South African CV Writing Guide

Working abroad sounds like an adventure to many people. However, work in South Africa needs more than just the obvious South African cover letter and South African CV writing and translation – it requires methodical preparation. You will be confronted with issues problems that probably did not even cross your mind when you become interested in South African jobs.

Do not underestimate the influence they can have on your adventure! For instance, you will experience the different immigration rules and practices, job application procedures, the selection trends and the management culture.

The terms CV and resume are often used interchangeably in South Africa.

A CV is similar to a resume in that it provides more details about one’s professional qualifications, experience and education. However, the term "Curriculum Vitae" most often called CV, typically carries a different meaning depending on whether one distribute the CV within the US, Canada or internationally (external to the US or Canada) or is seeking a faculty, academic, research, clinical or scientific position.

You can turn your current resume into a South African CV. A CV is similar to a resume in that it outlines your professional qualifications and history, but it does so with more detail by adding to the resume the detailed descriptions of your educational and/or professional experiences and personal information that may include nationality, date of birth, marital status, etc.

When applying for a position in South Africa, you may use either English or Afrikaans language, depending on the company and your fluency. Stick to one language once chosen. However, you need to accept that not knowing the host country language will put you at real disadvantage from the local job seekers.

The aim of your South African CV should be to persuade recruiters to invite you for a job interview. Therefore, your CV is a marketing tool, which should be adapted to the market in which you intend to use it.

Prepare yourself - before writing your South African CV find out information about the company you want to work for. Such information will help you to adapt your CV more effectively to each specific job and use of proper examples illustrating your achievements.

Because there are no strict rules for CVs in South Africa two types may be used.

Initially, it is acceptable to submit a “Brief Profile” in form of one page CV letter. This is a short summary of your full “Comprehensive CV” giving personal information, education and a chronological list of previous positions emphasizing your most recent or relevant position. Mention that a comprehensive CV is available. It is customary to follow up your letter by phone.

The “Comprehensive CV” is best received when it is brief, about two pages long and in reverse chronological order. Although CV of four or five pages are not uncommon either. In personal details include your date and place of birth, nationality, telephone number and civil status.

Often the South Africa CVs are kept on file for lengthy periods, so any contact details you give have to remain accurate in the long term. A daytime phone number, with the international access code and e-mail are most important.

In “Education” section, list with dates, schools attended, their locations, your majors, diplomas and degrees. South African employers think that post-school education is very important, so put stress on relevant courses and education programs. Briefly list extracurricular activities, leadership roles, awards, honors and any extra courses, training or relevant experience.

"Employment History" may be listed in chronological, reverse-chronological, or functional order. Specify your expertise and how this can contribute to the company and to South Africa. Use power words and action verbs to highlight your skills and experience. For each position, provide the name of your employer, the location and specialization of the business, your titles and the dates of your employment. Describe your responsibilities, achievements and reason for leaving.

Make your CV more effective by providing examples to illustrate your achievements. Use power words and action verbs such as accomplished, achieved, carried out, contributed, coordinated, demonstrated, developed, finalized, guided, handled, improved, managed, negotiated, organized, realized, represented, structured, succeeded in, trained, etc. Bullet point these at the start of a sentence for maximum impact.

In the final section, list professional affiliations, relevant volunteer experience and foreign languages with reference to the spoken and written level. Include the names of several references, with contact information. Because references are usually verified, inform your referees in advance. In addition, you may mention your hobbies.

Carefully consider what to leave out of your CV and exclude anything that might give prospective employers a chance to discriminate against you.

It is more popular in South Africa to apply for a job through the Internet. However, you should be aware that an electronic CV does not look the same as a standard one. Employers often scan South African CVs, so make your CV scannable by avoiding for example lines or italic fonts etc.

It is common to send a brief cover letter with your “Comprehensive CV”.


Check the spelling and grammar of your South African CV. Use the word processor's spell and grammar checker. If you are not confident of your ability to detect grammatical, punctuation and English or Afrikaans language usage errors or if you need help in organizing your CV, send it to a professional for assistance.

art_remember South African CVRemember that your South African CV must be targeted, scannable and generate hits. If you have a difficulty with your CV writing, instead of staring at a blank piece of paper, use:

art_tip South African CV

We recommend that you send your CV together with a cover letter. If you have a difficulty with your cover letter writing use:

Other South African CV Info

If your South African cover letter and South African CV are ready, distribute them through the job search services to your prospective employers. When your South African job search have been successful apply for the South African visa with South African work permit and start preparing for the South African job interview using South African dress code.

Check the job interview tips do's and don'ts, and find out why people are not hired for available jobs.

In addition, on the international info, job search, visa, work permit, cover letter, CV & resume, job interview and dress code pages you will find many useful tips for overseas job seekers.

Good luck with your South African CV!

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