Ibrahim Sowunmi

The CV guide I wish I had

Imagine this. You’re 18. You have no experience and what feels like no skills. You’re flung into an environment ­­where, unbeknownst to many people, you’re building the foundation for the rest of your life. Well what do you do? This dude says get some experience... That dude said build a CV... That other other dude said leverage your network? The f*** does that even mean? It is confusing. Fortunately, you’ve got a lot of time to think and a good head on your shoulders.

Unfortunately, I can’t help with all of that. My expertise is very limited. One area which I’ve put a fair amount of energy on is the CV building aspect, and below I aim to build & share a solid, if not somewhat superficial, resource. There are a few things I will be talking about. Industry/Role specificity, CV length, structure, format, CV presentation, Value-adding statements, skills, interests, experience and Recruiter heat gazes. An ideal CV is 1 page. Chockablock full of punchy statements, and buzz words relevant to the role/industry you're going for. No worries if it’s not great from the first draft. Your CV is something that must be nurtured throughout your life. It starts with odd jobs and filler. Then you get more relevant work. Less filler. Then even more relevant work and experience.

Industry/Role specificity

When applying for a role in a given industry. There will be industry standards. A certain format of CV that is most commonly used. Some will be two pages, some will be one page. It’s best practice to conform to these. I’m an advocate of keeping a CV short and sweet. If you are an undergraduate odds are most of your experience will be filler. You should be able to convey all necessary information on 1 page. Maybe two. It’s better to have a concise CV and invest energy in a cover letter(Adding a cover letter makes you stand out) and making sure every line of your CV adds value. he role takes precedence over the industry. If you’re applying for a tech role you want a “Techie” CV even if that role is within the arts for example. Although sprinkling some sauce on the CV by industry will help you stand out. Say for instance you're applying for a marketing job in Tech. Demonstrating a love for technology will help your case. angentially relevant experience is also very helpful. If I’m applying for a customer-facing role having experience in sales/marketing would be useful. If I’m applying for a marketing role experience with event planning or working with social media campaigns would be relevant. Tech roles need code and could potentially benefit from a customer-facing role, depending on the flavour of the industry you’re applying for.

CV Length, Structure & Presentation

The ideal CV is 1 – 2 pages. Use narrow margins to get as much information on the page as possible. Your name should be large at the top. Remember to include your contact info. here is no need to do, (phone number: 07931700XXX), just write your phone number. The reader will be able to recognise what a phone number is. The same goes for email, etc. xclude your physical address. Items should be in reverse chronological order (Most recent at the top) for the experience section. For the Skills & interests section, the sexiest and most relevant should be at the top. hen formatting utilise everything. Headings, bullet posts, Bolding, etc. Ensure your CV is a PDF, as different machines can mess up the displaying of word files depending on the software used to open the file.

Value-adding statements

Every line of your CV in the experience or extracurricular section should have "punch". By that I mean when it’s read it should demonstrate what you have done, learnt, gained, etc. If you can throw a buzzword in there, brilliant. If not, no worries. You just want it to be clear and readable. A layperson should be able to pick up your CV and not want to roll their eyes when reading. here should be a clear "Accomplished X, as measured by Y, by doing Z" flow to every statement. Start with an action verb, numerically measure the accomplishment, and detail what you did to achieve this. Example: Worked as a food server in catering Becomes: Handled large volumes of food, serving hundreds, over the busiest weekend in December. intentionally picked a shitty example and kind of overworded it to show that it’s not a strict rule. Just a means of conveying a sense of accomplishment over simpler statements. xample: Attended a sustainability hackathon Becomes: Created a sustainability app in 24 hours by managing a team of interdisciplinary students. Again not the greatest example, although I hope it conveys a general feel for what’s good. When creating these statements, there should be a focus on metrics/impacts. Ideally related to the role you’re going for. If a project manager role, skills conveying time management abilities etc.

Skills, Interests & Extracurricular experience

This is an interesting section as it has a huge amount of flexibility. When adding things to this section take skills that show a proximal ability to a given area. Or that show aptitude. This should be relatively easy to fill out. A weekend of diligent study in an area should give you the ability to add it to this section. quick way to add to this section is to get involved. That may be in several places

  • Campus
  • Societies
  • Club
  • Volunteering
  • Hosting own workshops (Educational, Artistic, etc)
hen engaging in this try to highlight leadership roles or roles that relate to a specific job you are applying for. If you’re applying for a banking job saying you were the chair of finance for instance. Mention awards and accolades if you have any. If you’re CV desperately needs padding, add your Duke of Edinburgh bronze award or your engagement with NCS. inally, add relevant skills (These are easy ones to develop beginner proficiency with also): Programming with X language Building prototypes with Sketch Managing mail campaign with MailChimp Microsoft word, excel, PowerPoint Windows operation system, Linux OS, Mac OS Add things like speaking/understanding multiple languages or whatever comes to mind as a relevant ability. f you want to add hobbies/interests make sure that the hobbies and interests you add display desirable traits. Captain of the football team (Shows leadership/organisation), Programming with X language (Then elaborate with a use case). When adding a point here think about the “So what Value”. Imagine if a recruiter were to read it. What does it tell the recruiter about you? That is the so what value.

Recruiter heat gaze

When recruiters look at a CV they scan it. They spend on average 7 seconds on it. They don’t read it the way you or I would. They parse it for catchy statements and buzzwords. They spend a few seconds looking at it before determining whether or not it’s destined for the trash can. Firstly they look at your name. You want it at the top in big, bold, and legible font. No photos. This won’t help you at all. Then they probably jump to your experience and look for big names and buzz words. If there aren’t any. No worries. You’re a student (probably), if you have these it’s a luxury. You can pad these in somewhere with something else potentially. Dates are something they regularly check, but as mentioned earlier you’re a student. Try not to put anything on there that’s greater than five years old!

I’ve got no experience/relevant experience! Help?

This is a tough one. A regular position for a lot of young people to start out in. Do these in any order:

  • o Relevant coursework/projects (This includes Uni work, although non-Uni work would be better as it shows some initiative!).
  • o Skills you’ve developed although it’s not a prerequisite for work experience tied to be tied to it
  • o Use bullet points to pad out your resumes structure
    • o For instance for each course you’ve worked through, come up with 2 – 3 bullet points for each achievement/accomplishment you’ve made in the course.
    • o A project alone can account for 1/6 of resume space, although try not to do this)
  • o START VOLUNTEERING (This is hands down the easiest way to get experience), walk to a stall or a chairty shop and ask how can I help.
  • o Extracurricular activities
  • o Certifications
  • o Skills
  • o Any minimum wage low skill job (Retail, Hospitality, agency work)
f after all of this, there’s still nothing. You’re the problem. Get of your ass. Do something. Things to do on your ass:
  • Certifications ( E.g., Basic programming skills – You DO NOT have to be smart for this)
  • Projects ( Art, Music, Video editing, Critiquing anime videos, Video game analysis, honestly anything, just show you have some passion and a willingness to learn)
Things to do off your ass, have been mentioned above. If there is no experience it will be a little shit.

Action Verbs I nicked from here



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If you’re interested in tech related resources (Example CVs, anecdotal stories) HMU and will share.

P.S. When doing the job hunt it's useful to keep a document of where you applied for, the requirements, why you were/are a fit for the job etc. If you have to repeat the hunt you have a list of potential places.