Write your own CV from scratch

By Aneth David and Godbless Baluhya

Did you know that your CV/Resume has on average 5-7 seconds to impress? Meanwhile, a typical corporate receives about 250 applications per position and 75 percent of candidates are eliminated by their CV alone.

This is how to prepare a CV that improves the odds of a fresh graduate landing an interview. The article was written targeting fresh graduates in Tanzania, however some things are universal. Mistakes to avoid when writing a CV were covered here.

The million dollar question; What is the recruiter looking for?

Your CV should in theory match the skill-set the recruiter is looking for, and be packaged in a form that piques his/her interest. Pay attention, there’s two key parties here; you and the recruiter, your skills and their vacancy, your CV and their job description, what you’re capable of offering, and what they need, the parallels go on and on.  Always keep in mind that what you are trying to land is an interview not a job.

While it may seem counter intuitive at first, you need to forget about everyone else that is applying for the job so that you can focus on being THE applicant. Let the recruiter worry about everyone else. Unlike many guides, we will attempt to get you to write your own CV, that tells your story, in your own words. Most fresh graduates simply copy & paste their name and address to online CV templates, if that’s what you are looking for then you’re only one google search away from your quest; those templates will also be helpful for when you are writing a generic CV. If you are however interested in literally building your own CV from scratch, or polishing your generic CV to match a specific job posting then read on.

Before you go about,

DO:

  • Know your strengths, skills and abilities; what are you really good at? (Your UVP  – Unique Value Proposition). Ask yourself why should the employer choose you among  many other candidates, assuming that you all have achieved the same level of education? Is it academic merits? Ability to solve complex problems? Or you are a hard worker? Fast learner? A person reading your CV should be able to grasp that. This should be backed by evidence, for example if you have a first class GPA, then automatically you have academic merits, if you engaged in various projects at school, you may come across as a hard-working and initiative person. Just make sure it is presented well without coming across as arrogant/overconfident (Yes, recruiters are very much human and they automatically form opinions as they go across your CV/Resume; opinions which matter)
What is your UVP?
  • Make your CV unique, a generic CV is a waste of time. Invest on learning how to prepare a good CV. Read about it, check out other CVs online and compare with yours. Send it to other people like mentors to get their opinion, keep asking and keep improving it with time, the first draft or a hurriedly-put CV is in most cases useless.

 

  • Talk to industry insiders (Do your homework). While we are on the subject of personalizing your CV, an insider perspective is invaluable. An insight into the culture of your prospective employer will significantly boost your mileage. Human beings in general like dealing with familiar things, and HR managers are no exception. Understanding what they expect in an application/CV will save you a lot of headaches.

 

  • Start preparing a CV as early as possible, regardless of whether you have an opportunity at hand or not. Job seekers are encouraged to prepare a CV even when one is not needed right then, when one is still a student for example, or still on another job. This way you are not working under pressure and odds are a great CV will result. The investment on a good CV always pays.

 

  • Proofread you CV  after it has cooled off for a few days and when you are relaxed to make sure that things make sense. You will have fresh eyes and will be more likely to spot mistakes such as  spelling and grammatical errors.

Each opportunity will require a different, customized CV. Somewhere in the CV, career goals or what you are looking should be clear. As a fresh graduate, the main focus is on getting experience, as you have little to offer in the real job market, unless you have prior work experience before college, or worked during college years. Now on more specific matters:

  1. The format

A CV should contain bio-data and ideally on top of the page: full names, address (permanent address and P. O. Box), Date of birth, gender and contact details (phone number and e-mail address). The name maybe written in slightly larger font and be centered at the top.

Know the difference between a CV, resume and something in between (usually either is fine) and decide which one better suits your writing style and the application. Either way, a brief description of yourself is required, which means your educational background (nothing actually personal, unless it is a personality trait/hobby that gives you an edge and even then bury it in personal attributes) and what was achieved and gained (note the difference between gain and achieve), working experience (if any, otherwise stick to field training), what you are looking forward to (hiring is expensive, and HR needs to know whether your ambitions match the growth potential available within the organization) and the skills you have to undertake the career path that you look forward to.

Important things are to pay attention to are: whether a passport picture is required or not, or the employer require a specific format. Is there a specified length of CV/Resume? (In a nutshell, do your homework!)

Include a line or two of your  skills, both professional/academic and soft skills at the end of the brief description about yourself. Cliche adjectives are okay, so long as you can back them up in an interview. What’s the point in declaring yourself able to work and deliver under pressure and then proceed to have a panic attack in the interview room? Everyone tends to over promise and in most cases they cannot back it up, do the opposite and your chances begin improving.

Education background should mention which schools you went to, when, the certification obtained, and the grades if they are good (academic merits). If you went to three high schools, it may suffice to mention the one you graduated from. Do include important accomplishments and certifications like best disciplined student, language certification, top of the class graduate, etc

Typically, working experience comes after the education background, and this is the part to show off. Include anything work-like, such as practical training/field work conducted during school years, part time stints in sales and campaigns for example, volunteer activities as an intern or trainee and actual working experience. Mention the title held, company/organization name and duration. Give a brief (1-3 lines) description of roles undertaken (and may be experience gained). More importantly, mention achievements during working experiences, if any,  such as, awarded employee of the month 3 times, or best innovative employee, etc

Include relevant training attended and skills gained from thereof, presentations made, especially academic one.

Any projects ever initiated and/or managed/participated in will boost your CV as well. Include both academic and social (out of school) projects, especially the ones you have initiated or took a leading role should be boldly presented. For example, organizing fellow students to donate for and visit a charity, organize a debate competition, initiate an environmental awareness program, etc.

Do include as well important associations memberships and roles played and duration. If you do not have any club/association membership this may be a good time join some, students, professional and sports clubs are a good start. They build an extracurricular profile, they are a good place to network and make a difference, as well as being rewarding in many ways.

Put referees details and contacts but do let them know in advance so that they don’t bail out when asked whether and how they know you. Avoid using relatives as referees as they are more likely to put you in good light under all circumstance.

CV Template

2. The Flow and arrangement

Your CV should be attractive, convincing, smart and presentable without being too clouded. The information described above may be presented in different manners utilizing different features like bullets, numbers, lines and pipes but the end result should look professional.

Consider the font type and size, use of colors, bold and underlines for highlighting and emphasizing important points. Use the emphasizing features only where necessary, too much bold or underlines defeats the purpose. Avoid overuse of capital letters as they tend to scream.

Consistency is very important in a CV. Use the same format throughout the document, such as font type, formatting, colors, headings, font sizes, etc. Consistency screams this person is well organized and knows what he/she is doing while mixed formatting says one lacks attention to details and is lazy, he/she did cannot even write a proper CV anyway. Also while we’re on that, being brief and to the point without appearing too proud.

3. Wrapping up

  • Before you send/submit your information, do talk to your referees and get on the same page with them. Make certain your professors and field supervisors remember you and are willing to vouch for you, otherwise you will never hear back from the recruiter.
  • Decide on the best way to send in your application. Your industry insider or the job announcement will have the correct email or physical address. If you do not hear from your potential employer within a length of time specified in the job announcement then it is safe to assume you were not shortlisted. This would be the time when that industry insider would be invaluable to help you understand why your application did not get through so you can improve the CV.
  • Also it’s important to keep in mind the current competition for jobs, someone out there is doing his/her best to get this job, you can make it easier for them by submitting a sloppy CV…:)

You may need to check out more resource before you have a compelling CV that will land you that interview, but this shall put you in a good place.

What has your CV writing experience been like? Share with us in the comments section below.

About the authors

Aneth is an academician and Godbless makes beer.

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8 Ways to NOT write a CV

 

A single mistake in your CV and it is as good as trash! 61% of recruiters will dismiss a resume because it contains typos while 43% of hiring managers will disqualify applicants because of their spelling mistakes.

There is a lot of information across the internet on how to write a CV, and despite that job seekers (especially fresh graduates) keep making hilarious and sad mistakes which cost them interview opportunities that they could have nailed, while simultaneously denying organizations the chance to hire the right person. Perhaps the person who is the best fit for the job made the wrong impression on the recruiter and they therefore did not even get the chance to meet the hiring manager in an interview. Once you’re in the interview that’s a completely different issue altogether, but this article will confine itself on how to not miss the opportunity of meeting the hiring manager.

When someone or an organization is hiring, it means that they have a problem. They have an itch that they need scratched so bad that they are willing to take time out of their routines to talk to you and find out if you are capable of scratching that itch; so naturally, they are picky about what kind of person they’re willing to spend their time on. Assuming that you have already written your CV, go back and recheck it to align it with what the recruiter needs. Without further ado, you should not;

 

  1.     Make spelling and/or grammar mistakes

This goes without saying but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT MAKE SPELLING MISTAKES OF ANY KIND! It’s 2016, learn how to use document review tools which are conveniently built-in in virtually all word processors, be it from Microsoft or otherwise. You cannot claim to be conversant in word processing and yet fail to eliminate simple spelling mistakes in the very same document you are making those claims in. It is ridiculous, a blatant lie (more on that later), and unprofessional. Grammatical errors go here too, for example ending the cover letter with “you’re faithful” instead of the more acceptable “yours faithfully” will surely give recruiters something to laugh about for weeks; not the kind of attention you want. Spelling and grammar mistakes are unacceptable, and there’s no two ways about it.

 

  1. Send in a generic CV

It’s a good idea to always have a CV on standby when you’re looking for a job, but for crying out loud DO NOT SEND THAT THING BEFORE CUSTOMIZING IT to match the job you are applying for. Let’s say you have been interning with a sugar making company and gained some skills that you think are transferable to say a juice making company that is currently hiring. If you have a CV that screams “sugar” after every three words the HR will not even get to the third line. Instead highlight your skills in food safety and perhaps how good you are at telling when sugary food goes bad, because that’s something the juice company can use too. Your knowledge about different types of sugarcane will not do you any good here. As a rule of the thumb, a generic CV will get you a generic answer like “Thanks for expressing your interest, but your application was unsuccessful”. See how stale that sounds? That is exactly how your CV sounded to them. And the way about this is quite easy, just read the job announcement and match the skills required with the ones in your CV; then eliminate anything that they do not need and highlight what they are looking for.

Another indicator of a generic CV is “career objectives” section. Since you’re already sending in your CV, your objective is to get that job and it is the only objective that the HR cares about. If you highlight your skills properly you won’t need to state your career objectives. A generic CV has a lot of irrelevant content that biases the recruiter against you.

  1.  Arrange your qualifications/experiences in the wrong order

If you have a CV, you should already know that the most recent qualifications stay on top. For some reason many fresh graduates  present their primary education first (which is a waste of space, in Tanzania the minimum qualification with a certificate is CSEE or equivalent. Anything else below that is inadmissible anywhere) which is counter productive because first; the HR is scanning for the qualifications he/she needs to make that hire and if they see what they need (usually your latest qualification) then they know you have all the qualifications before that and they jump to the skills part directly (remember there’s a lot of applications and time is of the essence) and second regardless of the CV format you used, beginning with most recent qualifications is a standard way of how CVs are written and every recruiter expects you to know this; if you don’t the odds begin stacking up against you.

  1.    Make your CV too long or too short

I have seen half page CVs which only included the applicant’s name, contacts, and where they went to school. I have also seen 4 page CVs from fresh graduates without any extracurricular activities or internship/volunteer work. Whether it’s because you think going to a certain University (or having certain referees)  automatically qualifies you, or you expect the recruiter to be impressed with your writing skills you will be very disappointed. Make that CV long enough to make your skills/qualifications shine but not too long to make the recruiter take tea breaks in between. Be sure to tell the recruiter what you can do for them as early as possible in the CV. A good rule of the thumb for CV length is 1 and a half to 2 pages for a fresh graduate and an extra page for every 3-5 years of experience.

  1.   Display a lack of self confidence or too much of it

Please express your abilities without bragging or being too modest. Trust me, it shows. Too much modesty indicates a lack of self-confidence, and bragging indicates overconfidence which is equally bad. While you are thinking in terms of your potential and what you are capable of accomplishing, the recruiter only cares about what you have already accomplished and from their point of view you must be able to back up with evidence everything that you claim to be. While we are on the subject, applicants that reek of desperation also tend to not get an interview.

  1.     Write a declaration

A CV is a document that introduces you to the recruiter, and in most cases it is not meant to look like an affidavit. A declaration does not add value to your CV because there is nothing in there that the recruiter doesn’t know already and yet it uses up valuable space (see number 4 above). The assumption is that if you are writing it in your CV and your reference collaborates, then it is true. Speaking of references….

  1.    Put someone as your referee without asking them first

Because they will be surprised when called and the recruiter will notice. Also your college Professor has had numerous students so unless you were remarkable in a way, he/she will struggle to remember you (which the recruiter will notice) unless you ask first. Also while we are on the subject of referees, do include people who supervised your extracurricular activities/volunteer work. It’s a shame having to turn down a good CV all because it didn’t include a referee from where they claim to have volunteered. It makes the recruiter wonder whether the candidate actually did volunteer there.

 

  1.     Lie

So you have claimed to be proficient in using Microsoft word and yet your CV contains typos, how does that demonstrate your attention to details which you claimed to be one of your attributes? You are a liar. Did you highlight your excel skills? Well I hope you know what conditional formatting is, because they are going to ask you in the interview and if you do not know the answer to it you better go remove it from your skills or actually learn how to work with excel. Also you are capable of multitasking you say? Sure, as long as you can back that up with a true example of when you actually demonstrated it in a way that can be beneficial to the job you are applying for. It is very rare to be capable of both attention to details and multitasking, unless you are an unusually intelligent person (If you are, then write it and then back it up during the interview) you are either a multitask-er or attentive to details; not both. Do not put logically contradicting information in a CV, it is an affront to the recruiter’s intelligence. Don’t just throw around attributes like “capable of working under pressure” casually, unless it’s the truth. Let me be very clear about this, there is absolutely no way of going back after you have lied in your CV. If you are capable of lying about your credentials, what won’t you lie about?

Now go forth and have a successful CV writing. Good luck.

This article was written by: Baluhya, Godbless D.M

Global Young Academy – Call for new members

Target group: Young, independent scholars in any research -based discipline, including the sciences, medicine, engineering, social sciences, the arts and humanities.

Deadline: 25 September 2016

Impact: The Global Young Academy is committed to a broad range of programs around the world to support young scholars, promote science to a broad audience, engage in policy debate, and foster international and interdisciplinary collaboration. Applicants should provide evidence of interest or experience in one or more of these areas.

Members activities are described here.

More info on how to apply here and here.

Deoxygenated Intellectual Genius – Lack of Oxygen at Birth

Every child born into this world has a healthy brain and a striving mind with the mental capacity ready to be a genius. A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of new advances in a domain of knowledge. Actually at birth more than 100 neurons are ready to coordinate with other body systems to bring about full cognitive development in the newborn.

Being a Genius is every student’s desire. The urge to be the top in class, achieving brilliant GPAs is the focal point for most students and for those who don’t achieve this in one way or another remain usually feel guilty and blame themselves.

Others believe that being a genius is genetically related, inherited from parents. Others believe that it comes from many years at school and reading many books.

There are different reasons that contribute to as to why students may not perform well in class, and this has been tentatively reviewed and conclusions made about the matter. However, there is another reason that contributes about 5% to 100% delay in cognitive development, and hence academic performance.

Speaking of cognitive development, I refer to how a person perceives, thinks and gains understanding of his or her world through the interaction of genetic and learned factor. This comprises of information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development and memory.

In the long list of notions and beliefs that I don’t stand against basing on theories and beliefs built on them about cognitive development, the main trigger of intelligence is Oxygen supplied to a newborn at right proportion and at the right time. Insufficient supply of oxygen at birth has serious consequences to cognitive development of a child.

In the medical field, it is known as birth asphyxia, referring to a condition in which oxygen supply to newborn infant is impaired. The prevalence of birth asphyxia as documented by a series of population studies shows that Tanzania has 45.9 cases per 1000 life-birth.

Birth asphyxia causes brain injury, whose extent depends on the time before restoration of normal breathing or the extent in which the brain is affected and above all how much the brain of the infant has matured before birth.

The main effects may not be noted early during childhood but rather when the child is placed in the environment where there is a high cognitive demand such as when one needs to learn, spell words or in doing arithmetic work in school.

It should be kept in mind that with any degree of brain damage there is no going back or healing from it but there are ways in which one can be trained and be able to adapt the condition, though a delay is manifested.

Researchers are still looking for ways in which they can make more sensitive assessment tools to differentiate the infants with major brain damage after suffering from birth asphyxia so that these high-risk infants can be targeted for early intervention.

There are efforts world wide to reduce impacts of the problem, such as the low-cost ‘cooling cure‘ developed in Johns Hopinks hospital.

Every single second without oxygen to a newborn may produce major long-term effects including impairment in the cognitive development of the newborn. This alone may impair mental capacity and ability for him or her to one day be brilliant, and hence the name Deoxygenated Intellectual.

Guest post by Benson Bryceson and Nadya Rashid – Medical Students at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University

We would love to hear your comments.

Our contacts:

  •   bensonbryceson@yahoo.com ,0657717996
  •   nadyarashid@gmail.com, 0717805523

Inspiring Young African Scientists Making a trail in Natural Products Research – Part I

The field of scientific research in Africa is currently receiving many young and ambitious candidates. I here-by present four scientists who in coordination and sponsorship of SABINA, a Southern African Network for Natural Products, Biochemistry and Bioinformatics have been carrying out their researches as Masters and PhD candidates. The researches are on the relevant problems that face Africa, ie health, agriculture and even cosmetics, and they already show promising results. What is even more impressive is the number of female candidates in this platform and their interesting studies. This is the first part of a series of posts about SABINA young scientists.

Cyprian Mpinda
Cyprian Mpinda

Cyprian Mpinda, PhD Student at University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Tanzania

Study: Traditional Medicine used Western Tanzania to treat        HIV/AIDS associated diseases

Category: Health

In Africa, majority of population still rely on traditional medicines to cure alignments they suffer, partly because of inaccessibility to modern medical practitioners, high costs of modern of drugs and some are just out of common practice.

In the western part of Tanzania, the practice and use of these traditional medicines have gone as far as to be used to cure diseases associated with AIDS. Cyprian seeks to establish the basics as to how traditional medicines used in this region work and whether they can be authorized for wider and commercial use. Specifically, he is studying traditional medicines plants used by healers in Bukoba region Tanzania to manage HIV/AIDS disease.

The analysis involves antioxidant potential of the plants (DPPH and FRAP assays) and Cytotoxicity of the plants extracts (MTT and XTT assays). Also, the analysis of plants ability to inhibit HIV-1 virus by anti HIV-1 Protease inhibition assay and anti HIV-1 reverse transcriptase assay is/will be conducted. The last stage for this phase will be to use biochemical methods to find out what compounds in these plants give them their medicinal potential. This study will probably be an important step in the fight against HIV/AIDS, looking forward to it and its results.

NOTE; The research study has  been and is still taking place in two Universities laboratories, at University of Pretoria in South Africa, and University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, under the supervision of outstanding Professors.

Lucia Kabanga
Lucia Kabanga

Lucia KabangaMSc Student at University of MalawiMalawi.

Study: Phytochemical and Biological studies of secondary metabolites from Clinopodium vernayanum and Justicia Striata 

Category: Health

Her study revolves around the composition and biological activities of two plants (Scientific names: C. vernayanum and Justicia Striata) that grow on Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve in Malawi.

For long time, the people around the mountain have been consuming the mentioned plants as vegetables and also as medicines for various diseases. The main objective of this study is to find out what give these plants their medicinal properties so as to encourage their use, not only to the local people but to wider community too.

So far what has been done is the analysis of the minerals found in the two plants and their phytochemical analysis. Results show these plants could be a good source of dietary minerals and they also have an important phytochemical known as Alkaloids and Saponins. These compounds are known to be responsible for different medicinal properties shown by many medicinal plants.

The next step will be to establish biological properties of these plants, to determine whether they have antioxidant, antimicrobial and/or anticancer activities. The last part of this study is the isolation and identification of compounds found from the plants extracts. The process and the results of this study highly contribute to medicinal plants knowledge body.

Hattago Stuurmann
Hattago Stuurman

Hatago Stuurman, MSc Student at University of Namibia (UNAM), Namibia

Study: Validation Of Medicinal Plants Used By the Nama people to treat cancer

Category: Health

This study investigates safety and toxicity of traditional plant medicines used by Nama people of Namibia to treat cancer as it also seeks justification for the use of these plants in treatment of cancer. The lengthy referral process to the nearest medical center (clinic or hospital) especially in rural areas and poor resource settings results in the local Nama people turning to the use of traditional plants for treatment of cancer.

During the study, active compounds in some plants being studied have been identified. The phytochemical screenings revealed the presence of compound such as Coumarins, Flavonoids, Saponins, Alkaloids and Antioxidants.

These compounds are associated with various biological and medicinal properties. Preliminary results are promising and encouraging. My fingers are crossed for this one.

Any comment or question on these scientists and their work? Leave a comment below.

How to reach your audience as a scientist – Effective communication

Effective communication skills are important when you want a message to reach a targeted audience and be understood. This is especially true for scientists in the many fields, who do a lot of interesting research but either keep it amongst themselves or struggle to communicate in a way that is comprehensible to the general public. The people around them and the public do not understand what it is they do locked up in labs and elsewhere all the time, and why it is important.

Communication may take the form of a report document, a proposal, an informal conversation, a press release or a presentation. It takes more than just motivation and enthusiasm to be an effective communicator, practice and skills are also required.

And hence, communication tools for scientists are needed, especially now when we are in a digital era and a multitude social media platforms making information spreading fast. Here are important factors to consider when trying to send a message across to a targeted audience.

Non-capisco-image

Who is the Target audience and why should scientists  communicate?

  • Friends and Family; like when explaining what you are studying and its importance
  • Companies/Investors/Funders; to convince them of the impact of your study/research so as to get funds, and to effect behavioural and policy change. Communication style impacts how the public view it and whether it gets funded or not
  • Peers/fellow scientists; to get collaborations for example
  • The Media and general public; to reach a wider population and effect behavioural change, correcting public misconceptions, or accountability to funders, policy makers, tax-payers and investors and also to impart your ideas and findings to the world

How to communicate – tips for effective communication

  • Know the target audience and plan appropriate means of communication. Communication to a friend or peers is different from a grant proposal writing, a report writing, so a message should be tailored according to the audience type
  • Use clear and simple language, avoid jargon and technical terms that will not be easily understood to non-scientists or even scientists that are not in your field. Using analogy and metaphors to build “conceptual bridges” is useful when explaining difficult ideas to non-scientists
  • Talk/write about things that matter, whatever it is should matter and be relatable to the target audience. Make sure the important things go first.
  • Use multi-media communication, with fewer words and more interesting visuals like pictures, graphs, videos, infotainment and sound clips. This helps you reach a wider audience.
  • Gain people’s trust especially when working in a controversial field like GMO products
  • Try not to complain and be straight. Condemning is not the same as complaining. Be more factual than opinionated, be positive and projected.
  • If there are set guidelines to be followed, especially in formal communications and presentations, make sure you follow the appropriate format.
  • Have a very clear understanding of the area you want to communicate.
  • When it comes to presentations, preparation and practice are important to make sure it makes sense and the flow is correct
  • Where applicable, add a human side to your story. Non scientific examples and stories that the intended audience can relate to can make a huge difference

 

Preparation leads to good performance and perfection
Preparation leads to good performance and perfection

I hope these tips are useful. Leave me a comment below.

“You don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother” – Anonymous