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By Lilian Wamaitha
How many CVs have you sent without hearing back from the employer?
Your CV is the first impression you make to any potential employer.
Whether they’ve indicated that you bring along an updated copy of your curriculum vitae or resume, they’re looking for one thing, a document that proves why you’re the ideal candidate to invest their time and money in.
Standing out is the only thing that creates a difference between landing the interview and your CV ending up in the pile of rejects.
What Employers Are Looking For In A CV
This is why Corporate Staffing Services held a free training aimed at answering the burning question among so many Kenyan professionals of what employers are looking for in a CV.
The training was facilitated by Executive Lead Career Coach, Corporate Trainer & C.E.O of Corporate Staffing Services, Perminus Wainaina who has trained and coached over 300 professionals and has consulted for firms such as OX-FAM, UN Women, Action Aid, Nivea among others.
A CV as a marketing tool
Perminus started by stating that your CV is basically a marketing document to act on your behalf before the employer gets to meet you in person.
He insisted on the need to tailor your CV to fit the job description.
“The mistakes that I see most professionals make including seasoned ones is using the same generic CV to apply for the same job,”
Each job is unique and as such your CV should also be the same.
And while at it he said that, tailoring your CV does not mean copying and pasting the entire job description on your CV.
“Employers see right through that and what it communicates is that you are lazy and not really invested in yourself to land your next role,”
How should an ideal CV look like then?
When we talk about tailoring your CV to fit the job description, what are we really talking about?
Perminus answered this question by staying that and ideal CV should include the following;

  1. A career summary
  2. Personal details
  3. Qualifications that is both academic and professional
  4. Work experience
  5. Referees
  6. Achievements
  7. Key skills

1. A career summary
A career summary is one of the most important sections of the CV and it should the first thing that the employer sees.
“Think of a career summary like explaining to a friend what you do for a living.”
It should be aligned with your profession which means that it should not be generic. You should explain why you are the most qualified person for the job. Also add soft skills related to the position you are applying for.
A sample career summary should look like;
“I am a procurement professional with over 7 years experience in tendering and purchasing. I am also skilled in…”
2. Personal details
Your personal details section should contain details of how a potential employer is supposed to contact you. This should include your name, email address and phone number.
According to Mr. Wainaina, only include your marital status if you are comfortable with it and also depending on the position you are applying for. For instance, very senior roles would require someone who is married and you declaring that can work to your advantage.
Date of birth on the other hand he adviced can either work for or against you. If you don’t have to, just leave it out.
While at it, ensure that you also add an extra phone number in case the employer cannot reach you for an interview.
3. Qualifications
This should include both your education and professional qualifications.
Education qualifications should be listed in chronological order starting with the most recent.
He also mentioned that, as you progress in your career, some education qualifications like KCPE and KCSE can be left out since they don’t make an impact.
“An entry level job seeker who is looking for their first job would consider adding their KCSE qualifications but the same cannot be said about a professional with over 10 years experience,”
4. Key skills
This is where you mention the skills that you have acquired over the years. You should list at least 7 skills five of which are related to your careers and explain them in details.
He insisted that this is the most important part that a lot of professionals leave out.
Key skills are an elaboration of your career summary. It explain what you are bringing to the table and it’s what a potential employer will be looking for.
For instance an IT profession would list skills like Java 8, Elasticsearch, SQL, Spring framework among others.
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5. Work experience
Like education section, start with the most recent.
In case you have a lot of years of experience, internships you did ten years back are not required in your professional qualifications, he said.
He also insisted that one of the mistakes that professionals make in this section is failing to list their achievements.
The current job market is very competitive and you have to have a unique selling point if you are to land a job. This means having something in your CV that other candidates do not have, aka your achievements.
To achieve this, don’t just indicate your duties only. Instead, go a step further and list the achievements that you made in figures or percentages.
For instance, ‘I helped cut operating costs by Ksh 5.2M” or “I increased sales by 25% within 4 months”.
This will make your CV unique rather than just a boring list of your responsibilities.
Ensure that you list at least two achievements that can be verified.
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6. Trainings and seminars
Theses should be related to the job that you are applying for.
7. Referees
You should list at least 3 referees on your CV.
If this is your first job, you can input your lecturer and tutors. You’ll obviously need to choose references that you’re confident will give positive remarks and back up the information you have on your CV.
Additionally, make sure they are easily contactable by potential employers when the time comes.
In conclusion, an employer might forgive you for some careless mistakes if you’re an entry level job seeker, but the same won’t happen if you have been in the job market for more than a year.
It is always advisable that as a candidate, always make it easy for the person shortlisting by packaging your CV in a way that the recruiter will get as much information as possible without any struggle.
And that starts with tailoring every application you send for a specific job.
Also, always ensure that your CV is ‘marketing’ you.
You can as well share your CV with a trusted friend and request them to critique. Alternatively, have a you can have a professional CV writer review your CV today and advice on what change.