How To Write an Excellent Curriculum Vitae (CV)

How To Write an Excellent Curriculum Vitae (CV)
“Interested applicants should send their application letters and CVs to the following address...”

You may have seen this advertisement, at least, once in your life, if you have ever been on a search for a job. But what is this CV that almost every Employer requests from job seekers?

A CV is “a written account of one's life comprising one's education, accomplishments, work experience, publications, etc.; especially, one used to apply for a job.”

Everyone deserves to own a well-prepared Curriculum Vitae (CV). It doesn't matter if you are not ready to apply for a job. A CV primarily helps keep track of your academic and work experiences, before it secondarily helps market oneself to a recruiting agency or any employer. So how do I prepare my CV? What goes into it? Are there types of CV? 

There are, at least, two types of CV; namely, Academic CV and Job CV.

The Academic CV is used to apply for advanced studies, say, Master's degree or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and sometimes, for scholarships and graduate assistantships. It usually contains the courses you read in your previous school, degrees and certificates, project work, academic goals, research works, awards, etc.

The Job CV is mainly used to apply for a job. It may not contain all the features that were listed under the Academic CV.

Depending on the type of job one is applying for, it is possible to have a blend of the two types of CV listed above. It behoves you to know what is expected of you as a job seeker or as a student applying for advanced studies.

In almost every CV, you would find some of the following areas:
1. Personal details/Personality Profile 
2. Career/Academic objective
3. Education
4. Professional/Work Experience 
5. Skills set/Other skills
6. Leadership Achievements
7. Extra-Curricular activities
8. Hobbies/Interests
9. Associations/Membership
10. Awards
11. Project and Research Experience
12. Seminars, Workshops, and Conferences attended
13. Referees/Recommenders

Note: Not every area listed above has to be in your CV. Life is too short to be writing lengthy CVs. Life is equally too short for employers to be reading never-ending CVs.

Disclaimer: Whatever you put in your CV, you must be ready to defend it because you found it necessary to put it out, but also remember that whatever you intentionally leave out in your CV may become a subject of discussion during your interview. Be guided.

Areas to consider in your CV

1. Personal details/Personality Profile
Under this, you may want to provide some of the following details:
Date of Birth
Postal Address
Languages spoken
Marital Status
Phone number
Email address

Not all these are important and/or compulsory. Areas such as "religion", "marital status", "languages spoken", etc. have become grounds for discrimination, so unless you are so sure providing them would not harm your application, you can leave them out.

2. Career Objective
It may sound difficult to summarise your entire career goals in just one sentence or two, but use these questions as a guide: Why do you want to work in that company? What do you bring on board? What do you seek to achieve in the short term or long term? Note that career objectives may differ from job to job.

The following is an example of a career objective:

"I am a young enthusiastic graduate of Human Resource looking for a firm that works in a highly competitive environment, where I can utilise my skills in customer service and human resource development."

3. Education
This is an important aspect of your CV. You want to prove to your would-be employer that you have the necessary educational qualifications to get you the job.

It is always important to list your current qualifications first before the older ones follow. As you climb higher on the educational ladder, most of your lower qualifications become less relevant so you could leave them out. For each qualification, you may want to indicate the following:
Name of Institution: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi

Name of Programme/Course: Bachelor of Arts in English

Year Started to Year completed: August 2009 to June 2013.

If the programme was not completed, you can indicate "abandoned"; if you have left it for a while, you can indicate "deferred"; if it hasn't ended yet, you can indicate "in progress" or you can write the start date and indicate "to present".)

4. Professional/Work Experience
This is where you indicate the work or jobs that you have done in your life so far. In many parts of the world, internships, voluntary works, and national service are included. As much as it is possible, focus more on the experiences that have a direct relationship with the work you are currently applying for.

If you don't have any work experience, you may run into few problems, but don't worry, indicate strongly how quick you learn and put it into practical use what you learn.

5. Skill set/Other skills
This refers to the knowledge, abilities, and experience necessary to perform a job. We can distinguish between hard and soft skills.

Hard skills are "teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify. Typically, you'll learn hard skills in the classroom, through books or other training materials, or on the job." Examples of hard skills are proficiency in a foreign language; typing speed; machine operation; computer programming, photography, editing, etc.

Soft skills are also known as "people skills" or "interpersonal skills". Soft skills relate to the way you relate to and interact with other people. Examples of soft skills are communication; ability to work under pressure; decision-making; time management; self-motivation; team work; conflict resolution; leadership; adaptability, etc.

6. Leadership Achievements
This is one of the optional areas in a CV. Have you held any leadership position? If you have, this is the time to show it. If you haven't, you don't have to lie about it. Some stringent interviewers would ask for certificates to prove that you have indeed held such positions.

Most employers have a strong liking for people who can lead so as much as it is possible, learn to take up leadership roles at school and at work.

Apart from the rich experiences and knowledge you acquire, your leadership achievements give you some leverage over equally competent applicants. On a lighter note, they beautify your CV as well.

7. Extra-curricular activities
These activities include anything (profitable or non-profitable) you do aside your work or school. You could be a volunteer, a philanthropist, a peer counsellor, an online teacher, a freelance poet/writer, a social commentator, a seamstress, a photographer, a regular guest on a TV/Radio show, a home teacher, etc.

Again, this is one of the optional areas in a CV, but it could win you the job you are applying for. Get something extra doing today!

8. Hobbies and Interests
A hobby is an activity that someone does for pleasure when he or she is not working. Examples of hobbies include fishing, watching movies, writing, singing, sound mixing, listening to music, etc.

An applicant should be mindful of what he or she writes as hobbies and interests. Some of them may inadvertently tell the employer what you would be using their internet to do at your leisure at the office.

9. Associations/Membership
Do you belong to any professional body, association, a voluntary club/group? You could indicate them here if you do. Once you have completed a school, you belong to the school's alumni, at least. Where membership numbers are given by your association, you could indicate them.

10. Awards
If you have received any award in the course of your education, work, voluntarism, etc., you could indicate them under "Awards". For example, we could have awards such as, "Best Graduating Student in Mathematics", "Best Student Blogger/Leader/Activist/Politician/Writer", "Best Worker/Employer of the Month/Year", etc.

11. Project and Research Experience
If you have conducted any research or undertaken a project which you think can increase your chances of getting the job, you can include it. "Project and research experience" is necessary when preparing an academic CV, where you indicate your thesis/dissertation/final year project. It informs the school that you have the requisite foundation or background for higher studies and research. 

12. Seminars, Workshops, and Conferences Attended
Knowledge is not only acquired in the classroom or at the workplace. Sometimes, you learn invaluable lessons at trainings, workshops, seminars and conferences. If you have attended any of these, you could list them (including the themes/topics of the seminars and the dates you attended them) under this heading.

For all intents and purposes, you need to attend conferences, not only for the knowledge you would acquire but also for the certificates and mentorship opportunities that would be provided.

13. Referees/Recommenders
A "referee" or "reference" is a person who knows you and who is willing to describe and, usually, praise you, in order to support you when you are trying to get a job, etc. Referees give credence to your application that you are suitable for the job. Always make sure that you inform whoever you choose as a referee so that he or she won't be caught unawares by random calls from your would-be employer.

While the reputation of some referees can get you the job, the names of some referees alone can jeopardise your chances. When you are in such a fix, you could just write, Referee to be provided upon request.

Features of a Good Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Your CV should have the following features:

1. It should be well typed and arranged beautifully. (Most people use "Times New Romans fonts, size 12")

2. It should be free from spelling and grammatical errors. Get a trusted editor/proofreader to go through it for you; it is worth it.

3. It should be brief and straight to the point: quality over quantity.

4. The printout should be legible, devoid of ink spillage, crumpling, mutilation, oil soiling, dirtying, etc.

5. If it is possible, embolden only headings and subheadings.

6. The Table Format and Descriptive Format are both appropriate.

Note: It is preferable and secure to send your CV in Portable Document Format (PDF).

Get a sample CV here

© Eric Nuamah Korankye

Tamuno Reuben

Those who seek knowledge seek power because the pen is mightier than the sword.

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