How to write a winning CV

Your Curriculum Vitae or CV is the first engagement that the employer has with you, so make sure you sell yourself. Your CV should be neat and professional. Describe where you’ve worked, where you went to school and your skills and qualifications. Your CV must be targeted to appeal to the types of employers and vacancies that you are applying to.

There are a few common CV mistakes that lead to rejections:

● Selling yourself short.
Take credit for things you actually did, but do not downplay your role in success or as a team member either. Just because you feel others played a greater role than you in achieving it, it doesn’t mean you were not a key part of making it a success.
● Using an unprofessional email address.
● Not tailoring your CV to the job you are applying for.

Ensure that your CV meets the needs of the specific job you are applying for. For example, if you’ve recently worked on a social media campaign, it’s not enough to just mention you ran the brand’s Twitter account. Focus instead on how you increased the following or engagement of that account and helped them reach a newer audience.

Remember, volunteering also counts towards your skills and experience – don’t forget to include it in your CV! This can be volunteering either from church, community or a reputable organisation in any field.


Three quarters of CVs are rejected due to bad grammar, spelling or poor visual layout!

1. Layout

Instead of putting “Curriculum Vitae” at the top of your document, put your name and make it larger, centralised and bold. Next should come your address, followed by your email address and contact number. Try to use a sensible and professional email address. Ensure your CV is no more than two pages long. Choose a clear, legible font and stick to a couple of font sizes throughout. The body of your CV should be no smaller than size 11 font.

2. Personal Statement

Depending on your work experience, you will need to write a brief personal statement which should appear directly under your contact details. The personal statement should be no more than five sentences long and should cover who you are, what you can bring to the table and your career aims. Ensure you tailor your CV to each individual job you apply for.

3. Employment history

Remember to list your most recent role first. Think about the role you’re applying for and include any key points that may resonate with the prospective employer. Don’t just copy your job description without thinking about it. Be specific, be precise and it’s good to include how you positively impacted the business.

4. Education

Ensure that you focus on the positives of the qualifications you have, the course content, for example. Remember, this section includes your qualifications, subject, grade, institution and date. Only add in further information if it will help the recruiter understand the context of a course in relation to the role you’re applying for.

Please avoid lying in your CV. It is fraud and it will lead you into trouble.

You can use the Harambee template if you create a profile on their website here

By following a CV template, you are not restricting the way in which you can express yourself, but you will find that your CV becomes easier to read and covers all the most important aspects of your work history.

Photos on your CV. This is unprofessional and untidy. Unless it is stipulated (based on certain industries), don’t do it!
Extensive academic information: Unless your qualifications are recent, a brief overview is fine.
Reasons for leaving a job: This sort of information is not needed on a CV and is often asked during the interview process.
Salary information: Again, not needed. Only appropriate when asked by the employer, after the application has been made.
Unnecessary personal information: Date of birth and nationality are fine, but details, such as ID no, weight, religion and health are not needed. Remember, age discrimination laws mean you don’t need to disclose how old you are on your CV.

By using a template appropriate to South Africa, such as the Harambee one, together with the what to put in (and leave out) of your CV, you should now be able to produce a winning CV. Remember that the first impression you make on your potential employer is this document together with your covering letter and email. That’s why it’s also really important to check your grammar, spelling and visual layout. Ask someone else to check this for you if you’re unsure. The better your CV is and the more fine-tuned it is to the job that you’re applying for, the more likely you will be to get that all important interview!

Thanks to the Harambee Team for content support.


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