Let your CV get you that job

The 2014/2015 academic year at the University of Zambia comes to an end by the end this month. Most of the students have in fact completed their examinations and are awaiting their results. Candidates that were writing their very final examinations are not only anxious about the results, but about the prospects of finding a job now that they are done with their studies (provided they pass their examinations).
It’s a period of mixed emotions, both exiting and nerve wrecking. Picture this: you finally complete your undergraduate studies at the university, and the next phase of life is about to begin, you probably don’t have an idea where you will be in the next few months or what your first job will be. Your mind plays out all possible scenarios until the day something comes along. It’s crazy!

For the past three or four years, during this time, I get knocks on my door, from the soon to be grandaunts, seeking either two things: help with their CV/resume or to be a referee on their CV/resume.
I have no problems with the latter, but it the former that I’m concerned about. I am amazed at the differences in the formats, grammar and segments on the CVs. Now trust me, I am not an expert, but over the years, I have come to learn a few things from my interactions, my experiences, and my fair share of applications as well.

Many of us have had to deal with what I will call the Infamous CV-Page Challenge. Simply put, this deals with the question of how to cover a couple of years of experience into two to three pages. This task can be overwhelming, trust me.

So I put down a few points that I thought could be helpful. I know there could be many others, but these are a good place to start from:

  • Pay attention to punctuation and presentation: Ensure that your grammar is correct. Always check and double check to evade careless errors that may cost you that job. Ask someone to read through it, and read it again too. Ensure that the formatting is consistent and that you use the same font and style – bold for headings and regular for the other text.
  • Avoid the generic CV: Always create a CV that is unique to a job application you are making. Note, however, that you do not have to re-write the entire thing all over, you should instead re-edit it to make it relevant to each job application.
  • Always KISS: Hold on, this has nothing to do with kissing at all. KISS is for Keep it Simple and Straightforward. This means that the CV should be easy and direct to read and understand. Avoid making to flashy or wordy, a CV is not an essay.
  • Don’t Leave out the Basics: These include: personal and contact information; education and qualifications; work history and/or experience; relevant skills to the job in question; own interests, achievements or hobbies; and some references. In a time when there so many formats for CVs, don’t get so carried away that you forget to clearly state these.
  • Contact Details: It’s always better to put one email address and one phone number, this is the ideal situation. However, knowing how common poor network connections are sometimes, a second number maybe placed. This, after all, is how you will be contacted for that all important interview.

There are several other points you can add to this list. It would be nice to get what would be your additions, or in deed subtractions. I am particularly interested in finding out from you just how long a CV should be. I know that most employers will not have the time to go through very long CVs especially when they have so many applications to consider, so this begs the question, just how long should it be? Please do share.
Whatever the length or specific content, the bottom line is that a good CV can place you in the running for that job. It is therefore important that we begin to pay extra attention to what we put on our CVs. As for my almost former students, I wish them the very best as they enter this new stage in their journey.