5 common global development CV mistakes

If you don’t submit your CV in the preferred format, recruiters are more likely to overlook your application, focusing instead on the ones they can more quickly review. Photo by: Flazingo Photos / CC BY-SA

Entire books can be — and have been — written about what not to do when applying to a job.

Much of the advice is expected and applies to a wide range of industries — global development included. Always customize your CV. Keep a cover letter to one page or less. Quantify your achievements. However, there are several common mistakes unique to global development hiring.

Make sure you didn’t do any of these five things when you applied to your last global development job.

1. You used the wrong CV template

Many employers in development have a specific resume template they prefer or even require. Typically, this is a format required by their funder to make it easier for them to review potential personnel in a uniform way. For example, European institutions and organizations working with the EU strongly prefer to see CVs in the Europass template or something similar.

If you don’t submit your CV in the preferred format, recruiters are more likely to overlook your application, focusing instead on the ones they can more quickly review. It will also signal to them that you likely do not have the kind of experience they desire if you’re not already familiar with their CV standards. If the specific CV template was a requirement in the job posting, not using the provided format tells them you lack attention to detail and do not follow instructions.

Tip: Employers can upload documents to their job advertisements on Devex. Many organizations will use this feature to provide their preferred resume template. When you see a CV template attached to a Devex job, make sure you use it when applying.

READ: The Europass resume: Tips for drafting a winning European CV

2. You forgot to include the names of donors on projects

A common mistake I see even experienced global development professionals make is leaving off the name of the donor who funded a project they worked on. Because donor experience is so important to global development employers, not including this key detail may give the impression that you lack specific experience that you actually have. While Save the Children or GOPA may have been your direct employer, if the project you managed was funded by the U.S Agency for International Development or EuropeAid, make sure you include both the implementer and the funder in your work experience.

READ: How to overcome strict foreign aid job requirements

3. Your CV is too long or too short

The one-page resume rule that is commonly advised, particularly in the United States, doesn’t apply in the world of global development. Development employers like to see detail and want to see a comprehensive overview of your experience. Since so much development work is short-term and project based, it is not practical for most professionals to fit everything into a single page.

However, most recruiters do not have the time to review dozens of pages in a CV. Professionals coming from an academic background will often submit CVs up to a couple dozen pages or more in length. Very few will take the time to review a CV beyond three to five pages.

WATCH: Global development recruiters share their top CV advice

4. You didn’t focus on dollar (or euro) amounts

Development professionals typically quantify their experience by focusing on the impact they have made on the lives of others: X amount of vaccines administered, Y trainings delivered, Z growth in crop production. While their resume may be filled with numbers and other quantifiable achievements, one key number often missing is the project budget.

Recruiters like to see, in dollars (or euros or the common currency in your area), how big a project you worked on was, particularly if you served in a management capacity. Managing a project of $50,000 requires a different skill set than managing a $200 million project. Knowing this detail helps recruiters better understand how your experience aligns with their project needs.

5. You left out country specifics

While the name of your city and state or province may be well known within your country, if you’re applying to employers based elsewhere, they may not know where you worked, studied or live. Be sure to include country names in your work and education experience as well as your address.

What other mistakes have you seen people make when applying to global development jobs? Please leave your advice in the comments section below.

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This article was last updated on 30 April 2019

About the author

  • Kate Warren

    Kate Warren is Executive Vice President and resident talent and careers guru at Devex. With 15 years of global development recruitment experience advising international NGOs, consulting firms, and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.