I recently heard somewhere — I can’t remember where so no credit to whoever said it — that there’s no specific format for writing CVs in Nigeria.
This is probably the reason a lot of CVs contain rather irrelevant information.
First things first, a Curriculum Vitae is not a Résumé.
A CV is a complete record of your career history and basically everything you feel your employer should know about you. It can span two to three pages.
A résumé, on the other hand, is a basic listing of your skills and should be tailored to the position you’re applying for. It should be, at most, one page.
Ideally speaking, when companies ask for your CV, you should be as detailed as possible.
However, this is 2017. Nobody has the time to read about your life. Their major concern is finding the best fit for the job.
For this reason, when employers in Nigeria ask for CVs, they’re really asking for your résumé.
NOTE: If applying for a job in a foreign country, you should send in an actual CV unless it is stated otherwise.
To avoid confusion, I’m going to be talking about writing a CV that Nigerian employers expect to see. Which, for all intents and purposes, is a résumé.
Keeping the above information in mind, let’s analyze the format of writing a ‘CV’ in Nigeria.
Parts Of A CV
- Heading: The heading of your CV should contain your name, your phone number and your email address. Your name should be bold and aligned to the center (the alignment is just my personal preference) with your contact information directly below it.
- Educational History: Your educational history should be limited to your most relevant degrees.
If you’ve graduated, write the degree you obtained and what class you graduated with (first class, second upper. If it’s something low, just leave it out).
If you’re currently in university, include your expected year of graduation and your GPA (if it’s good enough. If it’s not that great, you should definitely leave it out).
It may be better to opt out your high school information but you can include it only if it’s necessary i.e. you accomplished something in secondary school that you feel would be pertinent to the position you’re applying for e.g. if you’re applying for a position as a social media intern, you can mention that you were social prefect in secondary school.
Online degrees and certifications are also quite valued. A 6 months nano-degree from Udacity is probably more helpful than a 5 year BSc. from… you get the point.
Do not include your primary school or daycare. It’s not necessary. Just leave it out.
- Skills: This is a very important part of a CV that people often bungle. Your skills should be the things you can do that will actually help you perform the tasks required for the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a position as a software developer, that’s not really the time to brag about your knitting.
If you don’t have any skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for… why exactly are you applying?
You can also include your accomplishments in this section. If you’re a developer, include the link to your GitHub page and mention projects you’ve worked on. Same goes for most tech based jobs. You should have a portfolio displaying your work, preferably online.
- Experience: This is another very important thing. Only include work experience that is actually related to the field you’re applying to.
If you’re applying for a position as a technical support staff, your brief stint as a tailor’s apprentice during the holidays is definitely not necessary.
If you have no experience in the field you’re applying to, that’s a tricky situation.
You can include a general work experience but you better be prepared to defend it. “I strongly believe that the time I worked as a dog sitter helped me gain the necessary quick thinking and maneuvering that I will apply to dealing with clients on a support basis”
These are the basic requirements for a CV and each section should be tailored based on the position and organization. Now, because I think this is actually necessary, here’s a list of things your CV should not contain:
- Incriminating personal information. Things like gender, marital status and ethnicity may create a liability for companies so it’s best to leave it out all together.
- Your passport. Unless stated otherwise by the company, please do not attach a photograph of yourself in any format to your CV.
- Your hobbies. Honestly, nobody cares if you’re into “reading and discovering new things”. Save that for your social media.
- Your physical attributes. Why? Why is this even a thing? In case your employer doubts that you are who you say you are but, ah look at that 5"7 with brown eyes. Exactly the type of finance lead we’ve been looking for.
- The word “CV”. Please do not include “My CV” at any point in the document. Trust me, your employer knows what they’re looking at.
- Your health. Unless, it is something that you feel your employer should know about, in which case you can just mention it in person at the interview. And if you feel the position is something that would affect your health, again I repeat, why are you applying for it? You have diabetes and you’re applying to a cake testing factory? What even?
- Your certificates. Unless you are asked to bring those, do not attach certificates of any form to your CV.
- The date you created the CV. Please. Please. Don’t do this. Please.
So now that you know what should be in a CV, what should it look like?
Format of a CV
- Concise: Your CV should contain the information relevant to the job and nothing else.
- Short: Limit your CV to one page. Please. I’m not trying to read a novel because you want a job.
- Plain: This is not the time to explore your inner creative side. Stick to black text and simple serif fonts (Times New Roman is your safest bet). 12 pt and double-spaced. Frankly, the soft copy version of your CV should be under 500KB in whatever format, doc or pdf.
- Honest: I know how tempting it is to lie on your CV but trust me, your employer will find out.
- Up-to-date: If you get married and you change your last name, yeah that’s something that should be reflected in your CV (the change of name, I mean, not your marital status). Did you move houses since you last updated your CV? Time to update it again.
It’s very important to fit your CV to the position and not just write a general CV that you spam companies with. You want your CV to look like you were made for the position and not like you’re trying to force a square block into a round space.
Disclaimer: This is the generally accepted format for writing a résumé. That being said, your employer may actually be interested in reading three pages of information. If that’s the case, best of luck to you.