How-To C.V Writing Tips for Entry-Level Candidates

smart african university graduate

How does Sihle create a future-fit resumé that can get her noticed for a new role in 2021 and beyond?

Sihle (*not her real name) recently graduated from university.  She has a completed a tertiary diploma but has not worked in a permanent position before.  Whilst attending high school Sihle assisted at a small day care centre run by her mother, during the holidays. She also taught Sunday School and did volunteer work at a local community centre.  It’s time for Sihle to venture out into the real world and find employment.

Consider these statements for a moment…

  • The future is happening FAST!
  • Competition amongst applicants is higher than ever.
  • Face to face interviews are virtually a thing of the past.
  • Resumé length does not denote ability or seniority. The appropriate length of the document is dependent on where you are in your career, but the norm in 2021 is one page for entry-level applicants with upto 4 years of working experience.
  • There is NO size fits all C.V. You MUST try to read the job advert properly before sending off your resumé, or the Applicant Tracking System that houses your application before matching it to a job, can’t digest the contents and therefore won’t shortlist your profile for review.
  • Providing a Job Title for the position you are applying for, on your resumé, as well as in the Subject Line for your email, gives the reader context and prompts them towards the next step in evaluating to your profile. Omitting this leaves the recruiters and hiring managers frustrated and they may skip right over it.
  • Your resumé should always be in MS Word or PDF format.  A basic MS Word format allows for quick and easy editing.  Google Docs is a no-no.

The Recruiter or Hiring Manager will have three considerations in mind when reviewing your resumé: What you have achieved recently, how well you did it, and whether what you accomplished applies to them?

Take a look at your current CV to see if you can spot any of these no-no’s:

  1. The top 3rd of your CV (or even worse, your entire front page) has a distracting pre-1995 graphic on it – this space is like prime real estate people, so don’t waste it.
  2. Page 2 have a stretched-out photo taken of yourself at someone’s wedding with a drink in your hand, and you’ve probably cut your hair since, or grown a beard and it doesn’t even look like you anymore. Rather don’t include a photograph if you don’t have a decent one..
  3. Contact details are out dated or entirely omitted. How are we meant to get in contact with you?
  4. Any personal information aside from your contact information (email, phone number, LinkedIn URL, and city or province of residence) has no place on a modern CV.  Details about hobbies and interests, family life or motivational quotes just take up space and won’t be digested by the ATS. Save your list of hobbies, or you love for shell-collecting for the interview.
  5. Your data reads in the incorrect chronological order – so by the time the reader gets to your relevant data, they’ve already put your CV in the NO-pile.
  6. It’s just too “wordy” and is not saying much.
  7. It’s written in the first person.
  8. Dates are missing or overlap.

Follow these 10 tips to get you started:

  1. Consider your layout and ensure that the CV format is clear, concise, and easy to read.
  2. Keep it to 1 page and make sure that it is in MS Word and PDF format for easy editing and electronic submission.  Avoid using Google docs  as these can’t be opened without 3r party permission.  Your CV will be skimmed over by the hiring Company’s Applicant Tracking System or the recruiter.
  3. Clearly state the Job Title of the position you are applying for in the top section of the CV.
  4. Ensure the use the right font and subtle borders and shading to separate information, and bold your headings (i.e., Personal Information, Education etc.)
  5. Professional overview:  Include a brief description about your skills, ethics, interests and what you would like to aspire to in life.
  6. Personal information (i.e., name, contact details (including email address), city and province of residence, date of birth or identity number).  Mention that you have driver’s license and the code if the job you are applying for requires one.
  7. Education – start with the most recent qualification first, working back to your high school certificate, and include year completed.
  8. Add any extra mural activities and volunteer work that you were involved in. Once again, include the start and end dates in months and years (e.g.:  December 2019 to August 2020)
  9. Achievements – mention every achievement obtained whether in school, on the sport field, or membership.
  10. Finally, and most importantly, Testimonials/ References – Ask your teacher, lecturer, sports coach, or pastor to be a referee. They are your best “cheer-leaders”, and their commentary will definitely help to elevate your value in the eyes of the recruiter.   You should refrain from giving family members or friends’ details as references.

Hire Power has structured a package that we believe will help entry-level applicants navigate the Candidate Journey more seamlessly.  Feel free to contact me for more details.

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