So many people – both educated and uneducated - don't know how to write a CV. It's a pathetic situation because when unemployment is so high, as it currently is in many parts of the world including Malawi you would expect that the CV to become an area of expertise for many. It isn't so I decided to pitch in with a five-part course in the art of CV writing!
First and foremost a CV is a sales document: your CV should sell you. If I'm trying to hire someone I will definitely be biased in favour of hiring a person that sends in a higher quality CV because that in itself would give information about the level of attention they pay to detail – in terms of presentation and grammar and it would suggest they are organised.
If you are sending your CV by email you should ALWAYS send it as a PDF document. Don't send it as a word document or worse, as a PowerPoint presentation, because the formats will look different on different computers.
If you're sending a hardy copy of your CV print it on high quality textured paper using the best printer you can find. Personally, I use a very high grain, light cream, textured paper for all letters and documents that are designed to create an impression.
Don't send your CV through social media unless you are specifically asked to. You might think this sounds obvious but I recently received a copy & paste CV on Facebook even though I had very specifically asked for it to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The CV was incomplete and full of irrelevant detail.
International Standard CV vs. Malawian CV
These are not one and the same thing. There are some levels of detail that an international company does not care about and in fact, doesn't even want to see on your CV. It's important that you customize your CV so that it is appropriate for each. If you are applying for a local job add these extra details but be careful to remove them when you are applying for jobs in multinational corporations.
It is illegal for an American or British employer to consider your age in the hiring decision so no one in the West puts their date of birth on a CV. Personally, I think it is also completely irrelevant – your age has no impact whatsoever on job performance – it's your level of education and your work experience that matter. That said, if you are applying to a Malawian employer add your D.O.B.
Whether you are single, married or divorced is completely irrelevant to the job; don’t include your marital status on a CV bound for an international organisation. Some Malawian employers, however, want to know this information.
Irrelevant Details For A Local Malawian CV
Nationality – it going to be pretty obvious from your name that your are Malawian. If you are applying for a job as an expatriate then it will be relevant to add this information.
Village and District – how does that make you a better a employee? It doesn't at all.
In summary, as you write your CV think about where it is going and be sure to remove any information that will be considered irrelevant. Everyone skims through Cvs nowadays they don't read them in detail so if you fill your with unnecessary data the vital things will get missed.
“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” David Brinkley
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.