Sell yourself through your CV

There’s a whole publishing industry dedicated to writing resumes, on the Net and in print. Even a short surf will reveal many sites. Some of them say the same old thing.

For sure, there is only so much you can do with your resume at the end of the day. However, you can certainly make it look better than just ok. Creating an outstanding resume isn’t difficult, but it does require some careful thought. It requires analysis of your strengths, some organization and definitely some creativity.

First things first, though. Below we highlight some key points to help you understand what goes into a resume and how it should look.


It’s not to get you the job

Remember this: the resume is not supposed to get you the job; it’s only to get you the face-to-face interview. Experienced recruiters – when they see a resume for the first time – will scan it in less than one minute UNLESS something in it makes them want to read further.

So, here are some pointers that highlight skills (compiled from our own experience as well conversations with CEOs, MDs and HR Directors – to help make your resume stand out. Take note that these skills go beyond the academic qualification.


Highlight key skills

Most employers look for evidence of leadership, teamwork, commitment, innovation and communication skills. They also want a positive attitude, and someone who shows they are willing to learn and not disdainful of doing menial tasks.


Use action verbs

These are action words like initiated, implemented, planned, managed, organised, analysed, participated, performed, assisted and prepared. They are very effective. Avoid saying you were ‘involved’ in something as it is a vague word and suggests you did not play a significant role in the activity – and therefore did not learn much from the experience.


Get the language right

All the enthusiasm in the world won’t help, if you letter is full of spelling mistakes and bad grammar. Unfortunately, an astonishing number of resume’s received by the private sector today are full of them. If you are not confident about your English, get someone to help you. Even if at the interview, the interviewer notices your lack of fluency in English, he/she will be impressed that you took the effort to ensure your written resume was impeccable. It reveals that you are willing to ask for help and want to improve, two great attitudes to have!


Listing extra-curricular activities

Extra-curricular activities are an important reflection of how well-rounded a person you are. This shows that you have interests beyond just studying. Extra-curricular activities are excellent to show teamwork, leadership, competitiveness and communication skills – which are valued by employers. Extra-curricular activities would include any activity outside of university/college hours. (‘Lepak’, however, is not such an activity!”).


Highlighting achievements

If you won 1st place in a Talent Competition, or were Captain of the Football Team, these should definitely go on your resume under the heading Achievements. Even if you weren’t in a leadership position, but were on winning team, that’s important information. Also, if you didn’t win a talent competition, your participation shows initiative and courage and a fun personality. Do not underestimate the value a prospective employer sees in such activities.


Use numbers to your advantage

Numbers are powerful and here are some examples you can use:

  • Recruited 20 volunteers to help in the Annual Inter-Varsity Ball
  • Managed 5 committees to plan for the National Debate Competition
  • Interviewed 10 companies to write a 3,000-word article on the impact of the SARS epidemic on tourism for the college magazine
  • Presented the weekly 30-minute campus radio call-in show that has an audience of 1,000 students.