Mind your language – How to craft a professional CV in 2020

This season, particularly, is one where are seeing a lot job changes. This could be due to layoffs or new recruitments in the wake of COVID-19, people who are suddenly dissatisfied with their work (again, thanks to COVID-19), those who have just completed National Service and are in search of new opportunities and a host of other personal factors.

If you are part of those who have had to consider applying for new jobs, then this is for you. Even if you are not, you can still keep this information and use it to upgrade your CV to suit trends in 2020.

This series is in two parts: we will first look at what is required (or not) in CVs and some tips to remember when writing a CV in 2020.

What is a CV?

A Curriculum Vitae (also known as Resume, although they have slight differences) is a tool used by a job seeker to market him/ herself, strengths and skills in the bid to present him/ herself as the most suitable candidate for a job.

There are different kinds of CVs but it is generally becoming accepted to have a CV which highlights information relevant to the job and other information that that the recruiter would need to know about you.

Let’s start off with what you need to include in your CV:

Required sections

  • Full name – as stated on your official documents
  • Contact details – Maybe not postal address, but definitely phone number and email address
  • Relevant work experience – The emphasis is on relevant. Traditional CVs were known to contain a record of all your past work experience. But today, there is such a time and space constraint that we no longer want to see anything that is not directly linked to the job you are applying for. It’s tempting to say everything you have ever done can contribute to who you are today; but you know deep inside that some things just don’t fit.
  • Internships and volunteer work – Now, this is for my fresh graduates and service personnel who may not have what we call real work experience. You can always mention the different internship roles you’ve held and other volunteer work you did for others, if it will help to make your CV look great. This is another reason to try to take advantage of these while in school.
  • Work responsibilities and achievements – This is also becoming increasingly required by recruiters. Never assume people know what you do by just your work title. You must give them an idea by listing some of your core duties and any accomplishments while in that role. Please do not list responsibilities from the internet, write what you actually did.
  • Educational background – In reverse chronological order, you want to list your schools and qualifications. We may not want to know the primary school you attended but we would be interested if you took an online course that is relevant to the role you are applying for, so don’t forget to include these.


Optional inclusions

  • Career goals – I mentioned it first because although it is optional, I think you must try to include it. What bothers me is goals that are copied from the internet that have nothing to do with the person in question nor the role being applied for. Whatever you put here must reflect who you are and where you see yourself in the future. It is also known as Personal Objective.
  • Referees – Surprise, surprise: It is now becoming increasing normal to leave out your referees from your CV. May people just write “Referees available upon request”. I am not sure the reason behind this decision but maybe space would be a factor. Personally, my referees are always on my CV; who knows if it could influence those hiring me? Also before you decide to leave this out, check to see if the job notice does not mention it as a requirement.
  • Other Accomplishments/ Leadership roles – It’s only optional because some people may have nothing to put here. But if you ask me, this is one of the key areas on my CV and I encourage you to also add it. This is where you list boards and committees you’ve been on or other roles you have held which emphasize your suitability for the job you are applying for. If you were part of a group that came up with a great invention or won a prestigious competition for your institution/ organization, you may want your recruiter to know that.
  • Key skills/ Strengths/ Skill set – This is also optional and you can decide to leave it out. Again, it is on my CV and I always make sure they are less than 5. A lot of people lie here, anyway, and that is why recruiters are skeptical about it. You have people saying they are “Proficient in Microsoft Excel” when they have never used it before. Also, I would say avoid cliché strengths like “Great team player” (who isn’t?) or “Excellent communication skills” (let the interview prove that).
  • Hobbies/ Interests: Definitely off my CV because none of my hobbies add anything per se to who I am. Some people have interesting hobbies, like an Auditor who enjoys designing web pages as a hobby, and this could be relevant to highlight. But if you have nothing better to write than reading books, watching movies or hanging out with friends, you can safely leave this out.

What you should not include

  • Age/ Date of birth – Did the job add specify a particular age group for employment? If not, no one wants to know how old you are. It could actually work against you.
  • Gender/Marital Status/ Number of children – I find it hard to see any good reason why you may want to add all these to your CV. You don’t want the recruiters pre-judging you before you have the opportunity to prove yourself at an interview.
  • Photo: Unless explicitly stated as required, you do not want to add a photo. In some countries, it is allowed; but in Ghana, I am certain it is not accepted as standard practice. Like I said earlier, it may work against you.

We hope this was helpful. In our next article, we will look at some tips for crafting a winning CV.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch at charismataediting@gmail.com.

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