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How to Write a Professional C.V. in South Africa

How to Write a C.V. in South Africa
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Your C.V. is going to be your single most important document for landing a great job. You need to get it right from the start. Stop and take a moment to learn the ins-and-outs of a real professional C.V.

A Curriculum Vitae also known as a Résumé

A Curriculum Vitae, as used in South Africa, is actually referred to a Résumé in other parts of the world. A C.V. is a long-form and detailed document outlining all of your professional experience, history, and relevant personal details and generally spans up to or over 2-3 pages. However, this form of C.V. only makes sense for people within the academic field, such as lecturers at the university level. Most of us are looking to do one thing; land the job we are applying for. Therefore, we should tailor our C.V. to only include information that will help us get the job, ideally in no more than one or two pages.

Also bear in mind, that there is a lot of potential misinformation about how to write your C.V. that you may have learned at school or from peers. For example on the South African government website, they suggest that you should list your marital status, ID number, country of birth and driver’s license. Unless that information is essential for the specific job application at hand, it is best to keep to relevant personal details only. But we'll get more into that later. First, let's dive into the main sections of our Curriculum Vitae.

Anatomy of a Great Curriculum Vitae

Structure of a curriculum vitae
Building blocks of a C.V.

Header - Name & Contact

Include your name as the heading of the document, with your personal contact details directly below it. Make sure to include your phone number(s) and email address at a bare minimum. I always include my address too, as I work remotely, so they may need to know where I am located.

Make sure you are available using this contact information - one missed call could be a missed opportunity!

Professional Summary (or Profile)

Whilst often overlooked, your summary is your chance to really sell yourself to your potential employer. Write two-to-three sentences outlining your talents, goals/ambitions and professional background. For example:

I am an enthusiastic Web Developer with a background in programming spanning 12 years. With both full-time employment and entrepreneurship under my belt, I am able to conceptualize, plan and execute projects on my own, or with a team. Web development is my primary passion and hobby, making me a life-long learner that takes pride in his work.

Work History & Experience Section

Only include work that is relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, I do not include my time spent doing home improvements on my C.V., as I now work as a web developer. Including irrelevant work experience may even work against you. If you're applying for a teaching position and someone scans through your C.V. quickly, you don't want your position as a waitron catching their eye instead of the two years of teaching experience.

Make sure the employer's company name, job title and duration are neatly formatted and visible. Also, include one or two bullet points describing your achievements in your that position:

  • Promoted to project lead within 6 months
  • Increased sales by 120% over a 7 month period.

Education Section

Once again, you only want to include education history that relates to the job you are applying for. If you have completed a tertiary degree or diploma, then do not include your senior certificate or matric. Adding one or two bullet points highlighting your achievements, as per your employment history, is also a very good idea.

Skills Section

Use your skills section to list - ideally in two columns - the specific skills or proficiencies you have that the job demands. You will want to quantify these as much as possible within your C.V. body - especially your soft skills. The bullet point we mentioned under your employment and education history should be used to highlight and demonstrate these skills. For example, if you have "leadership" as a skill, then you can demonstrate this by using a bullet point such as "Co-ordinated and led a small team of writers to complete weekly and monthly deadlines."

Optional Extras

Anything else you wish to place on your Curriculum Vitae, such as references, can go at the bottom. The most important and most "standard" sections should preclude anything else.

Do's and Don'ts

Now that you have the basic building blocks down, I would like to point out some obvious truths.

Do not include a photo

Unless the employer has requested this, do not include a photo. If someone is flipping through different C.V.'s, they may get stuck looking at your face, and spend less time actually reading. If you want your resume to be visually appealing, then choose a resume template that does the eye-catching and brings focus to your written words.

Do not use poor spelling and grammar

This goes without saying, yet still, people do have spelling mistakes and major grammatical errors in their C.V. Use an online tool such as Grammarly and make sure that your spellcheck is set to U.K. English and not U.S. English.

Do keep it up todate

Even if you are comfortable with your job, you may never quite know when a new opportunity or change might occur; so routinely update your C.V. so that you do not need to rush it at any point in the future.

Do Tailor your C.V. for each job you apply for

As we already covered, relevancy is everything. You may want to put more emphasis on some skills more than others depending on the job you are applying for. There is no "one size fits all". This is probably the best thing you can do for your job hunt. From my experience, many people do not do this and in turn, end up with irrelevant information, and less space taken up by things that do matter to the employer.

Don't Lie, be Honest!

Lying about anything on your C.V. can lead to major repercussions. Be it legal action or disciplinary action from your future employers. Bear in mind that people screening your C.V. may do it for a living, and will easily be able to tell when you are embellishing certain aspects. When it comes to qualifications, you will get caught out due to automated background screening services that employers are increasingly relying on

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