How to write the CV that will land you the job

gumtreeBy Claire Cobbledick, Head of Marketing, Gumtree

Both private companies and recruitment agencies have the same complaint – there are simply too many “poor candidates” flooding their HR departments and account managers out there. But the reality is that these companies aren’t necessarily receiving poor candidates, but rather poor CVs. When it comes to job hunting, you are only as good as you look on paper, which is why it is essential that all job seekers get the basics right from the get-go.

Whereas many online sites and books (and even professional services) provide templates and format suggestions, more emphasis should be placed on content. (If you need more tips as either a job seeker, or a job poster, there is an online resource center available. As a general rule of thumb, you should use a clear and easily readable font and an uncluttered layout – but spend the most of your time perfecting the actual description of your past experience and qualifications.

Your personal details

Most recruiters and HR professionals simply scan your personal details to immediately qualify or disqualify your application. If, for example, the job in question is only open to SA citizens or individuals with a drivers’ license your application will be dismissed right away if you don’t match the criteria. Make sure to list the basics right at the top of your CV and ensure that relevant details are included. If you are living in Cape Town but moving to Durban, make sure that you state clearly that you are aiming to relocate soon to avoid being disregarded purely by your physical address. Keep the section short and succinct.


If you are quite far along in your career and experience, there is no need to delve into all the details of your education. It’s enough to state where you matriculated and obtained your qualifications. If you’ve done numerous courses over the years, only state the ones most relevant to your job and most recently acquired – your certificate in wine tasting won’t impress if you are applying for a position as an accountant, and a typewriting maintenance course completed in 1979 is definitely not going to land you a job in 2014.

If however, you feel that this section is a little thin, scour the Internet for some free courses. Even large international universities such as Harvard and Oxford offer free online courses in a range of subjects and, if completed, will issue you with a certificate to that effect.

Again, this section can be short and to the point – include your subjects that are relevant, the year of completion and your final marks.


Companies are the most interested in learning about your practical experience. Start with the last two jobs you have had and a detailed description of what your roles and responsibilities were. It’s a good idea to keep the job you are applying for in mind – if the position you want involves attention to detail and careful bookkeeping, you might opt to highlight the fact that you were responsible for balancing the office petty cash box every month rather than spend too much time detailing your duties picking up the mail or making the coffee. Also be extremely clear about how many years you’ve spent at each position – this would determine your seniority to the recruiter.

The real difficulty lies in fleshing out your CV when you’ve had very little experience, particularly if you are a recent graduate or if you’ve left the job market for some time. Try to focus on your talents and strengths – and incorporate a cover letter into the CV. Everyone has certain strengths that are intuitive to them, whether it’s public speaking or writing great copy. Explain in detail why you would like to work at the organisation you are applying to and if you are willing to work for free to gain some experience, state that fact.

Read and re-read

Finally, be sure to double-check your CV for spelling mistakes and errors. If necessary, have a friend read through it. It’s important to make the right impression straight away. Don’t simply write a stock-standard CV – write different versions and tailor-make each cover letter to the position you are applying for.

Your CV is the only insight a potential employer has as to whether or not you are the right person for the job. Make sure that yours is up to scratch.

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