Only few things could be more frustrating than submitting your CV for several job openings and not getting invited for a single interview. If that’s what you’re facing presently, then you’re not alone. There are thousands of Nigerian job seekers out there whose CVs end up in hiring managers’ trash bins.
But do you know why your CV hasn’t won you a single interview invitation? No, it’s not bad luck. And it’s not because you don’t have the “connections”. It’s most likely because you’re making some silly mistakes on your CV, and as a result, you’re losing your chances to other applicants who are smart enough to avoid such mistakes.
Now, what are those mistakes that could send your CV into the trash bin of Nigerian hiring managers? Here are the ten commonest ones:
1. Making your CV too long
The ideal length of a CV is two pages at most, although it could be longer for those with a huge work experience. So, if you’re a young graduate with zero to few years of experience, for no reason should your CV exceed two pages.
Remember that hiring managers have to go through hundreds to thousands of CVs while screening applicants for a position, and they have limited time to make their selection. So, rather than spend extra time on looking through a lengthy CV, they would simply toss it aside because they favor CVs that show with a single glance all the relevant details they’re looking for.
2. Making grammatical and spelling errors
Having grammar and spelling errors on your CV sends a lot of negative signals about you. First, that you didn’t attend good schools. Second, that you don’t pay attention to detail. Third, that you’re careless or negligent. And it could go on and on.
So, to avoid giving a bad account of yourself, take your time to edit out all errors in your CV—grammar, spelling, and even punctuation. To be absolutely sure, ask other people to also help you check it. Keeping your CV free of errors is very important. Do you expect a hiring manager to favor an error-laden CV over one that is error-free?
3. Adding irrelevant details
Only few things annoy hiring managers than seeing irrelevant points in an applicant’s CV. So, to boost your chances of being selected for the job, include only information that is relevant to the position and cut out whatever is not.
For example, if you’re applying for a Mechanical Engineer position, you don’t need to add that you once taught in a primary school for a few months after graduation; that’s not relevant to the job. Similarly, nobody is interested in your primary school or the church you attend; so cut out stuffs like that from your CV.
Aside making your CV overly long, irrelevant information tends to mask out the more important details that could have caught the hiring manager’s attention.
4. Making empty, vague claims
While it’s important to list some accomplishments you’ve recorded with your skills, you should avoid using vague words that say a lot but actually mean nothing.
For example, don’t just write “improved sales”. Rather, write “grew revenue by 8% by attracting 16 new clients in 2014”. Similarly, rather than writing “attended to customer needs”, write “responded promptly to customer inquiries via email and phone, and promptly forwarded complaints to the relevant department”.
By being specific, you make your claims more concrete and convincing. And that will boost your chances of getting an interview invitation.
5. Poor formatting
Just like there’s what they call “love at first sight”, there’s also “hatred at first sight”. And poor CV formatting is one of those mistakes that cause hiring managers to hate a CV at first sight. And it’s a no brainer that nobody wastes his time assessing something that annoys him.
Make your CV appealing to hiring managers by using clean formatting. While there are no CV formatting rules etched in stone, stick with one that clearly separates the sections and places the most important points first. Use bullet lists and keep your sentences as short as possible.
6. Leaving out your contact details
The best way to shoot yourself in the foot when applying for a job is to submit a CV that either leaves out your contact details or includes outdated contact details, such as an old line you lost and didn’t bother retrieving.
With this mistake, you’ve blocked out every possible way you can be reached by the employer. And you sure won’t forgive yourself if you later discover that a multinational company badly wanted to hire you, but couldn’t reach you because the phone line on your CV is no longer active.
So, it’s more than important to ensure that your CV contains your active phone line and email address.
7. Having unexplained employment gaps
While hiring managers understand that gaps of few years could be sometimes inevitable, they don’t condone wide gaps that span four, five, six, or more years. This is why it’s important for job seekers to take up voluntary positions or enroll for professional courses during their job search years.
If you already have some wide gaps in your CV, try to recall some activities you undertook during the period that you can include in your CV. But if you can’t find any, you don’t have to lie.
Honesty trumps everything else. You can still make it to the interview room—even with a wide gap—if there are other impressive points in your CV. But even in that case, be ready to explain the reason for that gap during your interview.
8. Submitting in the wrong format (electronically)
Another easy way to kill your chances of getting hired right from the start is to submit your CV in the wrong format through email. Many employers will specify the format they want your CV submitted in, such as PDF or Microsoft Word.
Where a specific format has been specified, submitting your CV in another format will send signals that you cannot adhere to simple instructions—and no employer would like to hire an applicant with that trait.
However, where no format has been specified, submit your CV in PDF or Microsoft Word format, as these are the standards. Sending in TXT format or pasting your details in the body of an email is just plain dumb!
Hiring managers don’t think twice before trashing a CV that contains obvious lies. A job applicant once included in his CV that he was born in 1986, yet the same CV states that the applicant attended secondary school between 1992 and 1998. How can someone born in 1986 be admitted into secondary school in 1992 (at the age of six!)? It’s so obvious that the candidate had lied about his date of birth.
Don’t ever include any false information on your CV. Hiring managers are smart enough to sniff them out. Even if you make it to the interview room, you’d be busted right there! So, save yourself from unnecessary palpitations by being truthful.
10. Submitting a generic CV
This is the commonest and most suicidal CV mistake most Nigerian job seekers make. If you think you’ll get a job by distributing the same CV—like handbills—for every job position and hoping that one will fall on “fertile ground”, you’re very likely to remain jobless for decades. Why? Because that strategy no longer works in today’s tight Nigerian job market.
To up your chances of getting a job, take your time to tailor your CV to the position you’re applying for. How? By including and highlighting your skills and other information that are directly relevant to the position, and cutting out all irrelevant stuff. In short, put your best foot forward.
Now, you’ve learned the most common CV mistakes that are costing many Nigerian job seekers their dream jobs. Chances are you’re guilty of one of more of these mistakes. Start correcting them right now, and you’ll see positive results with subsequent applications.
Patrick Okunima CV Writing Services can help you land your dream job.
Our professional CVs and cover letters have helped more than 3,000 of our clients secure interviews with high paying companies, including Banks, Consulting Firms, Multinationals, Telecommunications, and Oil & Gas Companies.
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