Cvs – The good, the bad and the ugly

A Curriculum Vitae is a must have these days.

Almost everybody nowadays has a Curriculum Vitae (CV) or resume. It’s not something from the last decades. Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482, at the age of 30, sent a letter to the regent of Milan seeking a job, putting his capabilities on paper. This impressive document was the first official resume on record. It was used as a letter of introduction, but the CV is currently a key part of the recruitment process. Still many people struggle as it comes to their own CV.

In a CV, you normally find a summary of job experiences and education and/or training. Together with a cover letter this is the first introduction of a jobseeker to a potential employer. If the candidate impresses, an interview could follow. A lot is at stake when writing a CV.

A CV should always be up to date and should always portray the best version of you.

But how exactly does one do this? Aka, do we have any tips?

Yes, rest assured, we have plenty. Here goes…

The good:

A CV is a professional portrayal of you. It summarises your work life, while giving your prospective employer glimpses into your character. It is your business card. It can land you an interview and possibly a job at the company of your dreams.

For this reason, your CV must look good. Let it be inspiring to others. How, you ask? By you portraying your unique, amazing self in the best way possible that is true to you.

While we don’t recommend extra frills or too much photoshop, a natural but professional photo of you on your CV next to your name on the top is an excellent start. If you are a horticulture graduate, a photo of you in the orchard is a good choice. Put your name in funky writing, but don’t make it all capitals.

Next present your personal details, education, skills, work experience and achievements. For everyone this is different and thus the document should be exceptional.

To assist you in making an incomparable CV, you can search the internet, as there are many templates available. Select a template that is true to your character and avoid templates with cluttered graphic designs.  Keep it simple. Just make sure it is your CV, and not a copy of one of your fellow students. And while we are speaking about the internet, did we mention how important it is to have a LinkedIn profile these days? It is a platform almost every employer and recruiter use to find people. Make sure your CV is consistent with your LinkedIn profile.

Your CV should consist of your personal details. The employer who is receiving your document, should be able to contact you. Make sure it is clear what your first and last names are. In South Africa some of us start with the last name and others with the first name, which can be confusing.

A personal profile is a good way to explain why you will be an asset to a company. In this way, it is better than an objective that might create the impression you are only interested in what this possible position could give you. Write your own profile, and do not copy an appealing personal profile from the internet!

When giving an overview of your education, it is important to mention your highest/latest diploma or degree first and go back in time. Give the official qualification name, the start and end year of your studies and the institute where you studied. Majors and dissertations or final year research projects should be mentioned in your entry-level CV and can be deleted over the years when other experience gets more important.

Name any other additional courses you have completed, with the year and institute, workshops done, exhibitions or conferences attended. This all show your uniqueness and willingness to develop and learn more about your industry, and that you are prepared to, often in your own time, make an effort to get experience, learn and connect. This shows real dedication. Mention if you acquired any bursaries during your studies, or if you achieved membership of elite academic groups like Golden Key Membership, or SACNASP (South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions).

With work experience we advise you to also start with current experience and work your way back in time. Always mention your most important duties.

Don’t forget to add your skills and proficiency with all computer software programmes, and languages. It’s a great way to set you apart from other candidates.

The bad:

Currently a resume is a short summary, preferably 1, 2 or 3 pages. Especially at the beginning of your career it should not be longer than the 2-3 pages. A more comprehensive version could be drafted and sent upon request. Many HR managers just don’t have the time to search through 9 or more pages of detailed information to find that one important quality or experience for the position.

Also, never use capital letters throughout your entire CV. This is referred to as shouting in computer language. This will act as deterrent to the potential employer. The same applies to putting everything in bold.

Spelling is important too. CV’s with too many typos are often just discarded. Apply normal grammar guidelines, and pay attention to the use of punctuation (commas, full stops, etc.)

The ugly:

If you do the following, things could get ugly: Unless your current employer knows you are looking for a new position, don’t put them on as reference. People with your CV in hand can contact your references and it might be awkward when the current employer doesn’t know you are looking for a new position.

Be wise in how you apply for new jobs.


In conclusion, CVs are multifaceted documents that could – or could not land you that dream job. Sometimes you only have one opportunity, so it’s best to make the most of it.

For more tips, feel free to contact Tanja at or Majella at


Compiled by:  Majella van der Arend and Tanja Werle