How To Craft A Professional CV And Resume [The Ultimate Guide]

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Job hunting is tough and energy-consuming, not to mention the time and expenses that come with it.

But the most frustrating aspect of it is finding the right job, submitting an application only to get no response. Or atmost…

“We appreciate the time you took to apply for the position of X specialist in our company. Unfortunately, we have moved on with a more experienced candidate.”

This message doesn’t resonate well.

In my experience as a youth career and talent developer, the bulk of the reasons why your CV gets rejected are issues with the cv/resume itself.

It can be one or a combination of these things:

  • How you write your CV
  • The structuring and formatting
  • The information contained in the CV
  • And how to complement the information in your CV with a winning cover letter.

Unfortunately, a lot of applicants’ CV ends up in the trash bin because of those things lacking, which should attract the hiring manager to your experience and skills.

How to write a CV that begs the hiring manager to read on

To start with…how do you tailor a cover letter that begs to be opened?

Is there a professional way of writing a CV that you don’t know?

As a digital content writer, I have helped quite a number of graduate students write their CVs and Resumes.

It is pretty simple especially when you understand and follow the best practices, which I’m going to show you in this article.

The article will guide you on the act of crafting, formatting, and structuring a CV including how to make the hiring manager not wait to have an interview with you.

By the time you’re done reading this ultimate guide to writing a professional CV/resume, you’ll understand that it’s all about being uniquely different, clear, and concise.

Additionally, make your cover letter to complement your CV/resume.

What is a CV?

A CV is a short-term curriculum vitae, which means “course of life”.

It’s a document showcasing your professional and educational or academic achievements. The account of your academic performances, extracurricular activities, work experience, skills, and leadership characters are often used in fresh job applications and also, as part of a portfolio for promotions in workplaces.

A typical CV often includes information such as:

  • Work experience
  • Achievements and awards
  • Scholarship or earned grants
  • Coursework
  • Research projects and publications

A CV is also used as part of the requirements for master’s degree programs or Ph.D. when furthering education.

That said, let’s take a look at the types of CVs.

Types of CVs – Choosing the Right CV

The information you include in your CV/résumé is key to your success.

It’s essential that you choose the right format for the job you’re applying for.

Basically, there are 2 main types of CV, which we are going to expand on as we proceed:

  • Chronological (or traditional) CV
  • Skills-based (or functional) CV.

1. Chronological CV

The chronological is also referred to as traditional CV. It highlights your information under appropriate headings, starting with the most recent. An example is the educational section of the CV that you highlight from Ph.D. to master’s to B.Sc and secondary school leaving certificate.

This type of CV works fine when you have vast experiences and academic achievements that you would want to list out to catch the attention of the hiring manager.

It can also be used to emphasize your career progression with continuous employment with no gaps.

And even in situations where there are gaps, such as family issues and you still want to use this type of format, you can highlight appropriate reasons for the gaps, and people reading through your CV ir resume will understand.

2. Skills-Based or Functional CV

Skilled-based CV or functional CV type emphasizes your skills and personal qualities and highlights them over your employment history.

This type of CV is most suitable when:

1. You are planning a careers change and you want your employer to see through your skills set and how easily you can transfer the skills from your previous work experience and make them relevant for the position.

For instance, sometimes hiring manager wants to know how you can transfer your analytical skills to help scale the company’s growth.

2. You have gaps in your employment history. This is very suitable for this type of scenario. The only ging is to be prepared to answer questions because your potential employers may want to know why such gaps in your curriculum vitae or résumé.

3. if yours is a series of short-term paid jobs or voluntary roles, then this format is best suited for you. Because it allows you to emphasize more on the related skills and achievements gained from those experiences.

Other Types of CV

Sometimes, you find yourself in situations where you might want to consider choosing any of the below CV types.

Hybrid CV

From the word “hybrid” you can tell what the cv format will look like. It is simply the combination of skills-based and chronological CVs.

It utilizes a chronological layout while still emphasizing the series achievements and set of skills commonly found in the skills-based CVs.

This can be very useful if you want to stick with the chronological layouts and still want to draw the potential employers to see the specific skills that could stand you out from other applicants.

Technical CV

A technical CV is mostly suitable for technology-savvy people looking for a new role in their field. This category of people can either use the hybrid format or the skill-based format. IT specialists, often have specific technical skills relevant to the role they’re applying for and want to highlight them one after the other.

Creative Industries CV

The recent advancement in technology has led to the development and expansion of digital and creative industries such as graphic design, animations, illustrations, and other forms of creative arts e.g. 3D designs and Pencil draws.

A creative CV format allows designers and artists to showcase their works. Therefore, this type of CV works fine for some creative and artistic roles including photography, web designing, and marketing.

You can often find CVs of this category in the layout of the infographic highlighting skills and achievements to make it more visually appealing. 

A Picture is worth more than a thousand words they say makes this type of CV great. An infographic can occupy a very small portion of the CV and still illustrate thousands of pieces of information.

Creative CVs can also include QR codes to take the potential employers to an online portfolio or projects.

Academic CV

Wondering what academic CVs are? 

They are a different type of CV used in academia, suitable for research positions, admission to master’s degrees, or a Ph.D. Choose this format to highlight your researches along with the relevant skills.

Note that academic CVs can sometimes be longer than other types of CVs. This won’t hurt your application or the way hiring managers will look at your CV. The details are important and could be the piece of information that will stand you out.

The length of academic CVs varies depending on the research output.

What to include in an academic CV

  • Your contact details
  • Your education background, qualifications, and achievements starting with the most recent (e.g, from Ph.D. down to B.Sc…).
  • A summary of your research including the names of your supervisors.
  • A detailed list of papers and other publications, presentations at conferences.
  • Teaching, supervision, or training experience. e.g, (WAEC or NECO supervision)
  • Including grants, awards, and scholarships.
  • Any professional membership of relevant societies.
  • Your research interest
  • Include any specialist or technical skills
  • Named referees – at least two academic referees.

You can append an abstract but remember to follow the simple rule of abstract:

  • The focus of your research (the problem or issue being addressed).
  • The methodology used
  • The results or findings
  • The main conclusions or recommendations

CV Vs. Resume

What is the difference between a CV and a Resume?

CVs and Resumes both summarize your professional history, education, skills, and achievements.

However, these two terms are uninterchangeable in the USA and Europe even though there are similarities.

The word résumé is from the French word, which means “abstract” or “summary of a document providing a concise overview of your previous education, roles, and skills rather than the details that are often included in CVs.

Reasons Why CV is Important for Job Seekers 

CVs are the first chance you have to make a good impression on your recruiter before a face-to-face interview.

Here are the 5 reasons why you need a CV and why you should learn how to write a CV: 

1. A CV helps you market yourself: CVs are a great way to attract the attention of your potential employers – presenting your skills and qualifications, and helping recruiters choose you over other candidates.

2. CVs are a great reminder of the things you have achieved in your career and help you identify both your strengths and weaknesses.

3. CVs are a great copy to carry into interview venues to refresh your mind before the interview session.

4. Use your CV as a measuring tool to highlight your current achievements against the targets that you have set previously.

How to Write a Good CV – Formatting Guides

Writing a CV is not just putting pen or ink on paper, the formatting and overall layout of your resume or CV will create that first impression and help the hiring manager to quickly find the relevant information.

Here are factors you need to consider when writing a CV:

1.  Font type and size

Your choice of font type and size will determine how legible the CV is. When writing a CV, you should pay close attention to its readability.

There are two primary font categories:

  1. Serif (Times New Roman, Courier, Georgia). Serif has small, decorative flourishes.

2. Sans-serif (Helvetica, Arial, Geneva).

Sans-serif fonts have no decorative flourishes and are easier to read.

What is the appropriate font size for CV and résumé?

When it comes to choosing a font size, there are two things you need to factor in and balance. We have the readability and length.

It is important to choose a bigger font size but not at the expense of the length.

A font size of 10 – 12 is perfect. I use 11 font sizes for my CV

If you think your CV is too lengthy and you want to make it fit on a page by reducing the font size below 10, you’d be doing yourself more harm than good.

2. Check CV margins

Apart from the font type and size, your CV margins are an important part of CV format and you need to get it right.

If the margins are too large it will leave too much white space on the page. If the margins are too small it can make the page look like it’s over-filled. So, choose a margin between 1 and 1.5 inches.

3. Spaces

If you’ve been working for many years gathering lots of experience, achievements, and awards, your CV likely becomes lengthy. 

Effective use of white spaces will make your CV very easy to scan and more readable.

Use this content writing best practices when crafting your CV:

Bulleted lists: Use bullet points to outline your achievements, skills, and awards.

Section headers: Create a different heading for each section of your CV. Make it stand out by using a larger font size, making it bolder and sometimes underlined.

Bolded words: recruiters deal with a large volume of résumés and whenever they open candidates’ CV they scan to see if there’s anything special about the CV. To make your CV appeal to recruiters, in addition to bolding the section header, you should also bold the keywords that you want anyone reading your CV to see.

To start with, your name and job titles should be in bold.

4. Proofread

Now you have your CV written and can’t wait to upload and hit send. But before you upload and submit it, take a break (it always works) and come back to read and re-edit. Don’t be too sure that there are no errors until you’ve proofread and are satisfied with every section.

Read your CV aloud and pay attention to the flow, ensuring it sounds meaningful. Check for spelling, grammar, and syntax. Proofreading your CV is important to make it error-free, improve readability and show professionalism in your CV.

A well-written curriculum vitae or résumé is properly:

  • formatted
  • comprehensive
  • concise and clear. 

If you can spend time formatting your CV properly, then you’re just a few steps closer to landing your dream job.

Now that we have looked at the formatting guidelines, let’s now consider the information that should be included in a professional CV.

And you can’t afford to miss this part… it could take you – two steps closer to landing the job.

How to Write a Professional CV [including a CV Sample]

CV writing, especially a professional one, can be a difficult task. There is general writer’s block to deal with, but when you follow the basic steps, you can be sure of creating an effective and attention-grabbing CV. Most CVs include:

  • Contact information
  • Academic history
  • Professional experience
  • Qualifications and skills
  • Awards and honours
  • Publications
  • Professional associations
  • Grants and fellowships
  • Licenses and certificates
  • Volunteer work
  • Personal information (optional)
  • Hobbies and interests (optional)

1. Contact information/Personal details

This section should contain only your full name, phone number, and email address, and your physical address. Ensure that you provide an accurate and active email address and avoid including your age.

Contact Section of Your CV Should Include:

First name, Last name.

Phone number – if you are targeting other countries – applying outside your region, make sure to include your country code.

Email address – use a professional email that’s simple to read and type, short and memorable. 

Ideally along the lines of [name][last name]@gmail.com

Title – title can be either your job title or the one you’re applying for.

Location – Your current address. 

Other important contact information but optional

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a professional platform where you can find company information, employees, and their executives. Recruiters often visit candidates’ profiles to know a bit about the person before scheduling interviews.

It makes sense to include your LinkedIn profile in your CV – a more reason why you should optimize your LinkedIn profile. Having a solid profile will boost your confidence to include a LinkedIn URL in your CV.

Stack Overflow / Github – Apart from LinkedIn, developers, software engineers, and computer scientists can include their Stack Overflow and or GitHub account as a link to their portfolios.

Medium – If you write a lot, you’d probably have written articles on Medium. Adding a link to the collection of articles you have written can earn you that dream job.

2. Academic history

Your academic history or achievements should be written in reverse-chronological order. You should start with the post-doctoral programs down to graduate school, undergraduate school, and high school.

What to keep in mind when writing the education section of your CV.

Two to three of your academic history.

Put your education section first if you don’t have work experience.

Put your master’s degree first over your B.Sc if you have one. If you know that your CV is becoming lengthy, exclude your high school from the list.

You can add your CGPA provided it is a strong second-class upper or first-class. But get ready to defend that during your interview.

3. Your professional experience

This section is similar to the academic history section of your resume. Your professional experience should be in reverse chronological order. Include the organization’s name, the job title, and the date you were employed.

Considering the overall length of your CV/resume, try to make this section short, clear, and concise.

The professional experience section of your resume or CV is usually the MAIN section where most HR recruiters jump to.

Here’s the standard format for your experience section:

  • Job title/position.
  • Company name, location, description.
  • Achievements and responsibilities.
  • Date employed.

4. Include relevant skills and qualifications

This is the easiest part of CV writing. Easy in the sense that all you need to do is to align your skills with the job description. By following the job description, you can know what the employer is looking for – It could be a mix of hard and soft skills. 

Hard skills are technical skills, which are directly related to your job roles or the job you’re applying for. While soft skills can be personal attributes like leadership, communication, teamwork, etc.

5. List honors, achievements, and awards

This section is where you list your achievements (outside or within the academic system), honors, and awards; this may be from leadership roles or volunteering.

Things to include are award name, the year awarded, the organization that gave you the award including details about the award.

6. Include relevant publications and presentations

A publication in this sense does not necessarily mean research papers or books. It can be an article that you published online on Forbes magazine/blog or medium. 

It’s a big advantage for you if you have published books, present at conferences. Use this format to create this section and make it a winning CV:

authors, date, page volume. 

However, for presentations, highlight the date, venue, and event.

7. License and Certifications

If you have any relevant licenses or certifications that align perfectly with the job role you can include them under this section.

For instance, if you’re a Google certified paid search specialist, or Analytics certified – feel free to include it.

8. Volunteer work experience

The volunteer work experience should directly or indirectly relate to the job role for which you are applying for. Many people think a volunteering role has to be something professional, but I tell you it could be anything from leadership to community services to taking care of the needy or the physically challenged and could even be a service rendered in a restaurant

9. Outline your professional associations and affiliations

Are you a member of a professional society? If yes then this section is for you to complement your CV starting with the name of the organization or society, the chapter you belong to, and dates of active membership.

10. Hobbies and interests

What makes you unique? What are your interests and hobbies? State them clearly under this section. It will make your employers know more about the things that interest you

11. References

Most times you’ll be required to forward 2 to 3 references – one or two from a professional or academic person ( it could be your academic mentor, project supervisor, or course adviser) and the other one from your relatives. 

While organizations will only request for two, to keep things short, use “available on request”

CV Sample Template

Joe Doe

1234 Silicon Valley, Lagos Nigeria 234901

07087999999

[email protected]

Education

Doctor of  Degree, 2018

University of Ilorin, Osun State, Nigeria

Professional Experience

University of Lagos Lagos

Lecturer, Department of earth sciences | 2012–2021

Taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in physics, electronic and electrical engineering.

Fostered student commitment to lifelong learning and excellence in electrical engineering

Acted as a student advisor to final-year students of the department of physics.

Skills and Qualifications

Team leadership

Seminar instruction

Fluent in English and French

Specialization in electrical power transmission and distribution

Awards and Honors

XXX Climate Advocacy Award, 2018

AVMA Electrical engineering Award, 2016

Publications and Presentations

Tola, J., Mathew, C., John, A., Chukwuka, L., (2017) “Solar energy, transmission and distribution to rural areas and associated dangers.” Journal of Electrical engineering 272: 1234-56789.

Professional Associations and Affiliations

Nigeria Society of Electrical Engineers (2013–Present).

United Nations Climate Change Association (2015–Present).

Grants and Scholarships

The Smidth-john Grant for climate change advocacy, 2012

Association for applied science in greenhouse technology.

Licenses and Certifications

Certificate in renewable energy resources, 2019.

Things Employers Look Out For

According to the brilliant 2010 Orange County Resume Survey by Eric Hilden, survey shows that 45% of employers look for previous related work experience. 

Even though this survey was carried out a decade ago, it’s still relevant and useful in 2021.

Here’s a breakdown analysis of the survey:

45% Previous related work experience

35% Qualifications & skills

25% Easy to read

16% Accomplishments

14% Spelling & grammar

9% Education (these were not just graduate recruiters or this score would be much higher!)

9% Intangibles: individuality/desire to succeed

3% Clear objective

2% Keywords added

1% Contact information

1% Personal experiences

1% Computer skills

How to Make a Cover Letter

A cover letter is a single-page document written to complement the CV. Cover letters introduce you and summarize your professional background to the hiring managers. A typical cover letter ranges between 200- 350 words.

Don’t know what to put in your cover letter?

Cover letters act as a direct message to the hiring manager where you get to include the piece that you think is missing from your CV or resume. Your cover letter should not be a repetition of what you have highlighted in your CV.

When hiring managers did not explicitly state that you should submit a cover letter, you should still take time to introduce yourself (your background), why you’re the best fit for the position, outline your skills and close the conversation with an expectation to hear from them. 

Note: Your cover letter is a supplement to your resume, not a replacement. Your cover letter should be to complement and supplement your CV.

Here’s what should go into your Cover Letter:

Introduction – this should be a very brief intro about your background, your job experience, professional achievements, and why you’re interested and like to work in that company. 

Qualifications – take a step forward from the introduction by identifying the top 3 requirements, briefly explaining how you’d fulfill them.

Recap – now is the closing part. Thank anyone for reading your cover letter and end it with a call-to-action.

For example, “If you would like to know more about the findings in my X research or my project with the X organization, I’d love to chat!”

Cover letter Example

Dear (Hiring Manager)

As a person who has demonstrated a lot of passion for designing, I seek this opportunity to add my value and contributions to your company.

My ability to use Final Cut Pro, Canva, Adobe Illustrator, Premiere Pro, Captivate, and Adobe Photoshop/Photoshop Lightroom will be of added advantage to your organization.

I have designed a series of illustrations, graphics, animations in diverse fields with different effects. This is a requirement highlighted in the internship vacancy and I can’t wait to replicate the success I have had working in the last 3 years.

My video has gone viral on Twitter just for the ability to create awareness during the Covid-19 pandemic with animations. 

I have also completed a course in digital photography.

Thank you in anticipation of your reply.

Here’s a recap

The essential information that should always be included in every CV is the contact information, CV summary, work experience, education, and skills.

The optional sections of your CV can include certifications and awards, languages, interests, and hobbies plus any relevant social media channels.

Use “available on request” in the reference section of your CV.

Write a clear, concise cv, and not longer than 2 pages except in a few cases where you are writing an academic CV with lots of research.

Ensure that you use the right CV types in your CV or resume.

Use proper formatting to improve readability and legibility.

Remember to proofread and proofread over again…it only improves your CV.

When creating a CV, read the job description and tailor it to fit the job roles.

Don’t repeat what you already have in your CV in the cover letter.

Note: Your cover letter is crucial to landing that dream job. Make it unique and connect directly to the recruiters.

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