How to write a CV

How to write a CV

What does CV stand for?

CV stands for Curriculum Vitae. It comes from the Latin meaning ‘course of life’, and is usually a short summary of a job-seeker’s personal details, employment history, education and any skills, awards or achievements they want to list. It should normally not be more than 2 or 3 pages.

In the USA they would call a CV a resume, and a Curriculum Vitae is a more lengthy document with much more detail, usually only used in Academic and Medical careers.

What does a CV look like?

There is no standard format for a CV, and they can come in many different variations. You should generally try and create a different CV for each position you apply for, and make sure that the most important and relevant information comes first and is the most visible. Most recruiters only scan a CV for an average of 6 seconds, so you need to make sure that the important information is obvious enough to be seen in that time.

You would normally put your personal details first (Name, Contact Details, ID Number etc) and if in South Africa, you would also often put your Ethnicity, Gender, Disability status etc for BEE reasons. In most other countries you would normally not include these things.

After this you would normally put your employment history, usually in reverse chronological order, so the most recent jobs would come first. You should put the dates you worked at the company, the company name and your position as well as a short summary of your duties or skills.

This would normally be followed by your Education history, listing the institutions and qualifications as well as the dates you were enrolled.

After that you could list any other certificates you have, any skills you think would be relevant, and anything else you think could be relevant to the position. Sometimes people list volunteer work they have done, or their hobbies etc.

It’s also normally a good idea to include some references, preferably from employers for similar positions. There are many mistakes that one can make on a C.V, to avoid those mistakes read here.

You don’t have to follow the above order, you can mix things up and should do so if the more relevant information for the job would be under education or volunteer work for example. You should always make sure that the most relevant information to the job you are applying for comes first.

It is also common to include a covering letter. This would normally be your motivation for why you think you are right for the job, and an attempt to sell yourself for the position, and should normally just be a paragraph or two. If you are emailing a CV for a position, then this can be in the email itself. If you are just generally uploading a CV to a job board you would not normally include a covering letter.

Generally it is a good idea to keep the CV short and to the point. List everything that is important and relevant to the position, but don’t try and fill it out with unnecessary ‘fluff’. Most of the time recruiters (whether at an agency or at a company itself) are going to have to go through hundreds of CVs for one position, and keeping things short and to the point, while making the important information highly visible is going to help you a lot.

Writing a CV that computers can read

Normally you don’t need to make a CV too fancy (unless you are applying for a design position, in which case you may want to show off your skills). In fact, especially if you are applying electronically through a job board or through a recruitment agency, you want to keep the CV formatting fairly simple. This is because the CV needs to be readable by a computer, so that you will come up in searches done on the job board, or through the recruitment agencies Applicant Tracking System. These programs scan your CV for relevant keywords based on what the user is searching for, so those keywords need to be legible to software. You should never upload a scanned copy of a CV to a job board as the software will see that as an image and will not be able to pick out relevant keywords, so you will never come up in a search.

It is also important to make sure that the keywords, skills and qualifications that people would search for to find someone like you appear in your CV. The bigger job boards in South Africa have millions of CVs in their databases, so you need to make sure that your CV comes up in a search. Think of all the terms that someone might search for and try include them. Also take a good look at the major requirements for the position you are applying for, and ensure that they appear in your CV. Make sure that if there is more than one way to write a particular skill or qualification, that you write it the same way it appears in the job advert, as that is most likely the way that the recruiter will write it when searching.

Upload your CV

Now that you know how to write a CV, make sure that you send us your CV once you have written it. We are a recruitment agency and labour broker and we fill all kinds of positions, from factory workers to CEO’s, all over South Africa and into Africa and the Middle East.

You can also search through our current available positions, and apply for any that interest you. Please note that we don’t always advertise all of our available positions, especially the unskilled ones, so even if you don’t see anything suitable for you, please send us your CV anyway.