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Preparing a winning CV and cover letter, by Albert and Comfort Ocran

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a summary of a person’s professional experience and educational background, along with other relevant information regarding his/her qualifications or suitability for a particular job.

Everyone needs to have a current CV at all times even if they are not looking for a job. Parliamentarians, ministers, board members and award nominees all need CVs to enable them complete a process.

On the job front, the average recruiter or manager spends less than a minute to skim your CV before they decide if they want to read more. Here are a few tips for packaging a winning CV. Most of them were prepared with young corporate executives and tertiary graduates or job seekers in mind:

1. Attractive page layout and structure: Determine to make the reading of your CV a pleasant experience for the reviewer. A scruffy and disorganised layout or page structure provides the perfect excuse for the reviewer to push yours aside.

The page design, font type and structure are important indicators about the type of candidate applying for the job. Where handwritings are used, reviewers easily form impressions about candidates based on illegibility, neatness and other criteria. The same applies to typed work.

Invest time and effort in making the outlook of your CV as professional as possible. Use clear, bold headings and arrange your layout in a reader-friendly manner. Do not use different fonts for one CV.

A maximum of two should easily serve your purpose. Avoid small-sized fonts and stay away from stylish, curvy writings that are difficult to read.

Ensure that there are no stains on your work. Deleting fluid and erasure marks all take something away from the attractiveness of your presentation. Remember, first impressions matter.

2. Relevant Content: This is the most important part of the CV. There must be clear communication of who you are, what you have and why a prospective employer would find you the most suitable person for their organisation.

Your information must be structured and sequentially presented to help the reviewer make a decision quickly.

Avoid errors. The simplest way to avoid submitting a CV with mistakes is to ask someone else to carefully re-read over it for you. A CV must typically have the following structure:

a. Name with address and contact details.

b. Professional summary.

c. Education and qualifications.

d. Skills summary.

e. Employment history.

f. References.

3. Adapt your CV to different jobs: The aim of the entire recruitment process is to find the right match between the available position and the right applicant. Tailoring your CV to a particular role will generate a much more positive response from employers than mass-mailing of a standard CV to a large volume of recipients.

While this might appear to be more time-consuming, CVs can and must be tailored according to the specialist areas of various organisations. For instance, if you are submitting your CV for a role as a marketing executive in a bank, you could describe yourself as an outgoing personality inclined towards a marketing career in a world-class financial organisation.

You may then proceed to highlight aspects of your course, skills or experience that support this assertion. That would naturally brighten your chances of being considered.

4. Work experience: This should typically be captured under your employment history. Give dates and name of each employer, your job title and make it clear if you moved up the ladder.

Outline your responsibilities and skills used within these roles and any specific achievements you are proud of. Make this section very clear to facilitate quick reading and also give more information on recent and significant roles.

In the absence of formal experience, tertiary students seeking to distinguish themselves are offering themselves to employers for free internship during vacations. This serves a dual purpose of offering them practical exposure and corporate work ethic on one hand while enriching their work experience on the other.

Your experience also includes all special assignments handled on campus, at church or in your community.

5. Non-academic development programmes: It is imperative for students seeking to have an advantage in this highly competitive environment to invest in reading relevant materials or books, attending seminars and developing themselves in various ways in order to brighten their chances and increase their value to the potential employer. These added exposures must also be captured in your CV.

6. Specialised skills and abilities: Your value or worth to the potential employer is enhanced by your possession of additional skills and abilities that could easily be leveraged by any organisation for the achievement of its objectives. Skills such as writing, acting, public speaking and organising come to mind easily.

Also include all your software skills (applications, packages, operating systems and databases) as well as any languages you know; and specify your skill level i.e. conversational through to fluent.

Include any extra training undertaken that is relevant to the post. This could have a table format outlining all of your skills, technical and professional, and giving an indication as to the level of your expertise or proficiency.

7. Summary or unique selling proposition (USP): This is a short statement of your unique skills and point of differentiation in the pursuit of your life mission.

Where there is a long list of applicants, this allows the reviewer to make a quick judgement on each candidate’s suitability. Take time to write this part to the best of your ability. Read it over and over again.

8. Suitable length: Create the right balance. It is important that applicants achieve the right balance between providing enough information in a CV and overloading the recipient with too many irrelevant details.

There are strong positions held by some experts that a CV must not exceed one or two A4 pages. However, if you are unable to document your suitability for a role within two pages, you must extend your CV to avoid being too concise. Fresh university graduates must endeavour to restrict their CVs to a maximum of two pages.

9. The Application/Cover Letter: Spend a sufficient amount of time writing the cover letter that will accompany your CV. This enables you to highlight aspects of your CV that make you most suitable for the role and should entice potential employers to read on.

Your cover letter should answer the question, “What can this person do for us?”

• State who you are and why you are writing in your first sentence and, if you are applying for a specific job posting, cite the title of the vacancy plus any reference number provided by the company. If someone else has referred you to the organisation, include this in your cover letter too.

• Following on from your introduction, take up to three points of particular relevance from your CV and expand upon them. Do not simply copy what you have already written in your CV – pick out the main highlights and re-phrase them, expanding where necessary, but try to keep this section to just one or two paragraphs.

• In your closing paragraph, reiterate your enthusiasm for discussing how you meet the requirements of the role during an interview and thank the recipient for their time. As with your CV, thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors. Your cover letter should be as flawless as your CV.

10. Regular updates: Avoid preparing a CV once and presenting it over and over without updating it.

Increase your value proposition through relevant knowledge and skills and consistently capture in your CV new developments that could make you more desirable. Regularly update your CV every month even if nothing happens during the period. GB

 

Source: Graphic Online

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