The Top CV Questions – Answered
Should I put a photo of myself on my CV?
The theory goes that a picture’s worth a thousand words, and that if an employer can see the whites of your eyes, you’ll instantly seem more real and approachable to them. This would be fine, although it’s so seldom true. Unless you’re specifically asked for a picture, avoid it. You can never be sure of the reaction your employer will have, and the implication is that your appearance is somehow relevant to your application. Unless you are applying for a modelling job, this is seldom the case.
If you are asked for a picture, make it simple and professional. Go to a professional photographer to get the best shot or else take one of yourself in excellent light with your head slightly turned to the side and a friendly smile.
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How much personal info should I include?
Some people like to include a “profile” section of their CV listing their age, nationality, religion, interests or marital status. Again, use your discretion. Since a profile of this kind will likely be right at the top of the CV, you had better make sure the information is completely relevant.
For example, if you’re applying for a childcare position, it’s often expected that you mention whether you have a driver’s license and car. If you’re applying for a position overseas, it becomes relevant what languages you can speak. If you can think of no logical reason to include some snippet of personal information, it’s a sign it doesn’t belong on your CV.
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How long should my CV really be?
As long as a piece of string!
Seriously, a CV should accomplish the task of showing you in your best light – but employers will get bored with something long and rambling. Stick to 1 to 3 pages unless you have a very detailed or technical history.
Should I write in third person?
The sentence “Joe Bloggs has worked for several law firms in both Cape Town and Johannesburg…” is written in third person, as though someone else wrote your CV for you. This is kind of old fashioned but completely appropriate.
If you choose to go with a first person route instead (“I worked at several law firms…”) make sure you don’t start too many sentences with “I” and keep sentences short and focused on the main ideas. It shouldn’t read like a diary entry.
How should I frame my skills?
The hardest part of crafting a good CV is making yourself sound amazing. Take some time to make sure that your skills focus on verbs. Highlight to your employer what actions you did, rather than what skills you simply have. Say “I compiled reports” rather than “I can compile reports”.
[bctt tweet=”The hardest part of crafting a good CV is making yourself sound amazing.”]
Then, follow statements with specific examples as evidence of your skills. Make things action oriented and tangible. It’s one thing to say you are good with numbers, and another to say “I helped reduce the company’s unnecessary expenditure by 4% in the last quarter.”
A good technique is also to use a “problem-skill-solution” format, i.e. show that you actively fixed a problem and how. So, don’t just mention that in your last job you taught grade 11 learners, say that you reworked an old curriculum to include more parent-teacher contact and helped reduce truancy in the grade 11 class. Use this as evidence to back up the statement that you are proactive and a good communicator, for example.