More tips, especially for jobs with ‘international’ orgs (Devex)

Just passing along some helpful info. Having worked with many, many recruiters, I would also attest to the accuracy of these tips. The below article is designed for people working with international organisations, but the advice is generally sound.

Devex provides career resources for international development professionals. They publish lots of info all the time, like this guide to salaries (though some info is only available to paying subscribers).

CAREER ADVICE: Top resume mistakes local professionals make

A crumpled piece of paper. A poorly written resume can make or break your application, no matter how qualified you are…

By Kelli Rogers on 09 September 2013

Recruiters, not surprisingly, are most interested in experience, and they’d rather not have to guess at it. Even if an applicant is completely qualified for the job in question, a poorly-written or disorganized resume will have the recruiter looking to the next applicant in no time.

“You’re moving quickly, you want to be able to look and determine — Is this person qualified, is it someone I want to interview?” shared Jackie Oddoye, a recruiting consultant for Creative Associates.

Recruiters are on tight schedules during field recruiting visits and want to set up as many appropriate interviews as they can for the few days they have in-country. This often means scanning resumes before they arrive to decide on who will be invited for a personal interview.

Burying your experience, not including details of your responsibilities and forgetting to use keywords are common mistakes that can take your resume out of the running before a recruiter even sets foot in a country.

“You see the resume, it has potential and you want to know more, but if the candidate hasn’t given it the attention it deserves, you might have to move on to one that has,” said Amanda Schwartz, Deloitte’s senior recruiter for emerging markets.

Though resume writing norms differ from country to country, recruiters explained there are several common mistakes local professionals make. With a few tweaks, it’s possible to better stand out and sell yourself and your experience better.

Burying your experience

As a general rule, it’s important to tailor your resume to the position and opportunity you are looking for. In doing so, experience most relevant to the desired job should rise to the top.

“Often experience comes last, behind education and various training programs, but I just scroll down until I get to your experience,” said Kathryn Erskine, talent acquisition manager for Creative Associates.

Make sure you highlight most relevant experience first, then follow with your other experience. If it’s a management position, highlight management skills, including the number of people supervised and size of the project, noted Oddoye. And don’t forget to highlight your accomplishments along with your responsibilities, specifically accomplishments that relate to the job you are applying for.

“It’s not only the title, it’s what are your daily job responsibilities,” Erskine said. “Listing those out is really important.”

Hands-on field experience in a technical field is usually more marketable than general management experience, Oddoye suggested. So, if the applicant started in a technical field but eventually became a manager, he/she should be sure to cite technical skills and accomplishments in addition to his or her management accomplishments.

Recruiters agree that it’s also important for applicants to include the names of all the countries in which he/she has worked and lived, as well as all the technical and programming sectors.

Leaving out donor work

Start simple: Make sure to include the name of the project you worked on.

For example, if it’s a malaria prevention project, applicants sometimes fail to include the correct name for the project itself, shared Inga Feldi, who recruits in Africa for DAI.

“As a recruiter you can look up a project, but if the name is incorrect, you have to try to figure it out matching what they’re saying they did with projects that happened at that time,” she said. “And that’s a lot of work.”

Lisa Robinson, a talent acquisition consultant based in Indonesia, recommended indicating who the donor was and in what countries or parts of the country you worked. And while including details of the actual project, remember that it’s your experience on that particular project that the recruiter will be interested in learning.

“Please don’t give us a long paragraph from the project website that just tells us what the project did, but tell us specifically what you did on the project,” she said.

To eliminate questions, make sure you highlight donor work and size of the projects you worked on. And the dollar value of the project is just as important, so include it when it’s compelling, Oddoye suggested.

Those are the details that really matter, Feldi added.

“If someone says that they were managing a regional office of a project, but managing a $2 million project with five regional offices is completely different than being regional manager on a $40 million project with two regional offices. Details like that matter,” she said.

If you have good technical experience but you’re not clear about where this experience belongs or indicate which donor you were working for, the importance can be lost.

Not providing enough (or including too much irrelevant) detail

It’s crucial to provide detailed coverage of your full career. Longer resumes with detail on your work experience are more compelling than shorter resumes summarizing your experience, Oddoye said.

The detail of your work and your accomplishments will demonstrate the depth and breadth of your technical expertise, while showing senior management experience. The resume should “brand” you with specific areas of expertise.

“After quickly skimming the resume the reader should have formed an impression of you as a professional and the breadth of your expertise,” explained Oddoye.

But Robinson pointed out there is always the flip side of providing too much information. She isn’t interested in your hobbies or whether you are married with children.

“I don’t need to know where you went to elementary school,” she said. “And if your GPA at school was bad, don’t include it.”

Relevant experience, keywords

Tailor your resume construction to your level of experience.

Education, training, volunteer experience, certifications and international development associations — if you already have significant experience in the field, push this extra experience to the end. But this experience is important and should be leveraged on the first page of your resume if you are trying to break into the field, Oddoye said.

“Remember the most important and relevant information should be on the front page and it should be what is important and relevant to the job you are applying for and the employer of that job, not what is important and relevant to your life history,” Oddoye said.

Also, don’t forget to write your resume using the same language as the job advertisement.

If keywords aren’t strategically included throughout the resume, it most likely won’t surface when a recruiter searches the company database for those keywords.

Your resume should be written in the same language as the advertisement unless the posting itself states that you should write it in a specific language. For example, if the advert is in English and the requirement is for someone with strong English language skills to work with foreigners, don’t send your CV in another language, even the local language.

Remember that the recruiter or HR professional spends no more than five minutes with the CV when doing the first cut, so if you don’t use the wording from the advert you will most likely not make the shortlist.

“Don’t make the reviewer guess if you actually did work similar to that in the advertisement,” Robinson said.

Using a confusing format

Use a clear format that shows position, duration of employment, project, employer and donor where applicable.

“Don’t use funky margins, colored background or lots of graphics,” Robinson recommended.

The use of tables and other graphics makes it confusing and harder to read, so use a clear font that’s easy to read and bold and italicize where needed to highlight positions.

Getting the job is a combination of having the right skill set and successfully translating it to paper. Still unsure of how to organize your resume? Schwartz recommends applicants spend time looking at other resumes or profiles on LinkedIn to get an idea of what looks good and follow suit.

Good advice from JobsMentor

Excellent advice from

Kenyan Jobsekeer: 10 Mistakes to Avoid

Dear Kenyan jobseeker,

You’ve tried almost everything to secure a job, including working several unpaid internships. You are now frustrated. If only someone would be kind enough to give you some pointers on why your methods are not working. Lucky for you, JobsMentor is on your side and wants to help you GET THE JOB YOU WANT.

Perhaps you are making one of the small, but high problematic problems, listed below…

1. “AM looking for a job”

What’s wrong with the sentence above? Look again. Hint: it’s in capital letters.

Yes, AM. That’s not a subject. You’ve started a sentence with a helping verb. The correct sentence: “I am looking for a job” OR “I’m looking for a job”.  If you want a job, re-learn your grammar. Writing skills are one of seven basic skills that will get you a job. Please do not assume that just because you have a certificate/diploma/degree you have any command of the English language. Study it carefully. Other language errors to be aware of: lack of capitals where due; lack of punctuation where due; or use of punctuation where not due; misuse of words (especially words you have picked up from other people but never looked up in the dictionary; wayward, confused sentences; typos that portray you as a careless person e.t.c.


Are you sending emails that do not begin with an acknowledgement of the recipient? Have you considered how rude you must sound? How about “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”?  Be as conscious as possible about the fact that you are intruding on this person. Be extremely polite. If you are not sure how you come across, ask an objective person to read an email or listen to a phone call you are making and help you improve.


Are you writing ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ to someone you are hoping will employ you? Are you addressing them by first name without permission? Are you showing up at interviews in less than strictly formal clothes? Are you writing in abbreviated language: ‘thks’ or ‘thanks’ instead of ‘thank you”. If you are doing any of the above, stop immediately. Your potential employer is a stranger: treat him/her formally, politely and respectfully.


Time is short and as a young jobseeker you are at the bottom of the foodchain. Whoever is listening to you is doing you a huge favor. Practice what you are going to say ahead of time because you need to have the answer to every question posed to you at the tip of your tongue. If you are ever answering a question for more that 30 seconds you are committing the terrible sin of verbal diarrhoea. Be precise; don’t strain the other person’s attention.


Type everything please. It’s the 21st century. A handwritten cover letter or CV especially on fullscap paper (which is by default the roughest and cheapest paper in the market) is equivalent to wearing creased clothes to your interview.

6. ME, ME, ME

“I need a job”.  “I have a diploma/ degree.” ME, ME, ME.  Unfortunately, no one wants to hire you because YOU need a job. Let’s rephrase that: EMPLOYERS DO NOT GIVE JOBS TO PEOPLE WHO NEED THEM. Employers give jobs to people who show how they can meet the employers’ needs. What does your potential employer need? Do you know?  It is supremely important to talk in terms of what you can do for your potential employer and not what you need or want. Book recommendation: How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (an old, timeless book).


If you are sending applications to companies that you do not know/understand inside out, you doing the equivalent of burning your degree/diploma/certificate. You cannot adequately present yourself as the best candidate without understanding what the company cares about. It’s not enough to visit the company’s website, although that is a good start. You need to know who will be interviewing you and what he/she likes in a job applicant. How do you do that? Find out from a JobsMentor.


From the moment you decide to start looking for a job, to your first day at a new job, to the rest of your working life, you are and will always be a job seeker. Every minute, every second. You never know who is watching you. The person you disrespect on the street, might be your interviewer on ninth floor. The receptionist you forget to greet may be asked whether you should be hired. The man who watches you act stupid with your friends at Steers, might be an important client for the company of your dreams. The silly meme you forward on facebook may be offensive to someone somewhere in HR. That habit you have formed of never writing full sentences on text may accidentally show up when you are emailing someone very important. In a million small ways, you are sabotaging yourself.


Do you ask people for their time then forget to show up for meetings or cancel simply because you do not feel like attending anymore? Respect those who give you their time.  In a country where everyone is lax about time, you will stand out for being on time, every time, and for taking up only the time allocated to you. Form good habits now and you will never find yourself running through the streets of Nairobi, late for the most important interview of your life.


No one wants to carry your burden. Very few people have job openings or the ability to hire you. But they may have the knowledge and connections you need. Don’t be lazy and try make them get a job for you. Stop sending unsolicited CVs; stop leaving messages across the wide world web to the tune “I need a job”. Everyone needs a job and everyone has your qualifications. Show some initiative: seek advice and actively employ it. This is your job search.