CVs and Resumes

Internship and Job Resources


CVs and Resumes are interchangeably used to refer to a document that presents you as a candidate suitable to an employer or other kind of organizations (e.g. graduate school) you have applied for a position. A CV means “curriculum vitae” ­­– a latin phrase which translates to “course of life” while a résumé is a French word which means “to summarise.”

These documents also make the case that a candidate is worth the resources for the prospective employer or organization to invest in the further evaluation, interview and other steps that may be required for the candidate to fill a position.

CVs for submission to private sector employers do not need to be too heavy on details. However, should serve as a concise personal marketing document to focus on your competencies, showcase your skills (demonstrated at work), notable achievements, qualifications and work experience RELEVANT and TAILORED to the role to which you are applying. This is why these kinds of CVs are called preferably called resumes in some countries. Your CV can range from one to three pages depending on your work experience and number of active years in the industry.

In applying for roles in academia, scientific research, grants, fellowships and international jobs, your CV should provide a detailed and comprehensive listing of one’s education, work history, certifications, research experience, publications, presentations, and professional affiliations and memberships. These details vary by country, but can include one’s date of birth, nationality, marital status, and number of children. Unless otherwise stated, this type of CVs has no page restrictions.

Some employers and organizations such as graduate schools provide guidelines to formatting your CV for submission. It is in your best interest to abide with these guidelines as several organisations now use application tracking systems (ATS) to sort out CVs for the consideration of a personnel within the organization. It is also the first test of your ability to comprehend information as a suitable candidate for to the role you are applying for.

A dilemma in writing your CV is knowing what to include or remove. The first answer to this should be sought from the employer or organization to whom you are submitting your CV, provided instructions on CV formats are provided. However, when specific instructions are not provided, these are general rules you can stick with:

 Contact details
Include your full name, home address, mobile number and email address. Ensure that your mobile number is reachable and avoid playful email addresses or those that you don’t check.

Personal Information
When age limits are set on a role or you are applying to a job in a country where there are no strict laws on employer discrimination, you may need to add your date of birth, gender and marital status. Otherwise, they are not required. You can add the link to your social media handle, such as LinkedIn, provided you have taken time to deliberately work on your online presence.

Profile/Career Objective/Summary Statements
While not compulsory, it is not uncommon to see CVs which have a short profile or statement placed at the beginning of a CV. If you have decided to add this to your CV, it should be concise and describe your selling attributes in a way that makes you stand out from the rest of the pack. It also provides an opportunity summarily describe your past accomplishments and future ambition in a way that matches the role you are applying to. This means that it should not be generic but tailored to the role you are applying for.

Education and Professional Qualifications 
List your education to date. This should also include your professional qualifications and relevant industry certifications which you may decide to place in a separate section. You can also add relevant bootcamps you have attended or online courses you have taken. They should be arranged chronologically i.e. the most recent first. Do not hesitate to add your grade or class position to every education or training where you have excelled. This provides an opportunity to sell yourself as a high-flying candidate.

Work experience
List your work experience in a chronological order. The work experience to include can be full time or volunteer positions, independent or group projects, as long as you can demonstrate they provided you the opportunity to build and apply skills which may be directly or indirectly transferable to the role you are applying for. Each of these work experiences should Include your job title, organization name, duration of work and the tasks you did while occupying that role ­– this can be summarized or listed as bullet points

Skills and Competencies
While several CVs have sections to list skills and competencies, describing them in your work experiences, education and accomplishments provides a better way to communicate them. This shows employers that you don’t just have potentials, but you are actualising them. Skills may include the ability to speak a foreign language, use a software or knowledge of a trade. Whatever it is, just ensure that it is presented to be relevant to the role for which you are applying.  Be careful not to exaggerate your abilities or make claims that you may struggle to defend.

Achievements and Accomplishments
Your CV provides you an opportunity to showcase yourself as the best candidate for the place you are applying for. Therefore, you may want to include any award, honor, prize, fellowship or grant you have received as achievements. Accomplishments may include opportunities you have had such as your article being published on a reputable platform, presentations and recognitions you have received

Beyond hobbies, interests provide a more encompassing way to show your life outside. They should not be generic such as stating you like reading, travelling and watching football. They should be more active and present you as an interesting person desirable on a team. These can be as detailed as the genre of books, movies and music. Participation in a choir, band or drama group. Volunteerism in an association or group. When interestingly presented, your interests can become talking points at interviews. So, let your interest be want you familiar with. Don’t claim to be an expert at playing golf in you’ve only stepped on a golf course.

Grey Areas
It is becoming increasingly common to see pictures on CVs. It is not mandatory that you picture is attached to your CV unless you are applying for an acting or modelling job – it may not even be necessary in this case. Adding a picture can also make the file size of your CV, making it difficult for applicant tracking systems (ATS) to process. Your online presence provides you a channel to project your pictures. Ensure that you have a picture that fits a workplace on social media channels such as LinkedIn. For pictures of your projects, a portfolio is the best document to present them. A portfolio makes it possible to present them with notes to provide more information to the reader.

Take note of specific instructions that may require you to add references to your CV. If not stated, adding references may not be necessary. For academic CVs, references are always required – a majority of which must be past academic tutors and sometimes a manager in the workplace can be one of the three. CVs for job applications that require references can have only managers who you have worked with in the past. On all occasions, ensure that your references are those that can provide supporting information about you if the prospective employer or institution you are applying to requires them to. References should include their name, roles, company/institution, email and phone numbers.

A great CV takes your skills and experience and tailors them to the job you’re applying for. The following are tips to help you get started in creating a successful CV and securing your first (or next) job.

There is no right or wrong way to write a CV but there are some common sections you should cover. These include: personal and contact information; education and qualifications; work history and/or experience; relevant skills to the job in question; own interests, achievements or hobbies; and some reference. There is no need adding the title of a “Curriculum Vitae” to your document. The title should be your name and the layout should make it obvious that it is a CV. Use regular font such as Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, Times and Verdana. Avoid fancy fonts that may look cool to you but may be difficult to read for a recruiter who has many CVs to go through.

Understand the job description
Take notes and create bullet points, highlighting everything you can satisfy and all the bits you can’t. With the areas where you’re lacking, fill in the blanks by adapting the skills you do have. For example, if the job in question requires someone with sales experience, there’s nothing stopping you from using any retail work you’ve undertaken – even if it was something to help pay the bills through university or working in a family member’s retail outlet. It will demonstrate the skills you do have and show how they’re transferable. Just make sure you are not lying and you can defend every claim you make. Another trick you can use is to utilize the keywords in the job description in presenting your work experience and skills in your CV.

Tailor your CV to the role
When you’ve established what the job entails and how you can match each requirement, create a CV specifically for that role. Remember, there is no such thing as a generic CV. Every CV you send to a potential employee should be tailored to that role. So, don’t be hesitant to always do the work of editing your CV to fit the role for which you are applying.  You don’t have to re-write the whole document, you can always tweak the details so they’re relevant to each role you are applying for. In a CV, for example, if you are applying for a job in sales, you might want to put your sales experience and training at the top of the work experience and education sections of your CV.

Make the most of your skills
Under the skills section of your CV, don’t forget to mention key skills that can help you to stand out from the crowd. These could include: communication skills; computer skills; team working; problem solving or even speaking a foreign language. It is not enough to list your skills as a bullet point. You can write a short note on how you acquired or have demonstrated each skill. Skills can come out of the most unlikely places, so really think about what you’ve done to grow your own skills, even if you take examples from being in a local sports team or joining a voluntary group – it’s all relevant.

Make the most of your interests and volunteerism
Interests provide you an opportunity to present your life outside work that further indicates you are the right fit for a role. Under interests, highlight the things that show off skills you’ve gained and employers look for. Include anything that shows how diverse, interested and skilled you are. Describe any examples of positions of responsibility, working in a team or anything that shows you can use your own initiative. For example, if you ran your university’s newspaper or if you started a weekend league football team that became a success. Don’t include passive interests like watching TV, solitary hobbies that can be perceived as you lacking in people skills. Make yourself sound really interesting.

Make the most of your experience
Use assertive and positive language under the work history and experience sections, such as “developed”, “organised” or “achieved”. Try to relate the skills you have learned to the job role you’re applying for. For example: “The work experience involved working in a team,” or “This position involved planning, organisation and leadership as I was responsible for a team of people”. Really get to grips with the valuable skills and experience you have gained from past work positions, even if it was just working in a restaurant – every little detail helps.

Keep your CV updated
It’s crucial to review your CV on a regular basis and add any new skills or experience that’s missing. For example, if you’ve just done some volunteering or worked on a new project, make sure they’re on there – potential employers are always impressed with candidates who go the extra mile to boost their own skills and experience. You can always add that new online certification you received. Just ensure that each addition is relevant to the role you are applying to.

Presentation is key
A good CV is clear and concise. Also, employers receive dozens of CVs all the time so it’s unlikely they’ll read each one cover to cover. Most will make a judgment about a CV within sections. The layout should always be clean and well-structured and pleasing to the eyes. CVs typically take a chronological, functional or hybrid format. Though the chronological structure is most commonly used, if you are just starting out in the industry or have gaps in employment, you may consider a functional CV to emphasise your competencies and skills. You can also use the hybrid format which combines both chronological and functional format. You can use a template or flexible CV builder to develop your CV so as to stick and follow through on a clear presentation format.

Proofread multiple times and share with others for feedback
The first draft of any document is prone to all kinds of errors. The secret of flawless documents is not in writing a perfect first version but re-writing until it is near-perfect. Ensure that you read your document multiple times to spot errors. Reading out loud each word can help you to spot errors faster. You just never seem to notice some omissions until they are pointed out by others. So, do not hesitate to share your CV with others to proofread for you. Finally, you can always consult a career advisor, mentor or professional to review your CV for recommendations on areas you can make improvements. The more background work you have done on your own, the less you would likely have to do after their review. Your CV for review may be so perfect that it leads to an unexpected opportunity.

As the number of applicants to organisations have increased over the years and information technology have become more adopted in human resource management, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are one of the technologies that have been embraced by organisations to manage their recruitment processes.

ATS are software applications used to process job applications submitted by candidates, they manage online job application forms, attached CVs, cover letters, credentials and other documents submitted by candidates. Some of them have now incorporated artificial intelligence to scan applications and CVs to recommend candidates to move to the next phase of consideration or interview in a recruitment process. This is why they are called robots.

The larger an organization, the more likely the organization uses an ATS due to the number of submissions they receive during their recruitment process. Most ATS scan CVs for relevant keywords on the candidate’s skills, educational background, and work experience.

Before your well-written CV grabs the attention of recruiters in an organization, getting past the ATS system is the first task. Following are tips to ensure that your CV works well with ATS:

Proper Formatting
ATS process texts. Therefore, the more plainly written your CV is, the faster and easier it is to process by ATS. Avoid the use of tables and graphics such as pictures, logos, shadings and symbols. in your CV. Use standard margins made available in document creation tools, use at least a font size of 11 of standard fronts, and take note of the format of submission recommended by the organisation. Most ATS find it easier to process Word documents as PDFs standards vary and can be more difficult to process.

Emphasize your Skills and Achievements
ATS use filters to recommend candidates for consideration in the recruitment process. These filters search for the availability of relevant skills to for a job in the CVs submitted by candidates. Power words such as “won”, “earned”, “improved” and more can be an indicator to the robot about the quality of the candidate. Therefore, it does not matter how long or beautifully styled your CV is, what is far more important is the quality of its content as it relates to the relevant skillsets you possess and their suitability to the job you are applying for.

Use the Right Keywords
Using the right keywords start from understanding the job description of the position you are applying for and tailoring your CV to it. Highlight your skills with words and phrases used to describe the ideal candidates for the role you are applying for in your CV. You can also use these keywords to describe your job functions in the work experience section of your CV. Don’t limit yourself to acronyms, but use spell out the full words ­– A Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree is an example. However, do not flood your CVs with keywords and jargons such that become inauthentic to a human reader during the recruitment process. 

Work on your Online Presence
Some ATS providers have offerings to search and assess the online presence of candidates. Therefore, make deliberate attempt to build a professional brand online. You can make dictate the narrative and make your online presence easier to find by putting adding links to your LinkedIn and website to your CV. You can read more about this in the section on building your online presence.

Leverage Networks
Several organisations use a referral system in their recruitment process. Having a recommendation from one of their staff can move your application up in the ATS stack or even bypass it entirely. It is therefore recommended that you reach out to professionals who may work directly or know someone who does in a company. This can help in advocating for you.

Remember the Humans
As with many technologies used in the workplace today, ATS doesn’t make the final decision on a candidate but only assist recruiters to do their jobs more efficiently. Therefore, bypassing an ATS is not a guarantee that you have secured a job, humans may re-evaluate your CV to be sure you haven’t tricked it. Present your CVs in a chronological format that makes your work experience easy to see or a functional format that puts a spotlight on your skills, depending on what your area of strength is for the job application. Also ensure that while the presentation of your CV is simple for ATS to read, it is also attractively well-laid out for human readers.

There are a number of online tools that can be helpful in developing, optimising and enhancing your CV. They range from simple CV builders, online presence development, to those leveraging artificial intelligence to providing   These tools include:

With Grammarly, you can eliminate writing errors and express yourself perfectly on your CVs by giving you real-time feedback as you write. You can also copy and paste your CV content to it. Beyond writing your CV and cover letter, Grammarly is a great tool for improving your writing.

Novorèsumè and Ineedaresume
Novoresume and Ineedaresume provide online templates readily designed for use in creating your CV. Novoresume also has a content analyser to improve your resume content and suggests possible revisions to make it even better. It can help to present your CV in multiple languages which can be downloaded and shared with others.
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Resumeworded and Vmock
Resumeworded and Vmock are online tools developed with the knowledge of recruiters to score and review your resume and LinkedIn presence using Artificial Intelligence. They also have an scanning feature to test how ATS will process your CV. It gives you a personalized feedback and actionable steps to greatly improve your CV’s impact. It is simply a CV and online presence optimization tool.
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This tool lets you take a storytelling approach to building your CV. It sums up your skills, background and interests in a browsable sections such as your story, personality, skills and references. You can also add contact information and links to your other channels of online presence. It doesn’t just end there, you can decide to download your CV in PDF format in addition to the online version.

Jobalytics is a chrome addon that helps you to analyse your CV and matches it to job postings on leading online job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed and It instantly lets you know how you can make your CV stronger for it to get past ATS and increase your chance of getting an interview.

Here is a list questions to assess the readiness of your CV: 

  • Is the layout well-organised, attractive and inviting to read?
  • Does it feature relevant personal data?


  • Is the content targeted at the role you are applying for?


  • Are your skills featured as  relevant to the job/industry?


  • Does the CV demonstrate your transferable skills and competencies?


  • Is your education and relevant training featured to the job?


  • Has your CV been proofread for grammatically correctness?


  • Is it well formatted and well presented?


  • Is it trimmed to one or two pages or maximum of three as an experienced hire?

CV templates available for download and re-use include:

  • Graduate CV (for job applications) – View Online | Download
  • Graduate School CV (for postgraduate applications)
  • Experienced Professional CV (for job changers)