your history and potential fit for the job you are applying to in the company.
A well crafted resume tells a compelling story of who you are and what skills you bring to the table.
Tip: Avoid using a generic CV for every position you apply to. Read the job description and tailor your CV to address the required skills for the job. This gives you a higher chance of getting a call for an interview.
Required CV Sections
Depending on your industry, there are various ways to structure your CV. However, most CVs will have the following elements:
Contact Information (Required):
Every CV begins with this section. Include your name, address, number and email address. Do NOT include a picture or biographical information such as gender, State/LGA of origin, marital status, and other unnecessary information that can be used in a discriminatory manner by employers.
No 2. Ajegunle Close, P.O.Box 215, Lagos State
Profile Summary (Optional):
This is a short compelling summary of your accomplishments. The Profile Summary should briefly describe what sets you apart from other applicants and how hiring you will benefit the company. This section of the CV is optional.
Example: Experienced sales team leader with several years experience creating sales strategies and coordinating marketing events to increase sales and customer engagement with company brand.
Personalizing your statement: In my 2+ years as a Marketing Associate, I have helped educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, a recruiting firm, and government agencies tell their stories and build partnerships through engaging communication pieces that supports their business goals and helps deliver on their mission.
If you are a University graduate, write out the name of your university, course of study and degree obtained (B.A., BSc., etc.) and timeline/date of attendance (matriculation to graduation).
If you are still a student, write the name of your university, course of study, and expected graduation date. If you aren't sure because-ASUU-strike, include your current level.
University of Abuja
200 Level (Expected graduation - 2018)
You may also add professional certifications under this section.
Don't have a CV?
The starter templates are a shell with all the required sections of a CV. All you need to do is edit and replace with your information, and you are good to go.
Professional Experience (Required):
The goal of this section is to capture the attention of employers by highlighting your work history and accomplishments at previous employment. You want the hiring manager to see you in the role you have applied for and make the connection between your skills and what the company needs.
For this section:
- Use active verbs like coordinated, developed, organized. supported, etc.
- Focus on achievements. Rather than list out your daily activities, highlight results. E.g. Developed an employee brand ambassador program and social media training for XYZ team members.
- Use numbers/metrics where available: E.g. Increased social media followers and engagement by 50% within 3 months.
You may include both paid and unpaid experiences. Did you volunteer as an events coordinator at an NGO? Did you handle the social media account for your mother's bakery or tailor shop? Did you build a website for your mentor for free? These unpaid experiences may be of interest to the employer if it is relevant to the role you are applying for. Include them in your CV.
For students: Don't have any work history? Don't fret!
In this section, focus on your learning experiences by highlighting key projects and leadership positions.
E.g. A class presentation that included business competitor research, report writing, and presentation of findings to the class can be added to your CV, provided you frame the learning outcome properly in your CV.
Leadership positions such as president of the Student Union Government, treasurer of your department's student association, deputy editor of the university student newspaper, etc., can be added to your CV. Describe the motivation for getting engaged in these roles, your responsibilities, and contributions.
Volunteer and Extracurricular Activities (Optional):
We talked about this a little bit in the previous section. Volunteer activities generally speak to causes and issues you are passionate about. It demonstrates leadership, engagement with your community, communications, teamwork and collaboration, among other qualities.
For instance, as a marketing professional, you may have a blog where you share ideas and tips for upcoming marketers. If you are passionate about social justice issues, you may have volunteered at an organization that advocates in your area of interest. Or an IT Analyst who organizes code writing camps for underprivileged kids. These volunteer experiences are a great way to add personality to your CV.
For students, volunteering is a great way to gain experience and learn new skills without the pressure and expectation of perfection.
Regardless of your employment status, volunteering your skills and time is a great way to give back to your community. Everyone should volunteer :).
This section can be used to showcase a variety of skills in bullet points or a well formatted list. It gives the employer a quick snapshot of your abilities.
Examples of skills to highlight include: foreign language, computer literacy, design, Microsoft Office, social media management, email marketing, Survey, familiarity with CMS platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, etc.
Be sure to tailor your list to match the interest of the potential employer.
Professional Memberships (Optional):
Adding industry related professional memberships to your CV is a great way to stand out to employers.
Where relevant, add roles, duties or responsibilities.
It is not unusual to have people list out references on their CV. My personal opinion is except you are asked to provide references, it is okay to add a line that says "references will be provided upon request".
Best Practices for Writing your CV
- Except you have extensive experience, keep your CV to one or two pages.
- Create a reader friendly document through formatting and effective use of white space.
- Use consistent fonts and spacing throughout the document. Keep font size between 11 and 12 points. Avoid using script and other hard to read fonts.
- Do not use graphics and characters in your CV, as these elements might not translate properly across operating systems. Exceptions to this rule would be graphic designers or other roles in which graphics or images are of importance to the employer.
- Section headers are a great way to create breaks in your CV.
- Proofread your CV for grammatical errors and typos. Where possible, have someone else review and provide feedback.
- Name your document properly: First and last name_CV (Lagbaja Wazobia_CV).
- Submit your CV in a PDF format. This will preserve formatting across different operating systems.
Creating the first draft of your CV is the hardest part. Once that's done, all you need to do is update the document periodically. Need a starter template to get you started, use the download button above or get access to the full resources page here.
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