CURRICULUM vitae is Latin for “course of life”. Another name for a CV is a résumé. A resume should be the story of the applicant’s life in relation to their education and work experience.

A CV is the most flexible and convenient way to make applications. It is a marketing document in which you need to “sell” your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to employers. It can be used to make multiple applications to employers in a specific career area. For this reason, many large graduate recruiters will not accept CVs and instead use their own application form. An application form is designed to bring out the essential information and personal qualities that employers require and does not allow you to gloss over your weaker points as a CV does. In addition, the time needed to fill out these forms is seen as a reflection of your commitment to the career.

There is no “one best way” to construct a CV; it is your document and can be structured as you wish within the basic framework. Hundreds of people may apply for the same job, so your application must stand out from the crowd. Your CV has seven seconds to make a visual impression, so it should look and ‘sound’ special. Play around with the layout so that it is easy on the eye, edit ruthlessly to avoid too much detail and highlight bits that relate to the job. Recruiters do not need to know you went to St Francis when you were 10. Write about who you are now instead of who you used to be. Leave education and qualifications for the end. Depending on the specific job, you can rewrite your CV for specific jobs by highlighting areas to showcase relevant skills. Pay attention to grammar, spelling and layout. Proofread. Or get someone to proofread your CV. Include a summary of educational and academic backgrounds, teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honours, affiliations and other details.

A CV should include:
Personal details: your name, address, date of birth (although with age discrimination laws now in force, this is not essential), telephone number and email. Education and qualifications: your degree subject or tertiary qualifications or highest schooling.

Work experience:

  • Use action words such as developed, organised and planned;
  • Even work in a shop, bar or restaurant involves working in a team, providing a quality service to customers, and dealing tactfully with complaints. Do not mention the routine, non-people tasks (cleaning the tables);
  • Try to relate the skills to the job. A finance job will involve numeracy, analytical and problem-solving skills. A marketing role would focus on persuading and negotiating skills.

Interests and achievements:

  • Keep this section short and to the point;
  • Do not put many passive hobbies (reading, watching TV);
  • Show a range of interests to avoid coming across as narrow-minded;
  • Mention hobbies that are a little out of the ordinary, such as skydiving or mountaineering, help you to stand out from the crowd;
  • Interests that are relevant, such as current affairs; if applying for a position as a journalist, are worth mentioning;
  • Any evidence of leadership: captain or coach of a sports team;
  • Anything showing evidence of employability skills such as working in teams, the ability to organise, collect and collate information, plan or negotiate etc.


  • Languages (good conversational French, Zulu, basic Spanish);
  • Computing, for example “good working knowledge of MS Access and Excel”;
  • Driving (valid driving licence”);
  • For a mature candidate with lots of relevant skills, a skills-based CV may work.


  • Include two referees: one academic (tutor or project supervisor) and employer (your last part-time job).

Order and emphasis will depend on what you are applying for and what you have to offer. If applying for more than one type of work, prepare a different CV for each career area, highlighting different aspects of skills and experience. A personal profile at the start of the CV can work for jobs in competitive industries such as the media or advertising, so you stand out from the crowd.

Pin It on Pinterest