It is strongly advised to tailor and tweak your CV to address the specific needs and requirements of each position that you apply for.

Your CV should be compiled in such a manner that it can capture the attention of the reader (i.e. employer or recruiter) within 20 seconds or less, because this – on average – is how long it normally takes for a reader to lose interest in your CV and move on to the next CV.

Please bear in mind that even the best CV ever written, will be discarded immediately, when it contains spelling errors, use poor grammar and/or sentence constructions.

When compiling your CV, take note of and consider the following…

The main focus of your tailored or targeted CV…

  1. can you do the job?
  2. will you do the job?
  3. …will you fit in with the company culture?

…must be clear and match the requirements and needs of the position as advertised.

Same as with your cover letter, it is strongly recommended to also tailor your CV to the specific needs and requirements of each position that you apply for. For example… You will highlight your skill-set, capabilities, competencies and accomplishments differently, depending on whether you are applying for…

  • a legal affairs position with a trade association,
  • job at a call center,
  • an educational institution vacancy,
  • a teaching/lecturing opportunity or
  • a medical representative job.

Tailor and tweak your CV to the needs of the employer by attempting to identify and determine the reason why the employer is recruiting to fill the vacant position.

Many a times, important hints might be found within the posted or advertised job description itself.

Once you search for and have identified the reason, tailor or tweak your CV to illustrate and indicate how your…

  • background,
  • knowledge,
  • experiences,
  • skills,
  • competencies and
  • achievements

…will enable you to address and work through these challenges successfully and effectively.

For example… With 15 years experience as an Administrative Project Officer, I am confident that I will be able to effectively streamline improve and harmonize processes between administrative and research staff to support an improved flow of communication and operational efficiency.

For maximum effect, your CV should focus primarily on job or position requirement and list specific accomplishments, rather than
merely state your responsibilities. Rather than merely listing your responsibilities, indicate specific accomplishments that are relevant to the position that you apply for.

When you seek an advocacy-based position… highlight other jobs you have performed in this area in the past, even if with another kind of organization and/or within a different context.

A skill-set and competency developed in one specific job area, frequently is transferable to another within a similar working niche.

For example… Maintained and managed existing business partnerships and alliances by identifying and developing new strategic collaborations with Tetra Park and other providers that directly contributed to a better quality of the company’s soft drinks products.

Present your accomplishments as a series of PAR-statements to the employer or recruiter, which clearly state the…

  • Problem experienced,
  • Action you took and
  • Result or outcome of such action.

PAR-statements gets across your most relevant accomplishments in a concise yet effective manner. For example… Initiated and implemented an employee absenteeism monitoring application for 512 salaried employees, which reduced overall absences with 62% over the first year of implementation.

To be more efficient (i.e. earning you an interview), your tailored CV must also contain a clear and definite personal & career focus and goal. Such a focus should indicate and support a gradual progression towards you career goal in your professional history (i.e. time line)  to date.

One possibility is to include a personal PROFESSIONAL OBJECTIVES sentence or paragraph at the top of your targeted CV providing a clear indication of your specific career goals and accompanied Continuous Professional Development strategy (CPD).

This section (your professional objectives) might also be refined and tweaked for each position you apply for, as determined by the prevailing context of the position (job) you apply for.

Attention to detail is essential for successful CV writing. Although you want to capture all of your skills and accomplishments, don’t neglect the basics of balanced CV writing.

Start your CV with a heading that contains your name, address, phone number and email (i.e. your contact details). Important to include it in your CV, because employers and recruiters download and print the CV for shortlisting and interviewing purposes.

The heading should be one type size larger than the remainder of your CV content and everything, must be thoroughly proof-read to…

  • avoid typos,
  • incorrect spell-checker “assumptions” and
  • avert poorly constructed sentences.

Your CV – preferably – shouldn’t contain such pronouns as ‘I‘ or ‘me‘, as it is already assumed that the person performing the indicated actions and activities, are yourself.

Most sentences under job titles should rather begin with an action verb, adjective or noun such as… Implemented a new verbal reasoning assessment methodology in the HR department. Rather than… I have implemented a new verbal reasoning assessment methodology in the HR department.

Although this might be an awkward style of writing at first, it is a general accepted practice for writing CV’s.

Frequently analyze job advertisements and online postings to assist you in understanding what the ideal candidate profile for any given position might be like.

By frequently analyzing job advertisements and descriptions related to your career and/or industry of choice, will enable you to develop a keen sense of the ideal candidate profile employers are searching for (i.e. what is the ideal requisite and requirements that employers are looking for to fill the position).

Don’t only analyze adverts and/or descriptions of just one company, but include different companies and employers so that you are able to develop a comprehensive understanding of a ideal candidate profile.

You can then tweak your present CV-master to reflect these ideal candidate profile preferences and tailor, tweak or adjust your targeted CV accordingly when applying for a job.

It might seem tricky to capture the attention of an employer or recruiter in less than 20 seconds, but when you adopt certain CV writing practices, it isn’t as difficult as it may seem at first.

During a first read-through, employers and recruiters – typically – scan your CV for about 20 seconds, looking for…

  • relevant skills,
  • appropriate experiences and
  • applicable accomplishments.

Therefore, be strategic with regard to your wording choice of job titles. Be as descriptive as possible in 7 words or less. The goal is to provide sufficient information about the nature and extent of your prior job experiences with a concise job title that can easily be “spotted” by the employer or recruiter.

For example…

  • A less effective job title: Project Officer
  • A more effective Job title: Project Officer – Information Management and Data Processing

Proper layout is crucial to increase the chances of your CV to “pass” the initial “CV-scan“.

CV’s are scanned for a short period during a first reading.

Strategic CV formatting will allow you to best highlight your most relevant and key accomplishments.

Such accomplishments should be placed within the first 2 or 3 lines under every job title in a bullet-point format, using only the most relevant and industry related keywords.

Prepare and get your CV ready for electronic submissions (e.g. email).

Apart from having a master (in a .doc or .odt format) version of your CV, you should also prepare a recent PDF version to attach to an email or for uploading purposes (e.g. to the Networking Job Board) and a recent plain text version (i.e. unformatted and without any HTML code) for submission in the body of an email or to paste into an online application form, when required to do so.

This will ensure that your CV content is not formatted in “strange ways” and can be read by the receiving party in the intended format.

Presenting your CV might be the deciding factor whether your CV “survive” the initial scan and is read in its entirety.

Employers – generally – don’t like to plod through densely packed content or a font size that is too small (nor are they overly fond of all caps).


  • use a font size between 10 – 11 points using either an Arial or Times New Roman font type.
  • Line spacingpreferably – should be 1.15 between each bullet point, within the same section, and 2.0 between the different section headings.

TIP: When writing and editing your targeted or tailored CV, stick to the basics, unless it is in context (e.g. artistic profile for example) and steer clear of all kinds of “impressive” CV decorations or the use of fancy fonts.

Highlighting benefits (i.e. what you bring to the negotiation table) improves your chances of getting considered for the position.

The candidate who can most clearly state the benefits – implied or reflected by his/her accomplishments – and that s/he will bring to a prospective employer, is the individual that will – most likely – be favorably considered for the vacancy.

Rather than merely listing your many skills, knowledge, experiences and accomplishments, indicate how it can be harnessed to benefit the employer or company in one way or another.

For example… Managed a trust fund of R 2,000,000 of funding received from both the private and public sector on behalf of various charities, for projects ranging from the building of community health clinics to the implementation of IT and support systems.

When listing your accomplishment and achievements in PAR-statement format, try to use quantitative data and figures to confirm the information you provide. Numbers – generally – tend to carry more weight than words alone, as they provide more meaning to your accomplishments, achievements and are easier to spot during an initial scan.

For example… Developed and implemented a quality control procedure, which resulted in a 34% decrease in departmental errors.

Action verbs tend to grab the attention of the reader and clearly communicate your experience, achievements and various accomplishments.

Examples of action verbs include key (word) terms such as…

  • managed,
  • developed,
  • educate,
  • train,
  • resolved,
  • implemented,
  • planned,
  • performed,
  • created,
  • monitor, …etc.

Keeping your professional profile(s) and master CV up to date, will allow you to apply for possible vacancies (in line with your career goals) quickly and more efficiently.

It is a good idea to update your CV and professional profile(s) on a regular basis (i.e. establish a proactive habit) as you complete any training, gain experience, receive promotions, acquire new skills and/or gain professional experience.

In this manner you will be able to submit your current CV in a timely fashion for any appropriate job openings and opportunities that might “cross” your path in future.

Technical jargon might actually be more harmful, than helpful for the recruitment process.

You do want to highlight your knowledge and ability to effectively do the job, However, rather avoid – or at least limit – the use of overly technical jargon in your CV… unless it is obvious for everyone in that industry.

Also be aware of the fact, that the first person who read/scan your CV, might not have any technical expertise and could be confused by the technical verbiage, and put your CV aside.

Being brief is an essential characteristic for any successful CV. The aim with CV writing is to state all essential information in a clear and succinct manner.

CV’s that are 3 or more pages, are very likely to be passed over, because employers rarely have the time, nor the desire,  to deal with a document of that length and to muddle through a myriad of details.

Tip: Employers and recruiters merely want to determine…

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you do the job? and
  3. Will you fit in with the existing climate?

Thus, compile and structure your targeted CV in such a manner that an “answer” to the above questions are easily observable during the initial scan of your CV.

Failing to proofread*, is a sure recipe for failure!

Even the best CV ever written will be discarded immediately when it contains spelling errors and poor grammar.

It is quite difficult to effectively proofread your own work, have a second pair of eyes review your CV for mistakes, before sending it off to any employer or recruiter.

*Proofreading online tools: Thesaurus & Dictionary

Review Tailor your CV Your CV should address the specific needs and requirements of each position that you apply for.