Winning that sought-after contract can be challenging particularly as international development is a highly competitive field with hundreds of rival applications for the position. This article provides advice from DARPE about how to best tailor a CV to apply for a project in the development sector and be the winning candidate.

Tailoring a CV is essential to increasing your chances of getting the contract you are aiming for and highlighting how your skills and experience will help you get the job done. You may be a good candidate for the job, but if your CV is not well articulated, the assessment may not reflect your belief. This is why a well structured CV can help ensure that you stand out as the best candidate for the activity.

In short, your CV is not just an administrative tool, but rather a selling and positioning document.

The principles discussed in this article have been successfully used for candidates seeking permanent employment or those interested in working as consultants for a range of agencies including AusAID, UNESCO, USAID and the Asian Development Bank

Essential factors to consider when tailoring a successful CV:

  • Use the correct template when a specific template is requested
  • Check that your skills and experience match at least 80% the criteria.
  • Tailor the CV to the specific job with keywords and important skills being highlighted

While all these factors, in this article we will primarily discuss how to tailor your CV to match the job description.

How to Tailor your CV to a Job Description

Using Suitable Language and Keywords in Your CV


Once you have narrowed down the list to those positions that you are suited for, you should invest some time in tailoring your CV to fit the needs of the job description.

Recruiters are looking through a large number of CVs, so the initial screening will often be a scan, so it is key to highlight those aspects of your experience that fit the job and downplay unrelated experience.

Small changes in the language you use in your CV can ensure you grab the attention of the recruiter and make a big difference in your chances.

In a competitive environment, it is in your best interest to actively “position” and participate in “selling” yourself before and during a tendering process.

For example, if you are applying for a Proposal Coordinator position, your CV should highlight keywords, relevant experience, and emphasize specific skills rather than soft skills.

Rather than saying you “participated in the business development process including recruiting, and submission of bids to donor agencies and project management”, say that you were “a key part a business development team with responsibility for proposal coordination of USAID projects.”

By including the word “Proposal coordination” in your CV, you just increased your chances to pass the initial screening by linking your CV directly to the position.

The TOR is your Key to a Well-Structured CV


The Terms of Reference (TOR) provides plenty of clues on how you should structure your CV for content and emphasis. The key is to read the scope of work for key competencies and activities you will need to perform so you can curate your CV to show that you have experience in performing these tasks.

Think of the recruitment team as one that has a checklist and every time you respond to a requirement you make it easier for the assessors to simply give you a “check!”

So for example if the TOR requires that you have a background in building partnerships in Egypt, highlight the experience in your background where you have performed these tasks before with a background in Egypt.

How to Articulate your Experience

Explaining your Key Qualifications

The purpose of this section is to grab the attention of the reader immediately, with relevant information that makes them want to read on, as well as immediately think such experience is relevant for this position.

As you list your qualifications, keep the following points in mind:

  • Sentences should be simple and to the point, to maximize the amount of information presented in a limited space
  • This section should be aligned to the tasks assigned, drawing on your past examples, competencies and experiences to demonstrate your achievement and experience in similar activities as required by this role
  • Use the correct tense for each example, and language that is positive that emphasizes activities as well as achievements

Listing Out your Major Consultancies


This section should relate to the activities of projects, as opposed to permanent employment activities. Because CVs in the development field can run be a bit longer due to the fact that many individuals may be involved in short term consultancies, here are some pointers to keep in mind as you consider how to list out your consultancies:

  • List most recent first
  • They do not necessarily have to be international examples, however examples and emphasis of relevance to this position are important
  • For each project, provide Project Name and Funding Body
  • List the duration as beginning and end dates, to the month level
  • Provide country of location of the project
  • For the position held, provide the Position Title/Role and a précis of responsibilities
  • Use positive language that emphasizes activities as well as achievements
We hope this article will help you to write a stronger CV and successfully secure your next opportunity.
Good luck from the DARPE team!
NO Comment 21st February 2022

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