By Perminus Wainaina
According to Google, how to write a CV was one of the top searches performed by Kenyans in January. One of the reasons behind Kenyans wanting to know how to write a good CV, is because those who graduated last year are now in the market aggressively looking for their first job. Another possible explanation is that the employed made a resolution to change employers in the New Year and therefore want to make a convincing case on why they should be considered.
This article will highlight top tips when it comes to writing your CV for the Kenyan job market.
When writing a CV, you will maximize its impact if you think of the document as a marketing tool. I always tell candidates that they are not any different from a loaf of bread in a supermarket shelf. Just like a loaf of bread that is well packaged, smells nice and is delicious, so should you market yourself by showing your education, work experience and skills. There’s a common misconception that the purpose of a CV is to get you a job. The work of a CV is to get you an interview. It’s during an interview that you argue your case and ultimately get the job.
Now that you are not going to have a nice smelling CV, what are some of the steps you can take to make your CV stand out from the rest? The easiest way to do this is to address the needs of an employer and showcase the value you will bring on board.
I’ll start by how you address the needs of an employer. Most times when you are making a job application, you will be referring to a job advert. How about making sure that whatever is listed on the job advert is also on your CV? It shouldn’t be word for word but whoever is reviewing your CV should get a feeling that you have the skills and competencies they are looking for. This means tweaking your CV every time you apply for a job to match the advertiser’s need.
Majority of candidates simply copy paste what is in the JD and assume that the recruiter or HR manager will understand their current responsibilities. If there’s no job description in the advertised position, visit different job search sites to learn the expectations of employers and pick the top five responsibilities.
And how do you bring out the value addition part? A great CV has a list of achievements. And what are achievements? Achievements are those tasks or results where you went beyond your job description or call of duty. What did you do extra in your job that you were not being paid for? For example, if you are in sales you could give the example of how you introduced company products to a new territory that led to a 20% growth in revenue, or say K’sh 10M. If you are an Accounting professional, you could indicate how you helped your firm collect bad debts that had been outstanding for over a year, or how you helped the company get a clean tax report from KRA. Achievements should be quantified in percentages or monetary form. Whether you are an intern or an experienced professional, you must have achievements.
I review many CVs in a day and one part that many candidates don’t get right, is the career objective. A career objective is not a must so if you are putting one, please make sure it’s of value. A lot of you just make general statements that don’t mean much. Anyone can say how motivated and passionate they are or other vague statements.
To make your career objective stand out, it should be in your area of training and also focus on you as an individual. Here is a good example for an Admin Assistant candidate, “Meticulous, detail-oriented professional looking for an Administrative Assistant position. I am adept at providing office support, employee management coordination and making travel and accommodation arrangements.”
When it comes to writing a great CV, omit details to do with tribe, religion, driving license (unless you are a driver) photos (unless asked). You should only include information that is relevant. If you have over 10 years experience, there’s no need to give a breakdown of the duties you performed during your internship. In fact, employers will only be interested with what you’ve done in your last three jobs. What about short term engagements and self employment? If you were employed for a few days in a month, you can just indicate the month as the work period. For example, write Administration Officer, May 2015. Some employers are unwilling to employ candidates who are running their own show. I have seen candidates choose another title away from MD or business owner to evade this. Other employers will not mind your disclosure and it might even earn you marks.
What should be the length of a great CV?
If you have less than 5 years, your CV should be no more than 2 pages. For those with more than five years, it should be 3 to 4 A4 pages. If you follow my advice and only include relevant details, I don’t see why you should have a lengthy CV. Remember what I said about your CV being a marketing tool? Now picture a scenario where Safaricom is promoting one of their products and they send you a lengthy proposal. No matter how much you like the company or the product, you’ll not have the time to go through a lengthy proposal and you won’t buy. That’s why Safaricom comes up with catchy short adverts. Likewise, keep your CV brief and to the point. There are exceptions to the rule and you should always follow an employer’s requirements.
Finally, a great CV should be pleasant to the eye. No funny fonts. No mix up in colours. No unprofessional emails like [email protected] Be careful with spacing and underlining. There should be consistency. You might have the best content, but if it not well represented you will not make an impact. It’s like having a delicious meal that is badly presented.
We judge others by their first appearance and it’s not different when it comes to your CV. Remember that the CV is the only document that a potential employer or recruiter has to make judgment on you. Strive to make it as great as possible.
Perminus Wainaina is the Managing Partner & Head of Recruitment at Corporate Staffing Services Ltd.