I am always shocked at how many people casually take resume or CV writing. I still come across CVs that are written using obsolete approaches or formats. I think people tend to get away with this because in Zimbabwe CV formats are generally not strictly critiqued. Chances are that most employers in Zimbabwe will not strictly assess your CV format or content. This, however, is no premise for us to regard CV writing as something that can be done anyhow. Remote working, for example, is on the rise which means most Zimbabweans now hunt for jobs globally. You need to write a CV that will be competitive and to do that here are some tips:

Length Matters

Never make the mistake of thinking that a multi-paged CV is what wins. That temptation is there but it goes against what increases your chances of getting noticed. Your CV must be as brief or short as possible; just a few pages. It has become common practice for CVs to just be a one-pager. Yes! It is very possible to make a CV that fits on one page. Covering only your Details, Career Summary, Core Competencies, Professional Experience, and Education suffices on one page. I would suggest that your CV should be between 1 and 3 pages long. What should guide you on length is the level at or for which you are applying for the job in question. From entry-level going up to senior level, the length increases. This means a one-pager for the lower end and a 3-pager or more for the upper end.

Elements You Must Not Include

There are elements people tend to include in a CV that are not necessary. A good example is your headshot; sure it looks nice but it can work to your disadvantage. In applying for a job you want to limit or eliminate any possibility of prejudice on the part of the prospective employer. Including your headshot can lead to prejudice e.g. someone might just dislike how you look.

The other thing I have noticed is that the headshot can affect the structural integrity of your CV. I am sure you know how messy things can get when you mix text and images. These days some employers use software to assess CVs. A headshot might ruin things for you so just exclude it. It is also advised to exclude pronouns e.g. I. For example, instead of saying ‘I supervised a training initiative…’ say ‘Supervised a training initiative…

Unless they relate to the job you are applying for, exclude hobbies or interests; keep them few also. As for references, it is advisable to exclude them or at the very least simply indicate ‘References Available Upon Request”. Stop including the ‘CV for…’ line, it is not necessary.

Professional Experience Must Be Impact-Based

By impact-based, this simply means answering the question of what did you accomplish? Often time most people just list the jobs they did and that is it. Some also include the generic breakdown of what the job entailed. The best thing to do though is to demonstrate the impact you made under each professional experience. For example, “Supervised the implementation of the school’s first-ever hybrid learning system.” Always remember to list your past jobs from the most recent going backwards (that also applies to your Education). In covering your professional experience you are not obligated to include everything. Only include professional experience that is relevant to the job application and that makes you shine.

Do Not Use The Same CV For All Job Applications

This is all too common in Zimbabwe i.e. using the same CV for any job application. You must tailor your CV for every job you apply for. Think of your CV (which represents you) as a product and your prospective employer as the target market. This will call on you to make adjustments to make the CV suited to or to target the job in question. Nowadays it is advised to draft your CV using keywords or key phrases that correspond to the job in question and its industry.

In this digital age, some employers now use software to track or shortlist CVs. To those of you who have ever uploaded CVs or applied for jobs on LinkedIn, you will appreciate this. If your CV is the same old generic one you use for any job application, you might go unnoticed. Even outside the use of software, applying this principle of customizing your CV will make you stand out.

Overused Words Or Phrases You Must Avoid

If you go through many CVs you will notice certain words get overused. Employers have probably gotten tired of seeing them so you must avoid them. Common examples of overused words or phrases to avoid are duties included, responsible for, good communication skills, proven track record, and demonstrated success. It is wise to find fitting alternatives for these words or phrases which, amongst other things, will make you stand out.

Use words like achieved, delivered, managed, optimized, influenced, and so on instead. Wherever possible add stats or metrics to these words. The idea is to sound genuine and factual rather than sounding cliché and artificial. It is important to incorporate an action tone in your CV. As you saw from the recommended words there – they are action words.

These tips will give your CV the much-needed facelift or makeover. Do not forget to check for grammar and spelling errors. That also includes checking to see if your overall structure is coherent or symmetric at best. As for font, there is no hard rule per se but you must ensure uniformity. Some of the common fonts you can choose from are Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, and Trebuchet MS, amongst others. All the best in your job applications!