CV writing is an art, and like any other art, there are fundamental skills that need to be mastered before you can flourish. Jennifer Oyelade, an international talent expert and Zindi recruiter, helps us uncover what needs to be captured when writing a CV, and how to format our CVs in a way that is eye-catching to the hiring managers.
“A CV is the only key that unlocks the door before you open it,” says Jennifer. “The CV should speak on your behalf and intrigue the hiring manager to want to meet you. It should tell the story of your professional journey, demonstrate your character, and provide all the insights a hiring manager needs to know about you.”
The art of CV writing starts with how you structure your information and how you write.
A CV should include the following:
This is a section that introduces you to the hiring manager. It includes your name and contact details, a summary of your professional journey, and an overview of your expertise and attributes. It should be concise and to the point.
“Do not use jargon or cliches to describe yourself, words that are not sustainable like ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘hardworking’,” says Jennifer.
This section should contain your studies, with the most relevant qualifications listed first. You should only include certificates and qualifications that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
“Even if your 1st degree is not data- or development-related, what you did during and after your institutional education tells the story of your career direction,” advises Jennifer. “These are the things that stand out and show the Hiring Manager that you are invested in your professional development - certifications are great to validate your expertise.”
In this section, highlight your work experience from the most recent job back to where you started out. You should go back in time to tell the Hiring Manager the story of how you progressed in your career.
In her advice to young data professionals, Jennifer says that even if you do not have relevant experience, you should highlight volunteer work, academic clubs, and societies that you were part of. Especially in Africa, being part of a university data science club goes a long way to showing your passion and commitment to your chosen career.
In your professional journey, highlight professional certifications, projects you’ve worked on, facts and figures, and career achievements to date.
On why you should include the above information, Jennifer says, “Giving details about your professional journey clears any doubts about your competency and expertise”.
This does not guarantee job placement, but it generates interest to get you interviewed.
When writing about your responsibilities Jennifer advises that you use the WHEAT methodology as it differentiates you in the competitive talent market of the modern data professional.
The WHEAT methodology includes:
What do you do? What are your responsibilities?
How do you do it and why? (i.e. systems or tools used)
Eventualities - What are the successful or productive outcomes of the tasks or projects you are involved in
Achievements - How did it positively affect you, or the productivity of the organisation in general?
Timeframe - How often do you complete the tasks or the specific deadline?
The art of CV writing also includes the words you use to describe your roles. Jennifer advises Zindians to start their ‘roles and responsibilities' sentences with words that are well thought-out and attention-grabbing. Some of these words include:
Leading a team of - This shows that you have people management skills, subject matter expertise, accountability and responsibility.
Managing - It describes a level of authority, management, ownership, and accountability.
Supervising - It depicts overseeing people and projects on a smaller management level, but the potential and qualities to lead on a larger scale if given an opportunity to do so.
Developing - It shows creativity, skill and productivity, thought process abilities and strategy.
Created - It demonstrates creativity and independent thought.
Implemented - It shows that you are a ‘doer’ - someone who is proactive. It can also mean someone with authority and a disruptive game-changer in a positive way.
Analysed/Analysis of - It shows diligence, methodical and critical thinking.
Prepared - It shows organisational skills and clear thought processes.
Provided - It depicts supplying a need to a demand, whether it be advisory or added tangible value.
Reduced - It shows someone who looks for how to operate on minimal resources, is cost-effective and is conscious.
Increased - It shows that active and effective, results-driven and proactive.
Upscaled - It shows you are methodical and diligent while growing, a productive nurturer that brings results.
Expanded - Similar to upscaling, but on a larger scale and demonstrates more thought-leadership at a managerial level.
Finally, show your understanding and experience in the business. It’s important to demonstrate your understanding and experience of the sectors you have worked in your CV, not just technical skills and tools.
“Mention organisations you have worked with – your CV is your place to brag; this is the place you get to legitimately name-drop with a purpose. The purpose is to let the reader know the kind of brands you have worked with. This can be a deciding factor and shed some light on your exposure to different work environments, cultures, and most importantly the expertise you have acquired. “ says Jennifer
This is the final section of your CV. Mention your interests, but think strategically about how those hobbies have an impact on your candidacy, both positively and negatively.
“Stick to hobbies that are a true reflection of your personality but also consider how it may be perceived, In some cases hiring managers will get a feel of your personality through the activities you list.”
Add volunteering roles the same way you would elaborate on your work experience, all experience is relevant be it paid or unpaid. This is especially true if your volunteer role was as a leader, for instance of a club, society or sports team. Leadership translates across all sectors.
CV writing is an art that needs to be mastered so that you may stand out among many candidates. If you want to learn more from Jennifer, check out our Trailblazers Career Webinar for more insights and career wisdom.