Finding the right fit
If you want to land your dream job after graduation, you will need to stand out as the best applicant among many others. Statistics South Africa’s most recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey showed that the country’s unemployment rate hit a record high. This means that South Africa’s already fiercely competitive job market is now even tougher.
There’s no need to let this discourage you though. The University of Johannesburg has a dedicated department to provide students with a range of support services and recruitment programmes to help them find employment.
Graduating and completing your qualification is just the beginning. In this article, we will show you how to write an intelligent CV and a compelling cover letter to give you the best possible chance of being selected.
Your cover letter for your CV is the first thing that the recruiter will take a look at. You must write a unique cover letter for each job application that you make, including a reference to that particular company. This is where you can explain why you would like to work for that company and why you would be a perfect fit for the job you are applying for.
UJ’s Career Services have a useful PDF you can refer to: writing a cover letter for CV. They provide the following advice:
It is a document that provides additional information on your skills and experiences and should accompany your CV when you apply for positions. The cover letter formally introduces you to the recruiter or prospective employers to convince them to look at your CV. It’s main purpose is to show that you are the best candidate for the job.
- The cover letter should be written in an attractive, short and to the point manner.
- In the cover letter you must show that you pay attention to detail.
- The cover letter should send a message of professionalism.
- Demonstrates your writing skills and other skills and experiences.
- The cover letter should complement your CV, not duplicate it.
- Your cover letter should not exceed 1 page, focus on creating 4 short paragraphs.
- Use professional language.
- Check for spelling or grammatical errors.
To see good examples of cover letters, have a look at the samples in the following guides:
- Recruitment Guide 2020/21 (cover letter example on page 29)
- Recruitment Guide 2019/20 (cover letter example on page 16)
- Recruitment Guide 2018/19 (cover letter example on page 21)
Your CV is where you have the opportunity to showcase all of your skills and experience and to show prospective employers what you have to offer them. Think of it as a printed advert for yourself, which should show off all your best features and convince the recruiter to select you over other candidates.
CVs are used by recruiters and companies primarily as a screening tool to eliminate those applicants who do not match the requirements for the position. Based on the quality of the cover letters and CVs received, the recruiters will draw up a shortlist of the best candidates to interview.
The purpose of your CV along with your cover letter is to secure you an interview. Although it does sometimes happen, it is unlikely that you will be employed directly off of your CV and cover letter without at least one follow up interview.
If you do an online search for CV templates, You will likely find a lot of very flashy and graphic laden examples. Even though they may look attractive and impressive it would be best to avoid using these as they did not comply with the expected South African CV format. It’s better to stick to a simple CV format, free of images, graphics and elaborate borders.
UJ’s Career Services have a useful PDF you can refer to that goes into detail on how to format an intelligent CV and what should and should not be included: CV writing
This is what you should have in your CV:
- Career and personal objectives
- Personal details
- Education details
- Work history
- Achievements, skills and competencies
- Professional societies (if any) and references
Here are some of the main guidelines from Career Services that you can use as a checklist to ensure your CV is correctly formatted and portrays you in the best light:
- Is your CV complete? Does it have missing sections? Have you missed out on anything significant from any of the sections?
- Does your CV convey information in a way that is quick and easy to absorb?
- Is your CV reader friendly? Stay away from obscure abbreviations.
- Ensure that there are no spelling and grammatical errors.
- Make sure that your CV is consistent and concise.
- Make sure that your CV is perfectly aligned.
- Use one font, you may vary font sizes to display different sections of your CV.
- Do NOT use italics.
- Line spacing can be 1.5.
- The page margins must be the same all around.
- Use bullet points and stick to it throughout.
- Avoid repetition of information as far as possible.
- List activities in the reverse chronological order (Place most recent first).
- The layout and order of your CV must be logical and professional.
- Include a Header and Footer on each page.
- Your CV needs to be professional & neat.
- No photos / images / page borders / cover page.
- Focus on keeping your CV between 2 – 4 pages.
To see good CV examples for first job applications, please take a look at the full-length examples that are included in the following graduate recruitment guides:
- Recruitment Guide 2020/21 (CV example on page 34)
- Recruitment Guide 2019/20 (CV example on page 21)
- Recruitment Guide 2018/19 (CV example on page 22)
The next steps
As mentioned, your CV is used to secure you an interview, so it is useful to know what to expect and how to handle that crucial next step. Career Services has put together the following PDF’s with some helpful guides to further help you in your job search
Another good way to improve your chances of getting a job and to bolster your CV and cover letter is to do an internship. This way you can get relevant work experience in your field before you even graduate. As well as giving you that experience, it also shows prospective employers that you are serious about your career and have shown initiative.
Have a look at PsyCaD’s Internship Programme.
UJ’s Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD) offers many valuable services to students. UJCareerWiz.co.za is the new careers partner portal where you can take advantage of the following free services offered:
- Career assessment to assist students in their study and career decision making. Feedback discussions are conducted by professionals experienced in career development.
- Career counselling focuses on guidance and facilitation in decision making regarding study and career choice. This is often used in combination with career assessment to facilitate a holistic intervention.
- Career consulting provides students with practical skills for becoming a part of the working world, such as CV writing, job hunting, how to prepare for job interviews and much more.
- Workplace-readiness workshops to equip students with skills for writing CVs and cover letters, interview skills, job searching skills, personal branding tools and much, much more.
- Career resource centres where students may access a variety of printed and electronic career and company information resources.
- A graduate recruitment programme that is well supported by a variety of top national and international companies.
You can go here to sign up: UJ CareerWiz student registration
You can also look at this PsyCaD – Career Services page for more detail and links to their latest services and publications.