In this article, we’re going to cover the ideal standard for creating a CV that can be used to apply for jobs both locally and in an international market. We’ll also look at five free sample templates you can use to structure your CV as well as websites where you can get professional feedback on your CV.
In Nigeria, there’s no specific format for writing a CV but when you’re sending your CV to foreign companies, you want to ensure you’re meeting their standards.
Here’s what we’ll be discussing in this article:
- What is a CV? — what’s the difference between a CV and a resume and when do you need which?
- Content of a CV — how to write and present the information in your CV
- What Shouldn’t Be In Your CV — determining irrelevant information to leave out of your CV
- Format of a CV — what’s the recommended layout and structure for a CV?
- CV Templates — free sample CV and Resume templates for you to use
- CV Review — how to get free and professional reviews on your CV
What is a CV?
First things first, a Curriculum Vitae is not a Résumé.
A CV is a complete record of your career history and basically everything you feel your employer should know about you. It can span two to three pages.
A résumé, on the other hand, is a basic listing of your skills and should be tailored to the position you’re applying for. It should be, at most, one page.
Ideally speaking, when companies ask for your CV, you should be as detailed as possible.
Unfortunately these days, most companies don’t have the luxury of paging through every applicant’s CV as their major concern is finding the best fit for the job.
A lot of companies rely on Applicant Tracking Systems to scan certain keywords in each application they get, so it’s also a good idea to learn how to meet these keywords.
For this reason, the modern approach to writing CVs has changed drastically from the past so let’s analyze this new format.
Content Of A CV
The heading of your CV should contain your name, your phone number, your email address and other relevant contact details or links, such as your portfolio.
A profile summary should be a few sentences describing your professional experience placed at the beginning of your CV.
3. Educational History
Your educational history should be limited to your most relevant degrees.
If you’re currently a student in the university, include your expected year of graduation and your GPA (if you’re comfortable sharing).
Online degrees and certifications are highly valued. Employers like to have an idea of the qualifications you have so make sure to include those in your CV.
It’s better to leave out your high school information but you can include it only if it’s necessary i.e. you accomplished something in secondary school that you feel would be pertinent to the position you’re applying for.
For example, if you’re applying for a position as a social media intern, you can mention that you were in charge of your high school’s social media account while you were a student.
The skills in your CV should be tailored according to the job requirements of the role.
If the role requires experience in React, jQuery and CSS, make sure those skills are listed in your CV, if you have them.
The skills listed should be things that will actually help you perform the tasks required for the job you’re applying for.
These are examples of skills you can include in your CV:
- personal skills: e.g. ability to work well under pressure, good communication skills, innovative e.t.c
- spoken languages: French, Yoruba, Arabic and so on
- proficiency level: how good you are or how many years of experience you have with the skill
You can also include your accomplishments in this section. If you’ve won any awards or gained any notable acknowledgements, you can mention them in a subheading.
It’s important to note:
The experience section of your CV should only include work experience that is related to the field you’re applying to.
Each listed experience should contain the name and location of the company you worked for, your role and the dates you worked there. You should also include a description of your work and accomplishments at the company.
When including experience in your CV, it’s a good idea to use result-based summaries rather than description-based.
Instead of saying “I built websites for clients”, you can say “I improved performance and accessibility across multiple client projects”.
If you have no experience in the field you’re applying to, you can choose to supplement your lack of work experience by including projects you’ve worked on or courses you’ve taken — the idea is to provide proof that you’re capable of handling the roles of the job.
These are the basic requirements for a CV and each section should be tailored based on the position and organization.
What Shouldn’t Be In Your CV
Now that we know what a CV should contain, let’s go over a list of things that should not be in a CV:
- Incriminating personal information. Things like gender, marital status and ethnicity may create a liability for companies so it’s best to leave it out altogether.
- Your photograph. Unless stated otherwise by the company, you don’t need to attach a photograph of yourself in any format to your CV.
- Your physical attributes or age. Since these things don’t directly relate to your ability to do the job, they shouldn’t be included.
- Your hobbies. See above.
- The word “CV”. There’s no need to include the text “My CV” inside your CV, either as the title or anything else. It’s fine to include the word CV in the file name e.g. Jemima Abu’s CV.pdf
- Your health. Unless, it is something that you feel your employer should know about, in which case you can just mention it in person at the interview.
- Your certificates. Unless you are asked to bring those, do not attach certificates of any form to your CV.
- The date you created the CV. Once again, if it’s not relevant to your job application it shouldn’t be included.
Format of a CV
It’s very important to fit your CV to the position you’re applying for and not just write a general CV that you spam companies with.
You want your CV to look like you were made for the position and not like you’re trying to force a square block into a round space.
The structure and layout of a CV are nearly as important as the content. You want your employer to be able to see all the important details at a glance so your CV should following the following format:
- Concise: Your CV should contain the information relevant to the job and nothing else.
- Short: Limit your CV to one page. Employers should be able to glean the most relevant information at a glance so keeping everything on the first page is beneficial.
- Plain: Stick to black text and simple fonts that are easy to read. You can use color to highlight headers or add emphasis to text but try to limit it to one accent color.
- Honest: There’s no need to include false or inaccurate information on your CV since your employer will eventually find out.
- Up-to-date: If you get a new certification or learn a new skill at work, be sure to include it in your CV. It’s always a good idea to update your CV even if you’re not planning on using it for the time being.
Here are some free Google Docs templates you can use to write up your CV.
To use the template, select the File option in the Google docs page and click ‘make a copy’ or, if you don’t have a Google docs account, you can download the template as a .doc file.
4. Spearmint — Google Docs
Once you’ve drafted out the final version of your CV, you’ll need to get it reviewed before you start sending it out to companies. You can choose to get your CV professionally reviewed for a fee or do it yourself.
How to Review Your CV for free
You can review your CV or resume for free by using an online grammar checker tool.
Grammarly is a great option for getting useful feedback on the contents of your CV and clearing up any mistakes or grammatical errors made.
Simply sign up for an account and upload your CV to the platform to get a review.
How To Get a Professional Review of Your CV
If you’re trying to apply for high-level roles at international companies, it’s a good idea to get your CV or resume professionally reviewed.
TopResume is a site where you can get your CV professionally reviewed for free. They’ll provide feedback on the structure and layout of your CV in a way that appeals to employers.
They also provide information on how to update the content of your resume. Finally, they let you know which keywords to include in your CV or resume to meet the requirements of Applicant Tracking Systems, which are used by 93% of hiring managers.