careers advice

General tips for finding and applying
for a job in South Africa

Writing CVs
Step by Step Guide for standard CVs in South Africa:

Contact Details
Begin with your name, address, phone number and email address, centred at the top of the page. Remember your name should be bold and one font size larger than your address and other information.

Professional Profile
This is an introductory paragraph at the beginning of your CV which contains a short summary of your background and career plans.

Stating a career objective at the beginning of your CV is optional. It enables employers to quickly identify your career objective(s) however this may limit your appeal.

Your formal education and any further education you are currently undertaking should be included on your CV. Education can be placed either before or after your experience, depending on its relevance. You should include the institutions name and location, major/subject, dates and any other relevant information that will highlight your educational experiences and successes.

Experience and Skill Summary
Your skill sets are as important as your work or educational background, as they highlight what makes you special - this is true particularly in the international job market where language skills can be the difference between getting an interview and not. Your skills section should include:
• Language abilities
• Computer skills
• Technical abilities
• Job skill summary
• Any further relevant and specialized skills you wish to highlight

State your level of ability (beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc.) in each skill set.

Work Experience
You should clearly state the companies’ name, its location, your position and job title, dates, responsibilities, skills utilized and any accomplishments. To make it easier to read it can be formatted using bullet points or simple sentences. Any awards or citation you have received should also be included.

If you are a new graduate or have no work experience, you should substitute other experiences that will illustrate your skills and abilities to employers e.g., projects, volunteer activities etc.

Other Information
You can also include further areas that you wish to highlight or are relevant to the particular field you wish to apply for. This may go at the top or at the end. Some examples are:
• Membership of clubs and societies
• Leisure activities and hobbies
• Contacts and networks
• Other achievements

You can include contact information of references on the CV or write ‘References can be supplied on request’ instead. Either way references should include one personal reference and one work or school reference and they should have known you for a minimum of two years. You should detail their titles and position, telephone, address and email contacts.
Always get an individual’s permission before citing them as a referee.

Reference:  Career Lingual – South Africa

Tips on Resume or CV Writing Skills:

A focused CV is the best way to get your new potential boss to notice you. If you stand apart from the crowd with your CV, there′s a good chance your new job will be just an interview away!

How do I start to write my CV?
When you look at the classifieds section of the paper, or read the jobs notice board, make sure you read the advertisement carefully. Decide what aspects of your personality, qualifications, skills and experience you can offer to this new job/career.

Write these down in a list and use strong "action words" - for example: "I am organised, efficient, and hard-working, I have managed and coordinated events and people. I studied and achieved personal and professional excellence and completed a degree in ..."

If you do not have a clear idea of the message you would like to convey (Are you a dynamic individual? Do you have years of experience in this profession? Are you someone who works well under pressure?), don’t start writing, but think again. Make sure you have at least 10 - 20 points on your list.

Remember:  Be precise and critical. Don’t overdo things by presenting everything about yourself that you can think of. Nobody expects or even wants that – so don’t.

How much should I include in my CV?
A CV should be personal, but it is not a biography.  Nor is it a paragraph, or even a novel, in which you tell the story of your professional life. Leave out personal information that is not relevant to the position. For example, the boss doesn′t need to know whether you are married or not.

What should I say about myself?
Be truthful. By being so, you show confidence in yourself and your achievements - this is especially useful when it comes to sitting through an interview. For example, you cannot speak about your experience as a nuclear scientist if you barely passed your science matric.

A few don’ts:
• Don′t lie.
• Don′t exaggerate.
• Don′t make promises you cannot live up to.
• Don′t put in details that are not relevant to the job you are applying for (for example, what sports and hobbies you enjoy).

How do I write it all out?
• Think how you want to structure the selection you have made of relevant aspects. When summing up, use bullets.
• Phrase your CV in positive language. It helps if you write short, active sentences and avoid too many adjectives.
• Start with your best achievements that match the crucial job requirements. Don′t tell the employer how they can help you, but rather point out how you can help them.
• Emphasise your business-related experience, the wider the better. If you have good working relationships with experts in the field, check with them if you may use them as your references.
• Ask for advice before sending your CV. Get someone you know in a related field to read it. Be prepared to revise your text. Check your grammar and spelling.
• Test your CV by applying for several positions, on your level, but also a bit higher up the ladder. That’s how you really get to know the market and your worth.

Do I use the same CV for every job I apply for?
Ideally  no. Your CV should be tailor-made. Therefore, when applying for different jobs with basically the same CV, you should nevertheless adapt it to each particular position, using variations on your theme.
Use key elements of the employer’s advertisement to show that you have understood him/her. Use your CV to get over the doorstep and into the interview. There you will have ample opportunity to speak more about your achievements.


CV example:  The CV Centre, South Africa

Application forms

1. Read the job specifications; always read the job description and make sure you address each of the essential criteria for the job. Then tailor your cover letter, CV and also prepare for the interview with this specific information. List and be specific how you fulfil the requirements of the job.

2. Ensure your application is neat and accurate without spelling mistakes, and has a good layout. Presentation is very important the font in the cover letter and CV should be easy to read and your hand writing when you are filling a form should be legible and written in black ink as other colours look fuzzy and pale when they are photocopied.

3. Sell yourself in the CV, make it easy for the recipient to pick out the key requirement in your CV. Try to make your CV easy to read you may list all the requirements of the job. Make sure your writing is clear and concise saying how you are a good fit for the job, making them think they cannot do without you. Do not lie or enhance the truth. Don’t be afraid to use headings such as, Relevant Experience – Customer Service Skills and Communication Skills.

4. Follow instructions, quote the reference number and pay attention to the closing date. If you are asked to send in a hand written application use black ink, rather than sending your CV. Heed the closing date. Follow instructions that given when you are shortlisted. Being late, missing appointments or answering pre-interview question forms without taking time to prepare does not make a good impression. Give yourself enough time to make it to the interview location. Know how to get there before the day and be there early.

5. Explain why you are applying for the job by writing a good cover letter tailored to suit the job. Do not make comments about your previous employers and why you wish to leave your job. Do not use general comments, “I am a good communicator and work well in a team”. Instead you may write “ I improved communication in my team by introducing daily review of workload”.

6. Ideally CVs should be at least 3 maximum 4 pages. Lengthy CVs/applications that are too long, with the details not in any particular order make it difficult to ascertain if you are suitable for the job. Do not attach any documents (thesis, research papers) you have not been asked for. If you fill an application form with all the details required, you do not need to attach your CV.

7. Always ensure you supply all your contact details, P. O. Box, telephone numbers and email addresses on your application. If you don’t do this it makes it very difficult for the recipient to get in touch with you for short listing.

8. Be concise. Make sure the application is not too short, not to wordy but short, concise and uncomplicated. The longer and more difficult your CV is the less likely your prospective employer will be to read through it.

9. Provide full referee details. Complete the application fully; provide full referees addresses (name, position, company, P. O. Box, phone number and Email.) If you don’t give full addresses the recipient will be forced to spend a lot of time to get these details.

10. Put yourself the place of the person reading your application. Would you be happy with it? Does it tell you everything and is it legible? If you’re not happy with it, then why should they be?

Reference:  Career Point Kenya

Preparing for Interviews 

• Prepare by researching the sector and company (corporate brochures, websites, and industry magazines are starting points).
• Prepare for questions. Recruiters use stock questions. These include "what are your strengths and weaknesses?" and "there are 10 applicants, so why should I select you?" They may also throw in oddball questions. Write down possible questions and ask a friend or relative to engage in role-play, firing the queries at you. Avoid monosyllabic responses. For instance, if asked if you are punctual, don′t just say "Yes", but provide a tidbit of information to prove the point, such as "Yes, I irritate my friends by always turning up 10 minutes early." At the interview, expect some questions for which you did not prepare. Be honest. Be yourself. Be relaxed.
• Prepare your own questions. When asked if you have any queries, preface your question with an item of information which shows you know something of the company and industry. The structure, "it′s my understanding that ..." is the usual way of framing this lead-in. You might like clarity on the company′s management style and expansion plans. You also need to know exactly what is required of you.

Two Way Street
In a proper interview both sides stand to gain. Realise that the interview is a joint enterprise. Your interviewer may be leading, but she or he needs your active input. Your gain is that by asking questions you get the information you need to make an informed decision.

You may, or should ask (unless already answered in the interview):
• What will you have to do? What is expected in this particular position?
• What about particular tasks and the amount of time spent on them?
• What qualities are they looking for in candidates for this position?
• Questions about regular working hours and conditions and the occurrence of overtime.
• Is this a new job? How does it fit into the overall structure of the department or company?
• Questions about the normal channels for advancement in the company. Do not forget to ask about career possibilities, and if you are a woman don’t forget to ask about promotion opportunities. If you don’t your (male) interviewer may think you will be happy in a dead-end job.
• Does the company provide training, on the job or external training?
• Are periodic performance evaluations and pay reviews the rule? How will you be rated?
• Ask about salary only if you are reasonably sure you are a strong contender for the position and if the interviewer does not mention the subject. You should let the employer name a figure first - if for no other reason than that the employer′s figure may be higher than yours. If the interviewer does not mention money, at the end of the interview you might raise the topic, inquiring about the "range" of the salary.
• At the end: ask what to expect, any next step in the process? And when?

You Should Avoid Asking:
• Questions that sound as if you are interviewing the interviewer. You want to pose questions to find out about the job and the organisation, not the person behind the desk.
• Personal questions about the interviewers educational background or career. This is where the interview is a one-way street, as you can and may certainly be asked about your background.
• Questions that may get the interviewer in trouble, like what are the best and worst aspects of the job? Is his department considered strong? Is she or he a nice boss?
• "What do you do here?" That is one question guaranteed to turn off interviewers. You should have done your homework.
• Questions that imply you already have the job, i.e. where is my workplace?
• Questions about fringe benefits – at least not in the beginning of the interview. You have every right to know the answers to these, but save them until after you are offered the job.

Reference: Africa

Further detailed careers information

More information about careers can be found at Michael Page Career Centre



Networking - Creating a Professional Online Presence

When professionals refer to networking to advance their career, many times they are simply referring to their use of the social networking site

Yes, LinkedIn has done a fantastic job of branding itself as the #1 method to grow your professional network along with over 300 million professionals.

LinkedIn affords professionals the opportunity to Power their careers, Connect, Find, and be found.

Creating a Presence on Linked-In
Getting Started

Whether you’re starting out on LinkedIn for a job hunt, a strategic partnership or a way to open up a new opportunity, you need a strong professional network (think quality over quantity). Without this online rolodex, it is much more difficult to get through the door of a whole spectrum of possible career choices or business relationships. If you know the industry you want to get into and you have a few places to target, developing strong connections with people in your work field would help you greatly. It’s like Facebook…but for professionals only. Registration is free. Once registered, you can begin to network with people and utilize LinkedIn to its full potential.

To get the most out of what LinkedIn can do for your job search or for your business venture, follow these 5 easy steps.

1. Re-connect with old friends and colleagues – If you know any previous employers, colleagues, peers, associates and acquaintances – you should find a way to get in touch with them. Send them an invite to connect with them and see what’s going on. Re-introduce yourself and make a fresh start. Always re-acquaint with old friends or colleagues so that you can develop a deeper connection with them in the future.

2. Find recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn – One of the best ways to make quick connections is to upgrade to a premium account. This will allow you to connect with any recruiter on LinkedIn and fully optimize your job search. Not only do you have access to over 100 million member profiles, you can contact any of the industry professionals on LinkedIn you want! You get expanded search results, expanded profile viewing and an expanded view of who has seen your profile as well. That’s a lot of access! So take advantage.

3. Develop a strong contact list – You should constantly develop relationships with business partners to make sure they know you via your personal and professional brand.If you can make strong connections you will already have a higher percentage of gaining new opportunities. LinkedIn is a great place to reach out and build partnerships, arrange meetings and to discuss plans. Collaboration is your competitive advantage and LinkedIn gives you that edge.

4. Join LinkedIn groups and relevant discussions – Engage in daily topics in groups and join relevant discussions. If you want to add more connections, you have to be active on LinkedIn daily. It’s not enough to just reply to someone’s post, you have to start your own discussions and get people to join in on your conversation. This way, you will have a number of followers that you can share and gather information with.

5. Make connections with people you don’t know – For example, if you like someone’s blog, why not reference their name on LinkedIn and send them an invite saying you really enjoy reading their content?

Did you know that for every connection you make, you have access to their personal connections as well? You can use this tool to your advantage by sending InMails to a targeted audience. Start sharing your profile with as many people as you can to jumpstart your career.

TIP: The best way to connect with new people on LinkedIn is to introduce yourself. Think of how you would approach a professional at a junction that you didn’t know but have read their blog or even seen them on TV. Don’t just send an invite to someone and wait for them to reply. Show that you’re interested in getting to know them, especially if you are in the same industry as they are in. A couple of sentences could go a long way. Never ever go with the standard invite.

An example:

Hi Amos, thanks for sharing good suggestions, links on the group discussion and your website. Like to keep in touch instead of only using the “follow” button. Thanks! VW

After you tried optimizing your network on LinkedIn, you should build solid relationships with your contacts. If one of your connections refers you to their hiring manager or even sends your job application to their department, you must send them a thank-you letter as a token of your appreciation. You could even arrange a time to thank them in person or make a call over the phone to personally show your gratitude. These little things can go a long way when it comes to developing strong connections with people in your own industry.

Source: Resume Target


Raising your LinkedIn profile among recruiters 

Any recruiter will tell you that they are signed on to every single day. Why? Because recruiting has taken on the saying of “out with the old and in with the new”. When LinkedIn came onto the scene, the entire profession of recruiting instantly changed.

Instead of using traditional methods to source candidates, they now have hundreds of thousands (and now millions) of candidates right at the tips of their fingers. Without having to leave their desks, they are now able to view the professional background of all of these potential candidates based on their LinkedIn profiles.

So why haven’t you ever been contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn?


Six ways to optimize your profile in order to grab the attention of recruiters
The Three Cs – Current, Complete and Concise

Current: Creating a profile on LinkedIn is the first step in the right direction, but you also need to make yourself current. This means that you should be actively involved in the LinkedIn community. You can post updates regarding your career, share links to interesting articles you’ve read, or link your Twitter account up to your LinkedIn account so that your tweets are shared with your connections.

Complete: It doesn’t take long to browse through LinkedIn to find some atrocious profiles. Having an incomplete (or completely bare) LinkedIn profile, is just as bad as submitting an unfinished resume for a job posting. This will always hurt you more than help you. As soon as you sign up for a LinkedIn account, they automatically walk you through the steps of completing your profile. Aim to have an 80% completeness score, to start off, and then later you can add more information into the profile.

Concise: LinkedIn does not confine your information to a two-page limit the way a resume will, but that does not mean you can include every single position you’ve ever had. You will easily lose a recruiter’s attention on a lengthy profile page, the same way you would lose it in a 5-page resume. You must remain concise! Outline all of the key pieces of information, but make sure you still have something to say if you’re asked to expand upon each point.


Skills & Expertise: The new and improved LinkedIn profiles now offer a Skills & Expertise section where you can include in-demand keywords into your profile. Once you start typing a common keyword, you will see a drop-down list appear with common keywords to choose from. This is an incredibly easy way to incorporate effective keywords into your profile.

Job Postings: If you’re really at a loss for what the keywords for your role are, look up job postings that are similar to your position. Throughout the responsibilities and requirements sections, you will easily be able to pinpoint the common keywords that are used across a variety of companies, and then incorporate them into your profile.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool: This tool provided by Google allows you to see which keywords yield the highest number of searches. It seems like a small detail, but “Client Relations” and “Client Relationships” could get you two very different levels of results. This is a great way to know that you’ve made the right choices in regards to the keywords you’ve included.

Profile Photo

Professional Photo: First things first – this isn’t Facebook. This is a professional networking site, and you must look professional in your photo. You should be wearing something you would wear to work or to an interview, and have a warm smile on your face (it doesn’t have to look like a passport photo). Once that is all taken care of, make sure the background you choose has no distractions, and ensure the photo is from your shoulders up. If you’ve ever had a professional headshot done, this would be a great use for it.

Visibility: Many people opt out of the Linkedin Profile Photo either because they don’t have a professional photo to upload, or because they don’t want people to know what they look like. This is a poor decision. Including a photo into your LinkedIn profile instantly increases your visibility on LinkedIn by 7 times. Also, by having a friendly face at the top of the page, the recruiter will see you as a person, and not just text on a webpage.


Connections: You could have the greatest LinkedIn profile in the world, but if you don’t have any connections, it won’t get you very far. Building up your network of connections is one of the most important tools on LinkedIn. A great way to get started is to use your e-mail address book to find contacts who are already members of LinkedIn. You can also use the “People You May Know” tool to connect with friends, family members, and colleagues from past or present.

Groups: Another great way to meet professionals on LinkedIn is by joining groups. There are a multitude of groups on LinkedIn for every field, profession and industry. You can browse through the groups and choose a few that really relate to what you are looking for. By actively participating in groups, you can easily build new relationships which will lead to more connections.

Recruiters: Instead of waiting around for recruiters to find you, why don’t you take the lead and connect with some recruiters. By conducting a people search in LinkedIn, you will be able to find recruiters within your targeted industry and field. It is completely acceptable for you to reach out to them and request a connection. Don’t be shy – LinkedIn is all about expanding your network.

Value Statement & Headline

Introduction: You will notice that the LinkedIn profile begins with a Summary section. Treat this section the same way you would treat the introductory value statement on your resume. You want to immediately tell this recruiter what your current job title is, what your industry focus is, how many years of experience you have, your academic background, and a brief highlight of achievements. This will catch the recruiter’s attention and intrigue them enough to continue reading through your profile.

Headline: When you appear in search results on LinkedIn, the recruiter will see your picture and your headline, and that information must be interesting enough for them to click on your name. The headline will also help you appear in search results for specific keywords. Instead of listing your headline as your current role, such as “Senior Chartered Accountant at KPMG”, list your headline as your strongest keywords, such as “Accounting | Auditing | Management”. Your current role is already listed in the information box at the top of your profile, so focus on the keywords that will get you noticed.

Recommendations – Give & Receive

Give: Before sending out a mass message requesting recommendations from your former employers and colleagues, start off by providing recommendations for them. If you’ve taken the time out to improve their profile on LinkedIn, it’s far more professional when you ask for a recommendation in return. Many LinkedIn users will respond automatically by providing you with a recommendation as well, without you even having to ask.

Receive: Be sure to request recommendations from professionals that you maintained a relationship with over time. You want the recommendation to reflect the depth of your relationship with this colleague, and not to sound like a generic statement. Also, always send a thank you note to anyone who provides you with a recommendation. They’ve helped you improve your visibility on LinkedIn, which may just land you a new job one day.

Source: Resume Target