How to write your first CV

So you’re finishing matric or your last year at university and have decided that it’s time to start applying for jobs. But to do that, you need a CV – and if you’ve never created one in your life, where are you supposed to start? I know approaching your first official CV can be a bit overwhelming, and we all tend to overthink some things when we’re creating our CVs. If so Choma, just take a deep breath, calm down and read these tips on how to go about it.

What is a CV?

We all know what a CV is on a high level (a job application, right?) but let’s break it down a little further Choma. CV is short for the latin term ‘Curriculum Vitae’, which directly translates to “course of one’s life”. A CV is basically a document that contains information about your education, your qualifications and your work experience. The purpose of it is to let a potential employer know how suited you are for a particular job.

Approaching your first job application

Almost every potential employment opportunity will require you to send a CV first Choma. The type of CVs people send to employers usually depends on what job they’re applying for. For example, a writer’s CV might look straightforward as they focus on showing off their writing skills while a designer or video editor will make their CV look visually interesting to show off their own skills. However, there are general tips to help make your CV look professional, like the tips I’ve outlined below;

What to add

Your CV will first require your personal information – your name, surname, address, contact numbers, email address, highest qualification, languages you speak etc. This is just for a potential employer to get to know you better.

Your education details will follow next – like what you studied, where you went to school/university and information about your diploma or degree if you have one. Not all employers want to see your marks, but if it’s relevant to the job then you can add your marks in. For example, if you’re applying for a writer’s job and you have a distinction in English – then this might be a good thing to add.

Next you will need to add information about your training and working experience (if you have any). Add information that is most relevant to the job itself.

If you don’t have any work experience then you can leave this part out. Just make sure that you check the requirements in the job description or job application form carefully. The advert for the position will tell you what they are looking for in a candidate, and this will also give you an idea of what to add in the CV. 

If you’re unsure about the job requirements, try contacting the company for more information.

I know all this information can be a bit much so I’ve added a link to CV templates at the end of this article. These templates will help give you a head start when typing your CV.*

What to avoid

Avoid a CV that is too long. Try to keep it to 2 pages maximum Choma, unless you have a lot of work experience that is relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Avoid adding irrelevant information. Again Choma, check the application or job description carefully and only add what you need to in terms of the job you’re applying for.

Don’t use your one CV to apply for all jobs. Check what the job requires before you send your CV and adapt your CV to fit each individual job application.

Use one font and type in black. Your CV needs to look professional and should be easy for your potential employer to read. Something that has too many colours and different forms of typing could be distracting and off-putting.

Don’t be dishonest. It can be tempting to want to lie about your qualifications and working experience just to get the job, but that’s never a good idea. Not only will it make work difficult for you (because everyone would assume you’re capable of doing something when you actually don’t understand it) but you will also risk losing your job if your employer finds out. It’s much better to be honest so that you can get a working experience that is right for you; one that allows you to learn and grow.

*The best thing to do if you’ve never written a CV before is to simply use a template. A template is a document that already has a layout and some information which you can edit to make your own. Do a quick search on the net for the field you’re interested in, for example “Journalist CV Template” and a few relevant options should pop up.

Here’s a link to a few general CV templates: Puff and Pass Templates

If you follow that link, you should get more information on how to write a CV. Otherwise, read this article or this article.

Good luck Choma!

Remember, you can send me a message to talk to me about anything. So if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).