Spotlight: Set up your employment negotiations by compiling an effective CV/Resume

by Professor Manie Spoelstra

Learn how to make your employment resume/cv stand out by knowing how to use the most relevant qualifications and experience that applies to the job or position.

Can a C.V./Resume make a difference?

The answer to this is always of course; "it depends". Your C.V. (Curriculum Vitae, Resume or Personal Details) won't make it to the top of the pile if you have created a record of the wrong things

When many applications are received, the human relations specialist will normally scan the C.V.'s quicklyand will react to the smallest positive or negative salient point in your C.V!

So, do it right and make the impressive and applicable things stand out!

Let's start by stating a few things you should not do:

  1. Do not write a C.V. by hand or in a difficult-to-read font with too much information jammed into too small a space.
  2. Study the advertisement! Do not apply for something you are not qualified or able to do.


  3. Don't list experience that makes it obvious that you never worked for any organisation for more than six months during the last 10 years
  4. Don't say: "Unemployed"
  5. Don't say: "Retrenched due to personality clash with my boss"
  6. Don't say: "Any salary"
  7. Don't state your main reference as: "Pastor Pete Starbull, Church of the Golden Moon, mobile: 065 788 6777 - as a matter of fact, don't state any reference at all. State that references can be supplied upon request. That allows you the opportunity to ask them what kind of reference they would like to see.
  8. When applying for chief buyer, don't state your education as: Certificate in Fly Fishing, Certificate in Jazz Music, Passed the Senior Diploma in Horse Breeding - keep information relevant at all times.
  9. Don't state hobbies that could evoke strong negative sentiments or imply lack of work focus, such as: "Represented the county in golf(handicap 2) on three overseas trips in 2003; Earned 9 silver medals in rare game hunting, Chairman of the 'Legalise Marijuana' campaign"

What you SHOULD do

The Basics

Compile a special C.V. for each position you apply for and make it look conventional. Recruters prefer this throughout the world. Most recruiters are conventional people, and they have a clear idea of what they expect to see when they read a C.V.

Reading a C.V. is a bit like walking into a restaurant - we know what to expect. In a restaurant, we know that there will be tables and a menu, that we will be asked for our order, and that we will have to pay for the food. We might even be expected to leave a tip. Receiving an unusual C.V. would be like walking into the restaurant and seeing no tables or serving staff. We might just walk out!

Always include your:

  • Full name
  • Home address
  • Telephone number
  • Mobile number
  • Fax number
  • Email address

(You must put your name, address and telephone number on the first page of your C.V.).


Have a look at the ideal candidate required from the job ad. What qualifications is our potential employer looking for? These qualifications are the ones to focus on.

Do not bore the reader by listing every qualification you've obtained - keep it to the relevant and impressive information.

Some qualifications, like a university degree, are regarded as relevant information in most circumstances. Other qualifications, such as a first aid course, may be seen as useful for some jobs, but would look odd being listed for others.

Your age will also help you decide what to include and what to leave out. For people in their first five years of work, education is very important and should be listed in reasonable detail. After those first five years, be a bit more selective about what you use. Some qualifications become outdated quickly, so claiming to be a computer expert on the basis of a computing degree obtained 15 years ago will not look very convincing. In this case, evidence of recent work in the field will count for a lot more.

Be clear, concise and always refer back to the job ad to ensure you're remaining relevant.

The order in which you list qualifications is normally:

  • Highest postgraduate qualification
  • Highest undergraduate qualification
  • Secondary school qualifications

This point may not apply to many people at all, but should you have a PHD, bear in mind that the title of PHDs can often appear to be so obscure or trivially narrow as to detract from a great achievement. If you have a very specialised title that is not going to be directly relevant to the job applied for, then stick to the subject discipline name (such as Chemistry, Physics, English, or Psychology).

If you have a degree, most employers will credit you with a certain amount of intelligence. What might be useful is to list a few subjects you covered at secondary school, to give an indication of your versatility. For instance, if you have an arts degree, it is probably worth listing "mathematics, chemistry, statistics" or other numerate subjects studied at secondary school, as this gives an indication of rounded abilities. The opposite applies for science graduates, who might list English and History if applicable.

If there is any special thesis topic or aspect of your studies that is particularly relevant to the job, then mention it here.

With all qualifications, do not assume that the reader will understand what they are. For instance, what do the following mean?

  • SNVQ

Do not assume anyone else will understand your qualifications - if in doubt explain what they mean.

When applying for a job in another country, don't assume employers will understand what your qualifications mean. Explain your grades in the employer's local system. in rare game hunting, Chairman of the 'Legalise Marijuana' campaign"

Your work history

Your work history is the most "wordy" part of the C.V. This is where you have the most scope to influence the reader through your writing style, the words you use, and the way you describe yourself.

Generally list your most recent job first, and then move onto the previous one and so on. If you have a long work history with many different jobs, then we would recommend you restrict listing full details of the positions held in the past ten years. If there are some earlier jobs that are particularly relevant to the application then these should be included.

For each job you should list:

  • Dates (in years) of employment
  • Job title
  • Employer's name and city location if appropriate
  • Your responsibilities (keep it brief)
  • Your achievements in the job

Tailor the C.V. to suit the requirements of the ad and always include achievements (not just duties), because this is what will sell you.

The last point on this list is possibly one of the most important. Just providing a job description is not enough. If many applicants have similar backgrounds then the recruiter will be bored to tears and may not even read your C.V. What makes you different, more employable, are all of your achievements

Tip: Turn your responsibilities into achievements!

For example: Rather indicate that the major responsibilities in this role included:

  • Overall accountability for the product, merchandising and promotions for the 100 stores Europe-wide
  • Financial control of the sales budget
  • Managing the team of 12 buying and merchandising staff


At the top of the first page of your C.V., put your full name. It should be in bold type, at a size of 20 points, centered. Leave plenty of white space below this heading.

  • Education details should come next, followed by
  • Professional associations
  • Work history and
  • References


Headings have to be consistent in appearance. They must all be the same font and size.

You must leave plenty of white space on your C.V. If you put too much writing on a page, your C.V. will be hard to read and look cluttered.


Use the same font throughout. Bullet points are quick and easy to read, and look attractive on a page, as long as there are not too many of them. If you are going to use bullet points, make sure they make sense.

Other important layout and presentation issues

  • You should not use underline headings as it tends to look messy
  • Do not use both sides of the paper.
  • Have your C.V. laser-printed.
  • Do not use colour in your C.V.
  • Do not put clip-art, cartoons or other illustrations on your C.V.
  • Use high-quality white paper
  • Do not fold your C.V.

Good 'selling' words

  • Presented, Attracted
  • Persuaded, Transformed
  • Supervised, Accredited
  • Managed, Illustrated
  • Implemented, Compiled
  • Finalized, Development
  • Engineered, Established
  • Expanded, Demonstrated

Words that can boost the power even more include

  • Competently, Effectively
  • Assertively, Enthusiastically
  • Cooperatively, Enthusiastically
  • Selectively, Decisively
  • Consistently, Creatively
  • Flexibly, Innovatively

Words with negative connotations should be avoided if possible. they include

  • Avoided, Failed, Dismissed,
  • Withdrew, Abandoned, Relinquished,
  • Conflicted, Argued, Struggled

The Covering Letter

All C.V.s should be accompanied by a covering letter. Covering letters should be taken seriously. Your letter should include the following information:

  • Your (typed) name, address and phone number
  • The name of the person to whom you are writing
  • Their job title
  • Their address
  • The initial greeting
  • The job you are applying for
  • Reference number
  • Where you saw the post advertised
  • Catchy statements e.g. ( I have over five years experience as a machinist with Peters and Stone, and have experience of a wide variety of pattern techniques.)
  • A couple of sentences about why you chose this employer
  • A polite request for a reply
  • Your signature and your name typed below it

What do recruiters like most in C.V.'s?

  • Relevant experience
  • Layout
  • Qualifications

What do recruiters dislike in a C.V?

  • Very little experience
  • Previous employment history is not exactly mix with the role being applied for.
  • Academic, little experience. Lacks ambition and enthusiasm, no continuity of employment.
  • Layout of C.V. a little difficult to read.
  • Mainly research experience
  • Poor layout

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