How to write
a stellar CV
If you’ve been online this past week, mainly on X (Twitter), then you’ve seen the HR v Applicant conversation going on. If you haven’t, here’s a recap.
An HR professional made a tweet on how difficult it was to get 20 suitable candidates from a pool of 600 applicants. Why is this contentious? Well, on the HR side of things, the talent teams are arguing that people are not as employable or are applying with second-rate CVs. On the other side, applicants are saying job descriptions these days are asking for too much and are unready to invest in talent.
In today’s edition of EnteringTech, we’re taking another direction. Instead of talking about who’s wrong or right, we’re going to show you how to create the best CV so you’re getting jobs left and right. Let’s get into it.
by Timi Odueso
Tech trivia questions
Some trivia before we begin. Answers are at the bottom of this newsletter.
- How long does the average recruiter spend on a CV/resume?
- What’s the average length of a CV?
Why are CVs important?
A CV—short for Curriculum Vitae—is a document that briefly summarises your work experience for prospective employers.
They’re basically sales pitches that tell employers why they should buy hire you.
In many cases, CVs are the first impressions of the corporate world; they’re the first thing your bosses and managers will learn about you.
So to make a great first impression, you have to ensure your CV stands out.
How do you curate resumes/CVs that shine? We spoke to two HR executives and here’s what Chiazagom Anisiebo and Felix Bissong have to say.
Chiazagom Anisiebo and Felix Bissong
Five tips on creating stellar CVs
1.📈 Show results
A great CV is the enemy of a math teacher—you have to show your results without focusing on the workings. In the tech world, what matters is what you’re able to build and how fast you’re able to build it. If you’re applying for a role as a product manager, your CV must show how many [successful] products you have built.
“We want to see your achievement, not your job description. It’s also important that your achievements are quantifiable,” says Bissong.
Instead of just stating what you did in old jobs, show what your efforts produced. Here’s an example:
❌ Responsible for building a newsletter product.
✅ Contributed to the 4x growth of a digital product within my first 18 months in the role.
Measurable metrics—results—are what matter, and they’ll make your CV stand out.
2. 🎯 Add only essential information
You may have heard this before but your CV is not your autobiography. It’s your corporate FAQ.
Only essential information regarding your corporate or work history should be added. Take out information like your date of birth, your primary and secondary schools, marital status, and your physical addresses.
“A lot of people have unnecessary information in their CVs. The thing is, only relevant job experiences should be in your CV. A lot of times, you don’t even need to add all your past roles, especially when they don’t align with the role you’re applying to,” Anisiebo says.
Your CV is selling you and your skills to potential employers. It’s the real-life elevator pitch!
3. 📑 One size doesn’t fit all
CVs are not like wristwatches, one size type does not fit all. You have to create CVs for every job you’re applying to.
The CV you send to TechCabal is not the one you’ll send to Zikoko. Each job has key requirements, and if your CV doesn’t measure up to them, it’ll be tossed aside.
For every job you apply to, modify your CV to showcase the skills and requirements they’re looking for, if you have them.
Both Anisiebo and Bisssong agree with the sentiment. For Anisiebo, she says “The goal is to create a CV that will get you in the door. Your CV should be crafted with keywords that match those in the job descriptions. If they don’t match, the HR Information System (HRIS) will not pick it up”
If you’ve applied for jobs recently, you’ll notice that companies use sites like Bamboo HR, SeamlessHR or Lever to collect applications. These sites use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to qualify or disqualify candidates based on how their CVs match the job description. So if you have just one CV, you’re probably going to get a lot of nos.
There are tools like JobScan and SkillSyncer that help make sure your CV has the right keywords for a job application.
From Bissong’s view, the way to go about this is to first understand the sector, then the company, and finally the job description. “Edit your CV to fit the role, align your professional experience to the job description” he says.
For example, a data analyst job might call for expertise in the Python language. A CV that states “proficient in all data languages” will not scale through, but one that specifically mentions proficiency in Python will.
To be clear, we’re not asking you to lie about your skills. We’re asking you to make sure you specify the skills you have that match the job’s requirements.
Simplify with Zido
Streamline your global supply chain from procurement to distribution with Zido. Start here.
4. 📶 Size matters
In today’s trivia, you’ll learn how long the average recruiters spend on one CV. A hint: it’s not that long.
Like tech recruiter Joseph Gichuhi said in this edition of #EnteringTech🚀
, recruiters get hundreds and sometimes thousands of applications, depending on the role. The longer your CV is, the less time recruiters will have to focus on key aspects of your application.
The optimal length of a CV should be two to three pages.
5. Choose the right format
Finally, the format of your CV will also play a role in which jobs you get interviewed for. You need to make sure your CV is styled to the global standard.
This means no spelling errors, no wrong punctuation marks, and no—we can’t stress this enough—Comic Sans font! Choose a legible or standard font like Arial, Times New Roman, Garamond, or Open Sans. No cursive or showy fonts are needed—unless of course, you’re applying to be a clown.
In our conversation, Bissong gave a step-by-step analysis of how your CV should be formatted. “The first thing we’ll see is your professional summary or header, that’s what piques my interest,” he said. And this part should be short, the recruiter said. “I often advise people to match the professional header or summary in their CVs to their LinkedIn headers.”
Download this template here
Next, you should list your professional experience in descending order. “What should be first is your current or immediate past role. And in it, you should add the dates of employment as well as your achievements in the role.” Bissong says every job experience you list should not exceed five lines and a minimum of three.
The recruiter also talks about the importance of adding relevant certifications as a boost but urges applicants from adding references unless it’s specifically required.
Job hunting is undeniably hard, but we hope these tips will help you craft a compelling sales pitch for yourself. In closing our discussion, Anisiebo shared a final word we think everyone will benefit from, “If you apply and don’t the job, don’t take it personally. Oftentimes, it’s not a comment on your person or skill, it just means the company is looking for something different at the moment.”
Ask a techie
Ask a question
Q. If I don’t have any experience working, what do I put on my CV?
Great question. No working experience ≠ no experience at all.
In edition #002 of #EnteringTech🚀, where we wrote about landing your first tech jobs, we outlined some ways you can show experience for a job.
You can take online courses which often have exercises that give you practical knowledge for jobs. You should also practice what you learn and build a portfolio.
For example, as a budding designer looking to land your first tech job, you should design as often as you can and create mock-ups of different products and services. A data analyst should show the different dashboards and data visualisations they’ve practised and created.
What matters in tech are results and capability. As an entry-level techie, your CV should showcase your portfolio and your learnt courses. That way, employers will be able to gauge your skill level.
That’s all we can take this week. Have any questions about working in tech? Ask away and we’ll find answers for you.👇🏾
Tech trivia answers
- According to Indeed.com, it’s about six to seven seconds, although many recruiters say they’ll spend as much as 20 seconds browsing through a CV.
- Ideally, a resume should only be one page long but on average, most CVs are 2–3 pages long.
- Gen F, an initiative facilitated by Founders Factory is set to invest in startups from Africa through its Entrepreneur in Residence program. Selected startups will receive a $250,000 seed funding injection upon successful pitching. Apply here.
- The Federal Government of Nigeria has opened applications for companies that could serve as hosts to its Code Clubs initiative in 16 states of the federation. Launched in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Code Clubs will enable Nigerians aged 7 to 17 years to learn a broad spectrum of coding and technology-related subjects. Apply here.
- Report for the World once again invites independent news organisations across the globe to join its growing network of host newsroom partners. Newsrooms will be asked to make the case for the beat they want to cover and how they will provide support and mentorship to their prospective corps members. In turn, Report for the World will fund half the salary of the reporters for up to three years. Apply by February 20, 2024.
- Applications are open for the fourth cohort of the JournalismAI Fellowship Programme 2024. Up to 30 journalists and technologists will be selected to join the cohort and work together for seven months. £6,000 will be allocated per project to support research and project development expenses. Apply by January 26, 2024.
There are more jobs on TechCabal’s job board. If you have job opportunities to share, please submit them at bit.ly/tcxjobs.
Disclaimer: TechCabal is not affiliated with or associated with jobs and opportunities listed on all its job boards and newsletters. All applicants bear the responsibility of researching about the roles and companies they apply to.
Enjoyed this edition?
Spread the word! Share #EnteringTech🚀