Top tips on writing a successful CV

When it comes to applying for a new job, your CV is the initial foot in the door – but how do you ensure your CV lands on the interview pile rather than not making the cut?

Putting together a successful CV is easy once you know the tricks of the trade. It’s just a case of tailoring your CV to the position you are applying for – and making sure your skills and experience stands out.

Get the basics right

There are a number of common sections you should cover in your CV, these include: personal and contact information; education and qualifications; work history and experience; relevant skills for the job you are applying to; achievements; and references.

  • Check your spelling and grammar! In South Africa we use British English so it is colour not color; centre not center; and organisation not organization.
  • Using lowercase i for the personal pronoun.
  • Be concise, accurate and truthful.
  • Use action words such as developed, planned or organised to describe work experience.
  • Relate your skills to the job you are applying for. A developer job will involve analytical and problem solving skills whereas a marketing job will require negotiation and persuasion skills.
  • Other keywords that may be useful: effective communication skills, deadline driven, problem solving, speaking foreign languages and teamwork.
  • Make the most of your interests – include anything that shows how diverse, interesting and skilled you are. Solitary hobbies and watching TV may be perceived as you lacking social/people skills.
  • Create a personal statement (relevant to the job).
  • Create a cover letter to accompany your CV.
  • Use a standard font like Arial, Calibri or Verdana in size 10.
  • Using bold for job titles, company names or schools.


A successful CV is easy to read and well-structured. If you apply for a creative position your CV should display your creativity – without going overboard.

Research has shown that CVs have a sweet spot where recruiters usually pay most attention to. This is typically on the upper middle of the first page, so make sure that this area contains essential information.

CV writing tips for Jobseekers

Just how many pages should your CV be?

Employers receive dozens of CVs so it is unlikely they’ll reach each one cover to cover, most will make a judgement about your CV in seconds.

A good CV is clear, concise and makes every point necessary (without unnecessary detail). If you could create a CV that summarizes you, your skills and education to 3 pages – and still tick all the boxes to reassure a potential employer, you have a good CV.

Understand the job description – tailor your CV to the job role

Read the job description carefully, take notes and highlight what you can and cannot do. With the areas where you are lack – compensate with the skills/experience you do have.

Every CV you send to a potential employee should be tailored to that role. A generic CV won’t let you stand out from other applications. You don’t need to rewrite the whole CV – adapt the details to be relevant to the job you are applying for.

Keep your CV updated

Review your CV on a regular basis and add any new skills or experience gained.

Further reading on how to create a good CV