Comprehensive Guide To Writing a CV


A CV/Resume is the most important marketing instrument you can have for yourself.  As such, it should be well thought out and carefully written to include all the important information about you such as skills, experience, education and personal traits. Remember, a CV is your first contact with a potential employer and therefore it should give the best possible presentation of you as an ideal candidate. A good CV must also be accompanied by a well written Cover Letter.

The type of CV that you prepare and its format/style (including length) will depend on the job or field that you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for a post of graduate professor you might need to write a longer CV which includes a comprehensive education history and samples of papers written, while one for a marketing manager might be shorter. Either way, CV formats are generally changing, from the traditional format to a more “targeted format” that focuses more on your skills and less on general information. It is now more common to have your name as the heading at the top of the page rather than putting CV or Resume.

What is the difference between a CV and a Resume?

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) or “life history” is longer than a resume. It contains a more comprehensive presentation of your experiences, academic achievements, personal achievements, awards, publications etc. A resume on the other hand is a summary of all the above and will usually be about a page long. In Kenya and most of East Africa a CV is still the norm, while in some countries like the US a resume is more common. This guide will help you to prepare a CV, which unless otherwise requested, should not be more than two pages long. Remember, the goal is to keep the recruiter interested; you do not want your CV to be dismissed simply because it was too long.

General Advice on writing a CV

  • A CV should be fresh and with up-to-date information.
  • It should be specifically designed for each different job, in other words, tailor made.
  • It should be written in reverse chronological order, starting from where you are now.
  • Your CV should be honest- resist the temptation to add a computer course that you did not actually take.
  • A CV should be brief and to the point- avoid long sentences; you will get time to explain yourself in the interview.
  • It should be type written on good quality paper and free of clutter.
  • Unless it’s for a very specific field such as science or medicine, a CV should not be more than two pages long.

CV Mistakes to Avoid at all costs:

Any of these easy to avoid mistakes will almost guarantee that your CV ends up in the trash can, so avoid them at all costs:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes- these make you appear lazy to a potential employer. Avoid using the spell checker as it cannot correct grammar.
  • Flashy design, mixed fonts and colors- these are distracting and a sure way to kill your CV as they make it look unprofessional. Keeping it simple with the most important information is the key.
  • Incoherent, badly worded CVs- resist the temptation to use “big action words” at every turn in an effort to make you look good. Keep these to a minimum and only where they apply.
  • Irrelevant information or too little information will make your CV appear vague, unfocused and dull.
  • Avoid using technical terms and abbreviations as these may not be understood right away, especially if your CV first goes to the HR manager who might not know what they mean.
  • Avoid stretching the truth- in other words don’t lie. If you can’t prove it, or stand by it in an interview, leave it out.
  • Avoid speaking of yourself in the first person as it may seem unprofessional. Use action words or verbs instead.
  • Do not include a picture unless it has been specifically requested. In the case that you do, ensure that it is a clear, professional representation of you.





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