How to compile your CV and nail the job interview

Taking time to work on your curriculum vitae is worthwhile to get the job interview you want. Recruiters say there are a few simple steps to getting it right.

CV
It’s a good idea to convert your CV into a PDF document before sending it to a potential employer. (Image: Nick Youngson, via Blue Diamond Gallery, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Priya Pitamber

First-time job seekers and experienced professionals alike need a stand-out curriculum vitae (CV) document to be given a chance to interview for a job.

Recruiters agree there are a few simple rules to follow when creating or updating a CV.

We chat to a couple of them. Vanessa Raath is general manager at It’s About People, a recruitment agency that focuses on the IT sector. Candice Clark is the founder of the Candice Clark Collective, a career-coaching practice.

Raath has been in the industry for a decade, and is a host on the regular Monday afternoon Twitter chat #JobAdviceSA. Clarke hosts #CareerGirlCollab, a free online community.

Here are their do’s and don’ts for putting together a great CV.

Do:

  • Do convert your CV to PDF before sending it off. “This way,” says Raath, “you know that no one can make changes to your CV and that your format will not change when viewed on the recipient’s computer.”
  • Do check details such as spelling, grammar and formatting. Clarke recommends: “Ask a friend or industry professional to read over it and double-check it for you.” Errors can put recruiters and future employers off within five seconds of looking at your CV, Raath warns.
  • Do highlight your career achievements. “Show how you have been an ambitious, high-performer,” says Clark.
  • Do keep it short: two pages or a maximum of three. “CVs that are too long are also not ideal,” says Clark. “Ensure your CV is succinct and punchy.”
  • Do make it unique and appropriate for specific industries. Clark says, for example, a creative professional should take the time to craft a well-designed CV.
  • Finally, do remember to update your profile on the social network, LinkedIn. It is just as important as a high-quality CV, Clark says.

Don’t

  • Don’t omit details about leaving previous jobs. “People need to know why they have left previous roles and ‘left for a better opportunity’ is not a good enough reason,” says Raath.
  • Don’t mix up employment dates. Raath says job-seekers should make it clear whether their roles were permanent or contract positions, or the CV could look very jumpy.
  • Don’t send out a generic CV for every application. Rather take the time to tailor your CV honestly so it is appropriate for your application. “Include an introductory profile where you position yourself, your experience, your career goals and your qualifications clearly for the role you would like to attain,” says Clark. But, she says, this introduction should also be short and punchy.

Maybe:

  • Add a photo of yourself.

Raath says this is entirely up to an individual. “I personally do not think it is necessary as any hiring agency or prospective employer will just conduct a Google search to find a photo of you if they want to.”

Clark says while a photo can add a nice personal touch, it must be of professional quality. “Use it on your front page, and think carefully about where to place it so that it flows nicely with the document, and doesn’t look randomly stuck on.” She recommends an ID photo size.

I have an interview. Now what?

Raath describes job interviews as a necessary evil for anyone who is ambitious and is eager to build an amazing career.

Both Raath and Clark agree that preparation is the key to successful interviews. Research the company and learn more about the role.

Raath says ask for a job description to help you think of pertinent questions.

Clark advises applicants to visualise a successful interview. “Ensure you have had a good night’s sleep prior, and arrive early with enough time to practice some deep breathing before your interview.

“Ask for a glass of water at the start of the interview. This will allow you to pause and take a sip of water when you need more time to think of an answer.”

Overall, honesty is important. “Represent your experience, qualification and achievements honestly. You want a company and role that is right for you,” says Clark.

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.