A typical Curriculum Vitae (CV) contains a summary of three key areas: personal details, employment history (relevant job experience) and education. The CV is typically the first item that a potential employer requires when looking for suitable candidates to fill a position and is used to screen and shortlist applicants in making decisions on which candidates to interview.
Your CV is a marketing brochure for you and your CV must highlight the benefits of hiring you over other candidates and make it easy for the recruiter or employer to see the specific advantages of hiring or buying your skills.
Structuring your CV
CV’s should optimally not cover more than three pages. You need to balance content against length.
Your synopsis and the CV needs to describe what sets you aside from other applicants. It should also highlight most relevant aspects of your work experience, education and achievements .
General Information & Personal Details
A CV should contain the following concise general information: First Name; Middle Names, Surname, Non Specific local address (Suburb or Residential Area only); e-mail address; landline contact phone numbers, international dialling code; mobile phone number.
It can also include identity number (ID), marital status, dependents, willingness to relocate (Y/N), employment equity status, disability, driving licence code; Languages (spoken/written/understood).
CV Objective or Personal Profile
This section is often combines with the Synopsis and informs prospective employers of what you are looking for as a next step in your career? This is a short, concise statement that informs the employer what kind of position, type of position, experience, role and situation you are looking for. It can also contain a very brief statement about what drives you and your key attributes.
If this section is poorly written it can decrease your chances of success so include this section with caution. Also ensure that career goals are realistic and in line with employer likely expectations.
Education on your CV
You must list all of your qualifications in this section from academic and non-academic institutions. You can list the qualifications in date order or from most relevant to job vacancy to least relevant. If you have more work experience than qualifications, put your work experience before your qualifications. You should at least list: name of qualification; institution issuing qualification, date qualification obtained and awards received. You can also list average mark obtained but avoid long lists of subjects and marks unless there is a good reason for including it.
Remember to include professional licenses or association membership have the relevant documentation available for reference should the employer require proof of such documentation.
Professional or Work Experience
When completing this section please list working experience in reverse chronological order (most recent relevant experience first). This section includes work experience even if the post was unpaid, voluntary, summer job, internship, co-op experience or extracurricular activity. When listing these work experiences include what kind of job was it (internship/full time/part time etc). Make sure there are no time gaps in your CV and if they are you must be ready to explain them.
Each position should include this basic information: Title of position; Start Date; End Date; Length you held the post; Duties & Responsibilities; Name of organization. If title of position is not very descriptive than consider using a skill heading instead. Explain the contribution you made to the company.
Give more information on more recent posts and be prepared to explain your reasons for leaving each job on your CV in your interview.
CV Skills Summary
If appropriate your CV can contain a Skills Summary that includes your main skills. In this section rather use keywords and do not go into lengthy descriptions of your skills. A skills summary is particularly important in technical industries such as the Information Technology (IT) industry. Include computer skills (title of software package and proficiency level) and other skills like research skills that are not in the rest of your CV.
Activities and Interests
Keep this section short. Include any activities that you do in your free time that can positively influence the perception of an employer. Leave out any activities related to politics religion or controversial topics that could alienate the reader.
If you have references that you are willing to provide include them in this section. Ask people if they are willing to serve as references before you give their names to a potential employer.
Otherwise you can simply include the statement: References available upon request
Things to watch for:
Be concise and straight forward with your language and avoid long winded paragraphs. Look for key words and phrases in the profession to integrate into your CV without losing clarity. Use lists and be careful with using acronyms, or abbreviations – do not use slang or CAPS as this is like SHOUTING at the reader.
If you are applying for a technical job make sure that a non technical person is also able to understand your CV.
If you do get the interview then you must be in a position to explain what is in your CV.
Keep your CV professional and in black and white in a professional font without decorative borders.
You need to make it easy for a reader to find his way through your CV. Each section should be clearly demarcated and labelled and the detail in each section should be easy to read. Section should follow a logical order and the reader should be able to easily find a section that they are looking for.
It is very important that your CV immediately obtains and holds the attention of an employer or recruiter.
Keep your CV professional and in black and white in a professional font without decorative borders. Don’t have an overly elaborate formatting
Prioritise important information that you want to convey as close to the top of the CV as possible.
Have a qualified and independent person give you objective feedback of how well your CV reads and CV sells you.
Your CV needs to detail your best and most marketable qualities as fast as efficiently as possible. People are short of time and they only scan documents and so you need to capture their attention. Check carefully for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Cover Letters, Achievements section and tailoring your CV
- Consider if it is appropriate to have a covering letter accompany your CV.
- Consider if it is worth having a separate section summarising your achievements at work and outside of work.
- Consider highlighting experience that is most relevant to the specific job application you are looking for.
- The CV is a key selling tool so use CV templates only as a starting point to a better CV.
A professionally written and well organised CV will reap better rewards for your job search.