Applying for a job? Update your CV

Writing a cv

There are many (unfortunately) unemployed people in our country and we all know how difficult it is to find a job. When applying for work, your first point of contact is most often your Curriculum Vitae (CV) and cover letter. For this article, we will focus on your CV, that vital first impression. Here are some tips to make yours stand out from the rest.


Firstly, get rid of the excess information on your CV. Recruiters and HR staff scan hundreds of applications in a matter of minutes. Keep yours short and to the point. They prefer two to three page CVs with only the essential info on. No frills, no fancy lettering, no borders, no colours, no photos. A plain font, size 11 or 12, with headings in bold is to the point, professional and gets attention.


Provide the essential details only. Personal info: your name, ID number and in which geographical area you reside is enough. Unless your driver’s license, health or criminal record is relevant to the position you are applying for, leave this detail out. Physical address, gender, religion, age, marital status or number of dependents – all these have no bearing on your employability as employers may not discriminate on these grounds any longer. All the details on your CV must be accurate and correct: everything on it gets verified and checked, even the dates of your employment. Ensure the contact details of our referees are current and correct.


What they are looking for is your experience and your skills. These merit two different headings and sections in your CV. Just like in the education section, list your most recent exploits first, focus on achievements and activities. The older the qualification or job is, the less detail you provide. Divide skills into: computer, interpersonal and knowledge skills, and you have a winning CV. Be specific about the activities and job responsibilities you fulfil(ed) at work: don’t say ‘secretarial work’ – list the tasks: answering the phone, filing documents, organising manager’s diary, arranging deliveries, planning lunches …. Sounds mundane, but employers are interested in what you CAN DO.


CVs are thrown out at the first spelling, grammatical or language error. If you can’t take care with the first presentation of yourself, how can you represent an organisation? Spell checker is freely available and asking two different people to proofread your document is not difficult. Use South African (British) English, not American. Don’t use slang, abbreviations, tech-speak or jargon, unless you are a hundred percent sure the reader understands the terminology.

First contact

Even if you are applying online through a recruitment website, there is always space for a cover letter or paragraph. If possible, tailor your application to the specific employer. In this first ‘first impression’, you highlight which requirements you match and your strong points that will allow you to add value to the organisation.

One job

As ‘currently unemployed’, you have One Job: to find a job. Stick to a routine, wake up and get ready for ‘work’ like all the others in your family. No track suits or pyjamas the whole day. No need to suit up, but be clean, shaven and dressed so you can answer calls or Skype interviews confidently.   Practice phone calls and interviews and critique yourself on your telephone manner and interview skills when the call or interview is over. Ensure that you have a professional answering message on your voicemail and return calls!

Research organisations, job opportunities, new interests… take up a course (there are many free online courses available)…broaden your horizons. If you find a job you are really, really interested in and they can’t afford you or don’t want you now: volunteer! For now, your first job is to update your CV and to improve on your cover letter approaches.