Writing a CV | UCT English Language Centre

Putting together a CV is the first step in getting that job you are interested in and making a step in your career. But, there are some very important things to remember about writing a CV.

The word CV actually comes from the Latin word Curriculum Vitae, which basically means the course, or summary of your life with particular focus on schooling, education and/or professional/work experience.

There is really no right or wrong way to put together a CV, and CVs will vary just as much as there are people putting them together as well as reading them and employing people. The first things to remember are a) your CV is the very first impression a potential employer has of you, so make sure you give a good first impression, b) employers may be receiving a lot of CVs for a job posting, so don’t bore them with pages and pages of information that is not relevant to the job in question – our Director at the UCT English Language Centre feels that a 2 page CV is a great formula to work with and c) try not to leave the employer guessing things or trying to figure anything out (how long you worked at a company, for example, or simply stating you did administration at a job – what kinds of administrative tasks? – try to be a little more specific).

Here are some basic tips to focus on;

  • Always try to tailor your CV to the specific job you are applying for. This may not need a lot of editing if you are applying for the same kind of job with different companies that require the same skill set, but do try to address the points in the job advert in your CV. If you are multi-talented, or have experience doing many different things, it makes sense to focus your expertise in your CV for that particular job and you can make mention in short that you have experience doing other things as well. Look at this as a bonus for the employer. One way to do this is to list the points they are looking for in the job advert and then address each point as it relates to you and your experience. Imagine the employer who is looking for someone with very specific skills and experience who receives a CV that mentions so many things not relevant to the job to be filled. Put yourself in their shoes!
  • Start your CV with your basic information such as full name, date of birth, address, telephone/contact number, email address, etc. You may decide whether or not you would like to add details such as religion, gender, marital status, or family.  If this applies, you should also add drivers license and code, nationality, and languages spoken, for example:
    • French: Mother Tongue
    • English: Fluent
  • Use positive and assertive language such as ‘managed’, ‘developed’, ‘organised’, ‘streamlined’, ‘maintained’, and ‘improved’. This is an example of the type of language you would focus on in a business English course.
  • Be informative, but keep it short and sweet. You can add lots of smaller details and bring your charming personality to the fore once that CV has landed you an interview. Concentrate on proving to the employer in the shortest space available that you are someone they definitely need to meet.
  • While the layout of your CV is very important, that doesn’t mean it needs to be standard. Whichever you way you choose to ‘advertise’ yourself, make sure to focus your CV on the most relevant points. Make it easy to read and to follow, and try to keep it coherent in terms of history. In other words, don’t list the job you had 10 years ago first and then list the one you had 2 years ago, and then back to the first job you ever did once you left school. This is confusing and will almost immediately be thrown in the ‘no’ pile.
  • Watch your spelling!!! It can be a big, red flag for an employer if your CV has spelling mistakes. Read over your CV thoroughly before sending it out, or even better get someone else to check it. It’s easy to make simple spelling mistakes, but don’t let this be the first impression a potential employer gets of you!

Most CVs tend to take on a similar format and the most basic templates are used. This is fine, and very standard practice, but if you would like to stand out from the crowd and are pretty good on a computer, you may want to try something a little more interesting which is guaranteed to make you stand out from the crowd, such as these:

For more great tips, and some very interesting information regarding the facts of CVs, check out these sites:

If you are interested in taking a business English course with us at the UCT English Language Centre you will learn a  language that will assist you in putting a CV together, preparing for an interview/presentation or ensuring you are the best candidate for the job you are applying for! Contact us to find out more.

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