Do not know which format to use to write a perfect CV?  There is no “best way” to construct a CV; it is your document and can be structured as you wish.  Although employers prefer a shorter document, you must make a statement and, in less than 30 seconds, prove to employers that you are the suitable candidate for the position.

So, what can you do to make those seconds count?

The style of your résumé should be appropriate to your industry.  For example, if you are applying for a position in financial services, your résumé should have a more conservative format than if you were to apply for a position in marketing, web design or sales.

There are no absolute rules as far as the length of your CV is concerned, but in general, a new graduate’s CV should be no longer than two sheets of A4 paper.  As employers receive more and more CVs, they tend not to have the time to read long documents.  Long paragraphs of text can be a real turn-off, and you will run the risk of your CV being skim-read.  Including a picture is unnecessary, and can take up valuable space.  Rather use this space to communicate extra information about why you should be selected. Therefore, keep your content concise, to the point and tailored to the position for which you are applying.

Choose a font that is easy to read, and use one font throughout your entire CV. The font size is normally point 11 or 12 for text in the body, and point 14 or 16 for subheadings and headings. Avoid the use of fully capitalised words, as they are difficult to read.  Bullet points will provide a clear structure and are easy to read, but do not bullet everything – it will look boring.  When you provide numbers on your CV, it immediately grabs the reader’s attention.  It is not necessary to write out the numbers 0 to 10.

Your headings should be bold so that they stand out and guide the reader to find what he/she is looking for.  Also make them stand out with a stylised font or graphic.  Be creative, but be careful not to overdo it.

While black text on white paper is still a good rule of thumb, printing your CV in colour is not incorrect.  Be careful to use decorative paper to print your CV.  Choose a font colour that is easy to read, and do not play around with too many colours in one document.

Send your CV as one attachment in either PDF or MS Word format, and remember to include certified copies of all your documents.

Your personal profile/branding

Your profile is the three to four sentences at the top of the first page of your CV.  It should be original and well written.  Consider your outlook on life and your individual and career goals, and mention your attributes – describe yourself as a professional. Your profile will have to be adjusted slightly for each application. You should also ensure that your profile aligns with the requirements for the position and the company’s vision and culture.  The strength of your profile determines whether the employer will continue reading the rest of your CV.

Personal details

Normally these would include your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, date of birth, ID number, an indication of whether or not you have a driver’s license, etc.

Education and qualifications

Include your school qualifications as well as your tertiary qualifications. Mention your subject results, unless poor.  Including dates in your CV is very important – indicate when you completed, or will complete, a qualification.


Indicate your language proficiency and computer skills (e.g. “good working knowledge of Microsoft Access and Excel, plus basic skills in web page design”).


Indicate what you achieved, where you achieved it, and when you achieved it.  This information must correlate with the information on the certificates attached to your CV.


Include all your work experience, even if it is in a different sector than the one to which you are applying.  Do not forget volunteer work you have done.  Use action words such as developed, planned and organised when describing your job-related duties.  Try to relate the skills to the position for which you are applying.


Normally, two referees – one academic and one from an employer – are sufficient.  Include the name of the person, his/her position, the company name and the referee’s contact details.

Abbreviating in your CV is not recommended.  First write out the entire term and provide the abbreviation/acronym in brackets.  Do not use text style or emoticons in job-search communication.  Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors – check, check and check again.

The use of CV examples on the internet should be exercised with great care.  Never copy the content of the example simply because it reads well.   These examples are only good for providing you with ideas as to what you should write in your own, highly personalised CV.  Be honest, and never provide inaccurate or misleading information.  If a recruiter notices a suggestion of falsehood, you will be rejected rapidly.

Download the helpful template to that you can customise, and use as a guideline for your CV (MS Word), 16 August 2018.


Uploaded: 17 March 2020
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