It’s a brand-new year, and if you have your sights set on a big career move or landing your dream job in 2023, your CV has to be up to scratch first – and knowing how to write a CV in South Africa is crucial.
If updating it has been on your to-do list for a while, it’s time to jump into action so you can take that exciting next step in your career. You’ll be happy to learn that you don’t have to go at it alone.
How to write a CV in South Africa
Penquin’s HR Coordinator Fundi Twala and HR Director Annemie Burger know a thing or two about what makes a CV stand out. Their six tips on how to write a CV for the South African job market could help transform yours.
1. Start with a real photo
In a world of filters and editing apps, many people create entirely new versions of themselves online. If you’re going to include a photo in your CV, the key is to have it actually looking like you, not some overly touched-up or tweaked version. This is to guarantee that any interviewer won’t have to glance down at your CV to make sure they’ve actually got the right person in the room.
A selfie is unlikely to come across as very professional, so ask someone to take a picture of you in front of a neutral background instead. You don’t have to be as formal as you would for an ID or passport photo. Be authentic and showcase your beautiful smile for everyone to appreciate.
2. Include the essentials
Every CV has to have the essential information for hiring teams not to have any questions to ask in order to establish if you are fit to interview for the role. This includes contact information, work experience, your education (including qualifications or certifications) as well as your relevant skills.
Start with the latest work experience and include dates, as HR teams tend to look at when you were employed and how long you stayed with the company. The more detailed you can be without writing an essay about each, the better.
3. Good grammar and formatting are alive and well
If you aren’t the best writer, no sweat. Programs like Microsoft Word and LibreOffice have built-in tools to check documents for grammar and spelling errors. Spend time tending to formatting too. Using a legible font with unified spacing across signals polish and professionalism.
Double check all of these before saving the document as a PDF and firing off your application. Not doing so is the easiest way to get your CV placed on the rejection pile.
4. Long CVs are a no-no
It’s 2023 and nobody has time to go through a ten-page CV anymore. Getting the length of your resume spot on doesn’t mean having to cut some of your experience out. You simply need to give the most detail on your last two or three roles, which hiring teams are likely to focus on anyway.
As a whole, your CV should be punchy, written in short sentences. In the final read through, take out any adjectives that might come off as slightly arrogant, like “exceptional” [job title], or “world-class” this or that, as your experience will speak for itself without having to be over inflated.
5. Creativity sets you apart from the rest
HR teams go through thousands of CVs every year. Many use a standard CV template the candidate found on Google. A bit of creative flair when it comes to design will help with making you stand out from the rest of the crowd.
No matter what type of role you’re applying for, try using a modern template with colour (easy to do on a free tool like Canva). You’ll end up making an impression on the person on the receiving end, as well as injecting a bit of fun into the hiring process too.
6. Two must-have summaries
The Penquin HR team believes in two summaries that will make any CV pack a punch. The first is a short summary of who you are. Be original with this – don’t default to what you think someone wants to hear. Instead, share what you are really good at, as well as what you are looking for in your next role and team.
Next, add an executive summary on the same one-pager, detailing your experiences and achievements. A recruiter or hiring manager might be on a tight deadline, glancing primarily at this to decide if you’re fit to interview. Craft three to five concise sentences at most for each of the two sections.
Armed with everything you need to know about creating the perfect CV, you’re ready to get editing. By the time companies hit the ground running this year, you’ll be able to cherry pick the roles you want to apply for. You might end up in your dream role sooner than you thought. The Penquin team wishes you all the best for the search, and the year ahead.