How to Write a CV

by Staff Reporter

If you’ve just completed your tertiary qualification or matric certificate, you may be wondering how to write a CV so that you can start applying for jobs in South Africa.

It’s important to note that there are various ways to write a CV, which means writing your CV is an individual task. While this article can’t tell you exactly what your specific CV should look like, it can provide you with some helpful tips on how to write a CV.

Table of Contents

how to write a cv

What is a CV?

A CV, or ‘Curriculum Vitae’, is an overview of who you are as a professional and highlights your experience, qualifications and skills. The purpose of a CV is to offer your potential employer a snapshot of what you have to offer the company.

What Should Be Included in My CV?

Your CV can cover a range of categories that will be shaped by the employer’s specific requests, the job position itself, and your own professional summary. Everything that a potential employer needs to know, or should know, must be included. There are some things that should be in any standard CV, usually in addition to what the employer asks for.

The following information should usually be included in any CV (make sure to check if the company, person or organisation has outlined any specific information as to what they require):

1. Personal Details

When it comes to inserting your personal details in your CV, there are general bits of information that all CVs require, such as:

  • Full name
  • Physical address
  • Email
  • Contact number

Your ID number, gender, and date of birth, should only be included when specifically asked and always with caution as this information can lead to identity theft.

2. Academic History

Employers are looking for your most academic history, so begin this list with the last qualification you received, whether it’s an undergraduate degree from a higher education institution or a matric certificate.

When you insert your academic history, include the dates you received your qualifications. For example:

Note: As you gain more work experience, your educational history will become less important.

3. Work Experience

Just as you have done with your academic history, when it comes to your work experience, include your most recent work experience first.

As a student, you may not have full-time work experience yet, so your CV may include any one of the following roles, which qualifies as work experience:

  • Volunteer work
  • Part-time jobs
  • Internships
  • Previous and current employment

Even waitressing or coaching can be beneficial, as these positions show you can work under pressure and communicate effectively within a team.

4. Your Skills

When it comes to listing your current skills in your CV, it’s best to include the skills that are directly related to the position you’re applying for.

Additional skills to include in your CV may include any one of the following:

  • Skills that suggest an ability to work in a team or manage people (e.g. university projects that you took the lead in).
  • Any languages you are able to speak. Include the degree of fluency in each language (e.g. Zulu at a conversational level)
  • Your ability to drive (this is where you would include your driver’s license details, such as the code)

5. Interests and Hobbies

When writing about your interests and hobbies in your CV, remember to keep this section short. Avoid mentioning any hobbies that are inappropriate and remember to include hobbies that cover a range of interests, are unordinary, relate to the job, and display signs of leadership.

Note: If your CV starts getting too long, this should be the first section to cut.

writing a cv

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Writing a CV

Now that you know how to write a CV—and what to include in your CV—it’s time to answer frequently asked questions students often have about CVs.

How Long Does My CV Need to Be?

In an ideal world, your CV should be no more than one A4 page. However, it is perfectly acceptable to have a two-page CV. In this case, it should be two sides of an A4 paper, rather than two separate pieces of paper. Under no circumstances should your CV be more than two pages.

What is a Cover Letter and Do I Need One?

A cover letter is a one-page letter that you send with your CV when applying for a job. A cover letter normally contains an introduction to who you are as a person, your job experience, academic achievements and a general overview of your skills (why you are the best candidate for the job).

A cover letter can be used to add more weight to your CV and give you the opportunity to personalise your application. A well-written cover letter can set you apart from other equally-qualified applicants.

While most employers will ask you to answer or mention certain points in your cover letter, you should always say what job you are applying for and when you would be available. Mention why you are attracted to this position and what you can offer this position as well as the company. It can also be helpful to make yourself available for one-on-one interviews and provide context to any part of the CV that may require you to do so. 

In terms of length, try not to go into too much depth with your cover letter. You only need about five paragraphs to give your prospective employer an overview of who you are, what your skillset is, your overall experience and why they should hire you. 

Do I Need to Include References?

Unless otherwise stated by the employer, most selectors don’t require references during the application stage. This is usually only asked for once your CV has hopefully secured you an interview.

If you do need to provide references, two should be enough— usually one being academic and the other a past employer. But again, in most cases, simply saying “references available on request” is more than enough for your CV.

What Format Should My CV Be In?

Depending on the freedom given to you by the employer, job hunters can submit their CVs in a variety of forms.  

If you’re struggling to format your CV, then be sure to check out some online tools, such as Canva, which has awesome templates you can use. 

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Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a CV

Hopefully, some of your burning questions have been adequately answered, but there’s still more you should know. Here are the do’s and don’ts of CV writing:

What You Should Do When Writing Your CV

Writing your CV can be tricky, but luckily, there are a few tips to help you along the way. Here are a few things you should do when writing your CV:

  • Double, triple, or even quadruple-check your spelling and grammar. 
  • Always place more impressive skills and achievements at the top of your CV to hook the employer from the outset. Start with your most impressive skill or grade and work your way down.
  • Ensure that your CV is neat and easy to read. The use of bullet points can help present lists and the use of font style Lucida Sans or Verdana in size 10 are commonly recommended by career services.

What You Should NOT Do When Writing Your CV

Now that you know what to do when writing your CV, here’s a list of things to avoid doing when you draw up your curriculum vitae:

  • Have an unprofessional email address. Cut ‘’ loose now, before it’s too late.
  • Use decorative or colourful paper when handing in a printed copy of your CV.  Rather rely on your skills and work experience to get your CV to stand out.
  • Include your home address on online CVs. This can lead to you being targeted by fraudsters.
  • Copy wording from the job advertisement. Employers generally ignore CVs that use too much of the advertisement’s wording. Employers are looking for candidates that can think for themselves.

Hopefully, with this guidance, you’re all set to begin writing your CV. Even though this article can’t tell you exactly how to structure or write your CV, it has given you some tips and advice on how to avoid making some common mistakes that prevent qualified candidates from being rejected. 

Get Career Guidance with FundiConnect

Writing a CV is a very important part of job hunting and finding the career of your dreams. If you want to increase your chances of finding employment, be sure to create a LinkedIn profile (if you don’t have one already).

Creating a LinkedIn profile will allow you to network with all the right people as well as recruiters who can help you find a job. If you still need extra support in finding a career, be sure to check out our career guidance assessments. You can also take a look at our career advice page for frequent updates on navigating your future career. 

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