CV Writing Basics

CV Writing Basics

Your CV

The first question that runs in my mind when one wants a CV written is; why? Do you want to make a difference or is the job you are looking for a means to an end? The answer to this question determines one’s growth and fulfillment or the lack thereof. It is possible to get a job without writing a CV and going through the gruesome interview process, especially if it is not your first job. When John* (not his real name) first approached me, he wanted help with his CV and how to answer interview questions. He had 2 interviews before but didn’t get the promotion, because he was not ‘strategic’, so he was told. The interviewers found him more operational and the role they were interviewing for, a senior managerial position required a strategic thinker. Once I understood the background, I asked John, if we could change the focus of our coaching sessions to rebuilding his foundation rather than writing a CV and preparing how to answer questions. My thoughts were, if we focused on him and he became more grounded, work would look for him. Employers would seek him out and he would be promoted without writing a CV and undergoing interviews. He would be asked for his CV as a formality after being given the job. This is the scenario I envisioned. He agreed. We focused on what mattered most to him, aligned his career objective to his life purpose. This helped us know whether he was in the right career and working for the right organization in the first place. Once this was confirmed, John was able to refocus and pour his heart out to work. He was serving from a deeper place since this was not just a job to pay bills rather a part of his life purpose. His results were very good and the passion he had, was noted by his superiors and workmates.

About 6 months later, John was invited to take up a higher role. An offer he received and accepted without having to go for interviews and actively seek it out.
This is the easier way up, quite fulfilling, without unnecessary stress. I invite you to try it out.The above approach is used by few people in my view. I know there is a demand for very good employees as there is a shortage of supply of such. Many ‘struggle’ because they accept average. They are not productive and don’t add much value at their work place. They do just enough to maintain themselves despite the fact that they have a well of potential silently residing within.

My cry is to those who are ready to make a difference in their lives. There are many businesses coming up every day and everywhere I look I see an office block. Surely, one of these offices has your space. One of these companies is holding your place. If this is your question, then you are welcome to continue reading. May this be the last CV you need to write. Your place is to be invited to senior positions and roles. Can I get help in writing my CV? Yes, you can!
There are many people who have asked for help in writing their CV’s, that I thought it important to give some basics.
I am always proud of anyone who seeks professional help where they are not sure what to do. It makes a big difference. We are all endowed with different gifts, skills and abilities to help us in life. Getting the right knowledge and right support goes a long way and saves time.
Please apply for jobs you have passion for or you know you are called to do. Have a deeper why you are interested in a particular career and not another. All careers have the potential of being great or miserable. You have the power to decide. So choose wisely.
You are welcome to use the information below as a framework you can use to build yours. No 2 CV’s should be alike. Put in your own words, your own style. Let the recruiters know you, feel your presence and energy and the value you would add.
I urge you to spend some time developing a good CV. It may be tedious, tiresome, but the results are worth it. This is true at least for the clients I have had.
Do it once and for all.

Purpose of a CV

I. The main reason for a CV is to get you an interview invite. To get you through the door so you can get a chance to showcase the value you can add to an organization during the interview.
II. A well written CV begins your salary negotiations. I had not thought about this before!
III. It can also be used as a good justification for salary increase in current role.
Value PAGE
Page 1 of your CV is the MOST VALUABLE PAGE.
Recruiters and prospective employers hardly go to page 2 onwards unless they see valuable content on page 1. Treat this page with utmost love. I like to compare this with our physical appearance. How are you groomed today? Nice outfit? Smell good? Nice genuine smile? Confident? Before anyone speaks to us, they make a judgement about us based on what they see. I have heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. What does your picture say about you? Have this in mind while writing your CV.
Remember to ask yourself whether every word on the CV is adding value.
Know that employers are not doing you a favor by hiring you! They need your skills and talent. It is a win win game. Both you and the employer are in search for each other. I have met many people who show desperation or have left their fate to prospective employers. Please do not. Employers like confident people. I know I do. I have to remind myself this many times.
Content of CV (Basic)
I. Contact Information
Let your personal contact information occupy a very small space at the top of the page. Recruiters and potential employers need to know how to get to you. That’s it! Your name, telephone number, email address and maybe postal address. The other details such as age, marital status, date of birth may not be important. Only add such if it is a requirement for the job you are applying for.
II. Personal Statement and Career Objective
I have seen many CV’s with a personal statement and Career Objective. Some clients ask me whether they should have them. I say, I don’t know. Only you, know. My suggestion would be, only include this if it adds value. I do not complete reading most of the personal statements and career objectives written from the CVs that I receive. They are boring, mere statements that do not say anything particular about the person or the company.
One of the recent clients had me look at personal statements more keenly. She asked that we write her CV in a manner that wouldn’t attract companies that she didn’t want rather be seen by organizations that spoke her language (have similar values with hers, a culture around ethics and genuine concern for people)
III. Role Requirements
I suggest that page 1 should have all the important information that the prospective employer is looking for. The employer will be searching for this. There are some CVs I have seen that have valuable info on page 2 or 3 that could be missed out completely. If a recruiter doesn’t find this info on page 1, he/she won’t proceed to page 2.
IV. Education
The main practice is to write this from the most current going back. If you have a degree or diploma, there is no need to include your primary school details. It is obvious you went to primary school. Unless there is something very special about your primary education that would be relevant in your job application. This is true the higher you go. If you have a Masters degree or Phd, it may not be necessary to include high school qualifications. Be the judge.
V. Professional Qualifications
It is important to add qualifications to your CV, especially those that the potential employer would be interested in.
VI. Work Experience & Value Adds
This is a major interest for potential employers. Funny, we don’t take time to evaluate what we have done, yet this is what helps us progress. Many people write their duties only. Employers are more interested in the VALUE added in previous roles than duties. What changes or transformation has your presence added in your current and previous roles? Would your previous employer want you back? Better still, if this was your company, would you employ yourself?
I have found value addition exercise very useful since it quickly shows one’s potential worth. Sometimes the exercise exposes some gaps that can be consciously rectified. Cases where one works with no achievements, merely performing required duties.
One security guard I am privileged to know earns a little money but his value is huge. No one wants him to leave his workstation (residential apartments). He has a 12 hour shift. He is always at work by 530am and leaves only after his colleague comes. Sometimes after 7pm. He has a permanent smile, always taking care of all tenants, beyond the scope of his duty. A couple of times, he noticed smoke coming out of a tenants house and saved him from chocking to death. He noticed a small place that was ignored and occasionally used as a garbage place. He cleared it and turned it into a vegetable garden that the tenants now enjoy. He has planted flowers in the compound that are pleasant to look at when they bloom. He notifies tenants when there is a water shortage and orders water delivery. He even calls up tenants when their water and electricity meters are about to be disconnected, work that he hasn’t been told to do. This has resulted in most of the tenants giving back to him. One has employed his wife and serves him breakfast. Another has offered to help him start a business others have their cars and their guests cars washed by him. He has added life to a seemingly insignificant role. I can bet he will never lack a job if he continues with the same spirit.
I also heard another story of a security guard at an office setup that was so good. She always welcomed customers to the shop helped sort out their small needs. A responsibility that was not hers. When she didn’t come in one morning, the manager of the shop asked what happened. She had been laid off as security company was not doing well. This manager called the lady, asked her to write a CV. She didn’t know how to. This was done for her by the manager and her team. She was then employed to help in customer service. A role that has seen her grow beyond her dreams. There are many examples of people who have experienced growth as a result of the value they have added in roles.
What value have you added in your current role? By the way, you could use this to negotiate for a pay increase too.
VII. Internships/Volunteer Work/Hobbies (For Beginners)
There is a tendency for 1st time job seekers to underestimate the value of their volunteer work and internships. These play a big role in helping a potential employer see the skills and value they have. It could be selling in a kiosk. This can show customer service, management skills, procurement, inventory and finance skills.
Nancy* (not her real name) got her 1st employment 2 months ago after she spent time working on her CV. Her initial CV was plain. The second one exposed her leadership, management, people and administration skills from the various activities she volunteered in. Her current employer picked out her CV because of these extras and not because of her degree. She is in charge of administration in a private school.
VIII. Hobbies/Interests/Volunteer Work
This is nice to add as it helps the potential employer have an all round view of you. There are occasions where someone has been employed because of this, especially when there is a deadlock between 2 very good candidates.
IX. Referees
Have about 3 people on your list who you know will speak for you. They are your endorsers. Sometimes one gets a job because the referee or endorser is known and highly respected. Let them be people who know you very well. Please inform them beforehand to get their consent.
Give them a copy of your CV and have them know what you are looking for. They should be prepared and it is your responsibility to keep them in the loop. Remember to thank them. It is courtesy.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

 Giving someone to write your CV in your absence
This is because the CV lacks your voice and has the writer’s voice instead. Please own the process in any case, the CV is yours. I have been in a few interviews where the CV was well written but when the person showed up and spoke to the interviewing panel, it was a different person. The CV and the person did not align. This is a turn off and an immediate disqualification in the interview process. If you have a coach, participate fully, only you know yourself best.
 Sending the same generic CV to all prospective employers
It is easy for a recruiter or a company to tell whether your CV is addressing them specifically or not. You can only do this in a few circumstances. Please tailor make CV’s for each organization applied to. For example, 2 organizations could be looking for a sales person for different reasons. One could be expanding while the other could be replacing a staff member who was unethical. Understand the reason(s) a company may be hiring first.
If applying to a role that hasn’t been advertised, please include the gap(s) you have noticed in their organization and how you can solve them. This is a good way of creating a job for you.
 Writing information that is not true.
Different interviewers are attracted to different parts of the CV. A question could come from any part of the CV. Sad if the information is found out to be untrue. This could be the end of the interview process for you. The interviewers will be wandering what else is not true. Prospective employers want trustworthy and honest people. I’d rather you have 1 page CV that is authentic than 3 pages that has false information.
 Spelling Mistakes
Go through the CV for mistakes. There is nothing as bad as reading a CV that has spelling mistakes. At the very least, use spell check offered on the computer. Life has been made easy.
 Many Pages
Avoid writing a very long CV. 3 pages is good on average. Unless applying for a position that requires you to list specific things eg publications.
Writing Your CV: Guidelines
Here are some questions that can help you write down your CV
 What personal details are important for this job that I am applying for?
o Name?
o Phone Number?
o Email Address?
o Postal Address?
 Is it necessary to add a Career Objective? (Yes/No)
 If Yes, why am I pursuing this career? Why is it important to me?
 Is my career objective aligned to what the potential employer is looking for? (Yes/No). If yes proceed, if No, re evaluate your objective. I suggest it shouldn’t be all about you.
 Do I need to write a personal statement? (Yes/No)
 If yes, what is it about you me that I would like the potential employer to know? (Let your character and personality emerge. Whatever you write here should marry with the content in the CV)
 Work Experience
o Write a few lines describing key roles and responsibilities
o Add achievements for each role. A prospective employer would be interested in knowing what value you have added in your workplace. One is employed more for value than key roles, with the exception of maybe few jobs.
 Skills
o There are some positions that will require you mention the skills you have.
There are 3 basic components that help one through job search process and life.
They are;
I. Know yourself
II. Know the company you are interested in
III. Know the role you are applying for well
The more you know self the more confident and solid you will be. This will help attract the kind of employer you want.
 Please update your profile on LinkedIn. I know clients who have received job offers from their LinkedIn profiles.
 Let everyone in your network know you are searching for a job and send them a copy of your CV.


Comment ( 1 )

  • Angela

    Thank you for such an informative and detailed article. Value addition and being able to articulate it clearly to your potential employer or business partner is the key to a well written CV

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