I always prefer to work with real live examples so that theory is to a large extent dissipated.  Practicality rules the day!

Being in the recruitment space I meet and interview a number of CA’s.

Almost without fail they hopelessly under-sell themselves. In fact they often leave my office with a smile on their face as if they have suddenly discovered who they really are.

I’m not pointing fingers here neither am I trying to be unfairly critical. It’s quite simply the fact that they are not schooled in how to sell themselves. And why should they be? Hopefully people don’t have to look for work too often in their lives.

One of the most critical tools in job hunting is the CV. This sounds obvious. but a bad CV will bowl you out without giving you a fair chance at a face-to-face interview.

It’s the opening gambit of the job seeking process. Ignore it at your peril!

Bear in mind that a recruiter/HR could get as many as 100 CV’s to review. If yours efficiently supplies the required information you stand a better chance of being selected for an interview. Remember that you are competing with a lot of good people out there!

There are a number of different views on how CV’s should be presented and I am not suggesting that mine is the best and only. This is my view on what matters most based on my experience gained from my 20 year stint in corporate as an interviewer.

Do not turn your CV compilation into a Grade 5 school project. Pretty frills around the edges and fancy fonts should be avoided. This is a professional document and it needs to look like one!

Some suggest that you should include a photograph of yourself. I personally would advise against this especially if you do not have a professional studio portrait.  Including pictures can be done for PA’s and the like.

  1. Simplicity:

Filling the CV up with irrelevant information is pointless. What is critical is that important information is accessible and easy to find.  Accordingly the front page should contain all the pertinent information .

1.1 Basic information:

This information needs to be clearly set out in the simplest of ways. I have seen CV where the contact details are in the heading, there is no address etc. So here is the layout

– Surname

– Forenames

– Contact details (cell and home)

– ID number

– Date of birth and age (even though this can be determined from your ID number)

– Gender

– Race

– Citizenship

– Residential address

– Interests and hobbies

– Current and expected salary

All this information has a specific purpose which helps in the screening process.

The Name and ID number is important if the recruiter/HR wants to get credit references or to get a police clearance. The ID number also verifies your date of birth and age and it will reveal if you are a non-SA citizen.

Race is becoming more important from a BEE perspective. State it clearly. Do not leave it vague or confused. What this needs to establish is whether you are Black, White, Indian, Chinese or Coloured. This is not a racial thing at all. It’s about cultural fit.

Citizenship identification is also an important part of the employment process. Having a SA identity number is not the full picture. Hence as a recruiter you need to know of which country you are a citizen. Often companies do not want to employ foreigners (although in my personal experience is that Zimbabwean CA’s are great!). But there are also companies who prefer foreigners as I did.

The residential address is important as it gives an idea of how far the person has to travel. This allows the recruiter to assess whether it is logistically efficient to employ you.

As far as the interests and hobbies are concerned only include this section if you have something special to present. Reading novels and watching videos does not qualify! If you have provincial or Springbok sport colours put it in. Any other interesting activity like diving,  archery, biking or marathon running should also be included.  This helps in assessing your self-discipline and give the interviewer the opportunity to connect with you on a more personal level. This could reduce the tension in the interview and allow you to discuss something that you are really comfortable with.

Current and expected salary gives a good overview of where you are coming from and your realistic expectations.

It might seem that some of this information will work against you but if the information is not there, your CV will be ignored in favour of other candidates. Bear in mind that some of the negatives could be outweighed by your other attributes. For instance, your location to the work place might be the most important requirement that outweighs everything else.

1.2 Academic qualifications summary:

This is a BRIEF summary of your qualifications, You can refer to more detailed information further on in the CV. Always start with your highest qualification and work backwards:

CA(SA) – Registered – 2015

ARTICLES  – Deloitte – 2015

CTA – University of Cape Town – 2012.

B COMM – University of Cape Town – 2010

MATRIC – Pretoria Boys High School – 2007

At this point do not get into the details – all that is required here is a snapshot of who you are.

1.3 Job history summary:

This is the part that most CA’s leave out. Usually they deal with this in a lengthy diatribe of various previous positions going on for pages. Don’t get me wrong. All that is important and must be in the CV somewhere but not here!  This is a summary and it has a specific purpose – it highlights stability and loyalty (otherwise known as traction). It also gives you an opportunity to disclose your reasons for leaving previous employers.

The matters discussed here are very important to a recruiter as it tells them a lot about you.

Always start at your current job and work backwards.

Be wary here especially with the way you disclose reasons for leaving:

> Never mention relationship issues. It will always reflect   negatively on you. If you left a position because your previous boss was a prize you-know-what, rather say that you wanted to extend your experience and you left because you want to advance your career.

> Job hopping is a bad reflection on your competency. It raises questions about your work ethic, health and competency. Accordingly, for the purposes of the CV use softer explanations when you describe your reasons for leaving.  Be careful how you word this. It is worth spending time thinking about this before you compete this section. Do not underestimate its importance!

> If you have or had been retrenched, rather say that you were offered an attractive package that you decided to take as you were concerned about the future at the company. Every recruiter will know you were retrenched but it sounds better and you might find it helps you feel better about yourself.

> Never lie! If you were fired for dishonesty say so. There is nothing more disconcerting than a candidate who is a liar. Be aware that your previous employer will be contacted for references. But, then again, there is nothing stopping you presenting yourself in the best possible light.

> If you have had some gaping gaps of unemployment don’t leave them off the CV. For a recruiter there is nothing worse than having unaccounted for gaps in employment history.

So here is an example using the info above:


Period:  Oct 2012 – current

Reason for leaving: Looking to upscale myself into operations management.

DELOITTE                                                                                                   Period:  Mar 2010-Sept 2012

Reason for leaving: Completed articles

Here is another example with a more complicated work history:


Period:  Jan 2015 – current

Reason for leaving: Looking to upscale myself into operational management.


Period: Jan 2014 – Dec 2014

Reason for leaving: Offered a package as company was restructuring after completing implementation of SAP.


Period: Jan 2013 – Dec 2013

Reason for leaving:  N/A

DELOITTE                                                                                                   Period:  Mar 2010-Dec 2012

Reason for leaving: Completed articles

If there are worrying issues in this part of your CV, know that you will have to try harder to get work. See as many employment agencies as you can and don’t become despondent. Persevere.

There is still more to come but there is enough to chew on for now. If you get this part right you should start having better results.

If you need further assistance please call me directly on +27-72-280-6878.

Happy hunting.


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