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Writing a résumé for jobs in international aid with

If you're a recent graduate looking to get into the competitive field of international aid, your CV can make or break your application. sat down with Nicole Cunningham, a Recruitment Specialist with the Fred Hollows Foundation, to talk tips for CV writing. They have compiled a list of 7 things to avoid when writing your résumé.

1. Poor Formatting

It's a well-known statistic by now: recruiters and hiring managers spend an average of six seconds scanning your CV. That means it's imperative you format it in a way that's appealing and emphasises the most important information without using big chunks of text.

Put your name and contact details near the top left corner of the page, as that's where the eye is immediately drawn. Work history should also appear close to the top. Use bullet points to describe what each organisation you worked for does, as this provides recruiters with an understanding of where you worked and what you are interested in.

2. Stating a Career Objective

Nicole Cunningham says while objective statements do provide an overview of a candidate's career aspirations, they aren't the major factor in applying to work with the international aid organisation.

"I like to read the career objectives in the CV, but it’s more about understanding the drivers and objectives for the candidate once I meet them," Cunningham says.

The problem with these old-school statements is that they focus too much on what you want for yourself rather than what you can offer to the organisation to which you're applying. Also, if your career objective is too specific, it will discourage the reader from considering you for other possible roles you could also be a candidate for.

3. Including Too Much Detail

When you're a graduate without much real-world international aid experience, it's understandably tempting to go into the finer details of your entire work history to help fortify your CV. While some of your experience outside of international aid – like volunteering – might be relevant, less pertinent positions shouldn't take up much CV real estate, if any.

Cunningham says that graduates should include both paid and voluntary experience – with a caveat.

"Less relevant roles should only be noted with the basic details – like dates, position and perhaps a one-line description if needed – so as to avoid an overly long resume," she advises.

4. Not Tailoring Your Résumé

If you usually attach a tailored cover letter to a generic CV, you're on the right track – but to give yourself a real edge, you need to tailor your CV to each individual position as well.

How? Emphasise your transferrable skills and use words and phrases specific to international aid, highlighting any policy, advocacy, development or cross-cultural experience.

In fact, Cunningham says a generic CV could mean you miss out on making it through to the interview stage altogether.

"If the relevant details aren’t in the CV, a candidate may not be shortlisted – they might be overlooked because others have detailed the specifics of the position," she says.

"I receive sometimes hundreds of applications for the one position, and in order to reduce this to a workable number for phone screens, I have to discriminate based on the CV.

"So a tailored – yet still 100 percent accurate and honest – CV is very important!"

5. Failing to Highlight Accomplishments

Employers don't want to see a list of your past position's responsibilities, as they won't shed any light on how you actually performed in that role.

Instead, demonstrate how you succeeded in the role by focusing on your accomplishments (like any benchmarks you have achieved or special projects you have led).

6. Including Too Much "Obvious Stuff"

Know your way around Microsoft Office? So does everyone else – which means listing your proficiency in the suite on your CV is about as useful as pointing out that you know how to use a phone.

7. Using Jargon

Does your CV feature buzzwords? Go no further than matching the jargon on the job description – but only if you can back it by being able to confidently talk about them in the interview if relevant.

International aid work can be incredibly competitive, especially if you're just starting out – so give yourself an edge with a CV that would impress the experts. is a job-search site for people who want to work for a better world. They post community, environmental, not-for-profit and social enterprise jobs that contribute to a more equitable, more just or more sustainable world. You can find them here.

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