Make a great first impression with a professional CV and cover letter
Whether you are searching for a new job, a first job or a better job, the reality is that South Africa’s job market is a highly competitive environment with thousands of job seekers competing for opportunities. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to make oneself more marketable for a better chance of landing that dream job.
Lizette Bester, Executive: Agility Corporate, says that in today’s job market it is essential to distinguish oneself from the pack when submitting a job application, as interviews are only granted to a handful of applicants.
Seeking employment opportunities
“When searching for a job, it is best to consider each advert individually. Scrolling down an online list of job advertisements and sending generic applications to a hundred jobs each day is one of the biggest mistakes you can make,” she cautions.
“When surveying job advertisements, the very first thing to consider is whether your skills reasonably meet the requirements of the job in terms of skills, qualifications and experience. While there may be some degree of ‘wriggle room’, do not waste your time, nor that of a prospective employer, by applying for jobs that you are significantly under-qualified for,” she advises.
“You should also consider where the job is based and whether the location would be practical for you, as well as the company’s corporate culture and whether you would be a good fit there.”
Do your research
Bester advises job seekers not to rush their applications once they identify a position that they are interested in. “Take time to research the company, its values, core outputs, as well as the key competencies of the position itself. Do not only refer to the company’s website but check other sources too, such as its social media presence and whether the company has been in the media in the recent past by searching in Google’s ‘news’ tab,” Bester advises.
“Not only will this information assist you in deciding whether you would like to pursue an opportunity with the company, it is also invaluable in informing your job application as it will help you to tailor your offering to the needs and identity of the company.
Crafting your application
“When you are sure that it is the right company and position for you, it is time to begin the application process. The key to a successful application lies in solid research, a well-written and carefully designed curriculum vitae (CV), and crafting a professional, engaging covering letter that highlights your best points and matches the company’s needs.
“Using the insights you obtained during your research, write your cover letter and ensure that you include the ways in which you fit the company profile, note the values you identify with most and briefly describe why you chose that particular company and position,” she advises.
“The golden rule of job applications is that you must be honest about your qualifications and experience. Not only is dishonesty a turnoff for prospective employers, but misrepresenting your education and background can have legal ramifications. While it is important to make a good impression and put forward your achievements, do not be tempted to exaggerate or lie.”
Bester advises job applicants to closely adhere to any instructions laid out in the job advertisement. “Some job adverts may stipulate a two-page CV, and if you were to overlook this requirement and submit a CV that runs over this length your application would likely be rejected. It is also increasingly common for employers or recruiters to request supporting documents, such as education certificates or certified copies of your identity document, to be included with applications,” she notes.
“When drawing up your CV, it is important to present your qualifications, skills and experience in such a way that emphasises similarities with the job requirements. Where possible and practical, try to relate your key attributes to the job description, the company and its ethos. Not only does this help to illustrate your suitability for the position to the employer, but also demonstrates that you have done preparation and given due consideration in your application.
“Often when applying for a job there may be a ‘gap’ between your experience and the job requirements, but you can indicate willingness to learn and enthusiasm for taking on new challenges because showing a positive attitude is appealing to prospective employers,” Bester observes.
“The moment someone lays eyes on your CV, they will decide whether you are a viable candidate for the position or not. Use spell check and ask someone else to read your CV to check it for errors, as a CV that is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors reduces your chances of being offered an interview,” notes Bester.
“In terms of CV design, the layout must be neat and the font and text size must be clean and legible.”
Adding content to a CV can be especially difficult for recent matriculants or graduates who may not have years of work experience to add to the list. “If you are a newcomer to the job market, you might think you have nothing to list as experience, but often this is very far from the truth,” says Bester.
She advises that the following activities can be listed as work experience:
- Volunteer or charity work
- Any extra curricular activities, which may include your participation in the school debating team, academic society, house committee, involvement in a campus radio station or school newspaper, for example.
- Any part-time work, internships, shadowing jobs or freelance work.
Do not forget to list your references and their contact details, which you should double-check because employers tend to get suspicious if your references are not contactable, Bester warns.
“Lastly, and most importantly, make sure that your name and correct contact information, including at least one phone number and an email address that you check frequently, are included on each page of your CV and cover letter. These steps should help to put your application in the best possible light and, hopefully, secure your place in the first round of interviews,” Bester concluded.
For latest South African Government Departments, Municipalities, Parastatals Jobs / Vacancies visit workforgov.co.za