It’s not them, it’s your CV

Eunice Kilonzo
6 min readNov 3, 2020

In 2016, in a span of two weeks or less, I submitted 38 job applications.

There were countless more from my phone.

Whenever I came across a job advert, I would skim through the requirements and within an hour of seeing it, I got applying. Attaching my eight-pages long CV and a wordy cover letter.

Then I’d spend the next week or so, refreshing my email waiting for an invite to interviews.

“…We have had a chance to review your application in consideration for the role, and while your skills and experience are impressive, they are not the right fit at this time.”

NO. But said politely.

“…It looks like this role would not be the best fit for your talents, but know we are continually adding to our world-class team and that our door is always open for you to explore other opportunities.”

Some organisations would simply, ghost me.

But, I kept applying. I consoled myself maybe…just maybe…just a tiny little maybe, I was too good for those roles.

I, however, soon realised why I was getting the litany of regret emails.

While expressing my frustrations to my lecturer, who is also a mentor, she said: “If you were a product, I honestly wouldn’t feel compelled to buy you.”



Much as it was heartbreaking, it was the truth.

My CV and cover letter were crap. Horrendous. I may have been qualified for the jobs but my CV and cover letter were not ‘it’.

You see, with three internships and one full-time role under my belt, I had an eight-page CV. It did not have a chronological flow or a format. It had long winding sentences of the subjects and grades from high school and university, my age, gender, and very sketchy details of my job experiences.

It did not demonstrate any of my achievements in similar roles.

My cover letter was the worst.

It had staid and redundant sentences, typos, different-sized fonts, and missing full stops. It was not clear what my strengths were and why I should be hired in that company.

It was never tailored for the role.

Was I attentive to detail? Nope.

Was I a great communicator? Far from it.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I was doing — in this case, sharing — the same documents over and over again but expecting different results.

Friends, creating (great) CV and cover letters takes time and skill. I’m happy to share some of the tips I’ve picked along the way that I think may help you.

  1. If your CV and cover letter has details about your religion, marital status, tribe and age, they may be costing you jobs. This information could lead to bias and/or discrimination against you. Delete these.
  2. Is your CV more than three/four pages long and you’ve only been employed once or twice? You only need to include key information. If you still have your high school details and you’ve gone to college…you are stating the obvious. Cut out any fluff.
  3. Paste your CV and letter on Grammarly, print it out and get a (red) pen to check for grammar, typos, abbreviations, phrases that only you understand, missing punctuation marks and bulky paragraphs. Edit. Edit. Edit.
  4. Does your CV have a format such as sections with a header, skills, work experience that the recruiter can easily follow through…how about how to save your documents? You don’t want to have a recruiter wondering what file 1234_CV.pdf is, yet it’s your application package. The image below is a helpful guide.

5. Do you tailor your cover letter for each role? A specific cover letter for each application. The organizations are different. Their visions and missions are different. The cover letter is all about the organization. Let the potential employer see themselves in your letter. It needs to show how your skills over the years, fit the person they are looking for. Include links to your previous work and portfolio. Also, keep it short. Your CV will complement what else you can’t capture in the letter. The image has further guidance.

6. Applying for a job is a job. Research the organisation/company you are applying to, learn about their work and demonstrate how your skills fit in. Take three days even, to review the job description, the organisation and your qualifications (or what you don’t have yet). Sometimes, deadlines and desperation may make us apply in haste. But, please take your time.

7. Think ahead of the role you’d like to be in say, three to five years. Is it a managerial role? If yes, look up a sample job description for it. I’d recommend you check for global roles for the titles. Think Global. Be Global. That way, you are positioning yourself for roles beyond your country. Because, why not? Check what skills and experiences you’ll need to have to take up these bigger (Global) roles and start building those skills now. Volunteer in organisations and networks to troubleshoot and fine-tune the skills.

8. Don’t just apply just because. Think quality instead of quantity in job applications. I’d recommend that you make a few great applications than many that end up in regret. Also, check that you are qualified for the role, review the company and their values and if you see yourself with them. Then apply. Don’t just apply for the sake of it. Applications are time-consuming and mentally involving.

A revamped CV and cover letter may or may not get you the job. Most likely, though, great application documents may allow you to get interviews you never thought were possible.

I interviewed for communications roles in the Netherlands and Denmark, and while I didn’t get the jobs, the experience was insightful. It confirmed I was on the right track.

Do I help people review their CV and cover letters? Yes.

Do I do it for you from scratch? No.

Do I charge for it? No. Not yet :)

I simply guide you with useful pointers. That way, you can build your CV on your own.

Watch this video where I share tips with the 2020 St Paul’s University graduating class and this other time with members of the Network of Women in Media and PR.

Do you have more details about how to make a CV and cover letters great? Please share in the comments, tweet me or email me.

Always happy to learn :)

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Now that you are here, I do a monthly video series called #KalundeLearns, video storytelling for creatives and creators. The monthly series affords you a front-row seat to see the deep craft that goes behind the scenes as creatives turn their passion into an income and a living. Simply: Authentic storytelling of the creative process. Watch here.



Eunice Kilonzo

#Writer | 11 #Awards | #Synesthetes | #Health | #Media #Comms @Gavi | Past @WHO @safaricomPLC @UNEP @nationafrica @aphrc @Falling_Walls