A CV in 2020 and onwards

What is your brand? What sets you apart from other candidates when applying for a job? These aren’t questions that should be taken lightly, take some reflective time to find the answers. Crafting the perfect CV is an art. In this article, we’ll explain how to create an outstanding, optimised CV that will grab the eye of HR departments and/or prospective employers. In addition, we’ll discuss how to customise it according to your industry.

Step one – Create a standout summary

This section needs to set out what you have to offer the company. Ensure that you include your qualifications, results that you’ve achieved and personality traits. The summary should also communicate value proposition(s): these are the solutions to problems that you can solve based on your skillset.

Four elements should be included.
    • Title: The name of the job role for which you are applying
    • Tagline: Your three most prominent skills. They should match the required criteria stipulated in the job role document.
    • Informative paragraph: It should explain what you do and how your skills can fix and/or provide solutions for company issues.
    • Core competencies: This ought to be written as keywords and/or key phrases of your specialities. NB: For optimisation purposes, they should (as much as possible) correspond to keywords and/or key phrases used on the job vacancy post. We’ll discuss the significance of CV optimisation later in the article.

Essentially, it should serve as a teaser: a snapshot of your personality as well as talents. It should captivate the reader by highlighting certain aptitudes which will be substantiated by evidence that proceeds the summary. 


Step two – Job Descriptions

In this section, you’ll list your two to three previous jobs. List the company name and job title you fulfilled, as well as two sentences that describe your primary responsibilities. You can also list the objectives of the company. Once again, ensure that you’ve used appropriate keywords and/or key phrases.


Step three – Achievements

Under each of the job roles you mentioned above, list your achievements in bullet point form. It’s best to construct these bullet points in a way that clearly explains the action, the task and the result. For example,

‘Organically increased the company’s page ranking for targeted keywords by 30% on Google SERP in 2019 by uploading well-written, valuable and optimised copy.’ Prospective employers will always be impressed by the addition of quantifiable results, so it’s in your best interests to use any relevant supporting data.


Step four – Optimised for ATS

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. It’s a programme that companies send your CV through to see if you’re a match for the position. It identifies keywords and phrases from the job posting. Therefore, your CV needs to be optimised. At this point, re-read the job posting, looking specifically at the words they use – transfer these exact words into your CV.


Step five – Format for optimal visibility

Images and other graphics may ‘sugar-coat’ your CV visually, but unfortunately, it won’t get your CV through an ATS. It’s advised that you remove any unnecessary fluff and focus on the required data to pique the interest of the employer or the company’s HR department.

Please remember that hundreds of CVs are submitted for job applications, so if you really want yours to pop, spend time creating a ‘Mona Lisa-like piece of art’ that wows employers.

It’s also advised that you do some research on Eye Track Studies when compiling your CV. In a nutshell, the studies show that a reader usually scans a document in an ‘F-shape. Therefore, the essential information should be placed on the left-hand side, as well as the top and middle part of the CV – don’t cram pertinent details in the lower right-hand side area of the page(s). Look at examples of Eye Tracking Heat Maps to gain a better understanding.

In the next section, we’re going to examine the vital information that is needed to land a job in one of the following industries. All of these will follow the steps mentioned above but will be adapted where necessary.

    • Medical doctor
    • Law
    • Accountant and Finance
    • Nursing


Medical Doctor

Whether you’re applying for a physician’s or research job role, your qualifications and experience are the most important aspect of your CV. Unlike other jobs, specific skills are prerequisites and cannot be ‘learned on the job’. Here is the precise information that should be added.

Important information
  1. In South Africa, to qualify as a medical doctor you need to complete a five-year bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery at one of the following universities:
    • Stellenbosch University
    • University of Cape Town
    • University of the Free State
    • University of KZN
    • University of Pretoria
    • University of the Witwatersrand
    • Walter Sisulu University

2. Work two years as a Clinical Intern

3. Awarded a designation by the HPCSA.

4. Complete one-year of compulsory community service

The ideal length for a physician CV varies depending on the individual, and the type of job position being offered. In most cases, residents’ CVs should be condensed in three or fewer pages.


Crafting a CV for a law position is similar to that of a medical doctor in the sense that certain qualifications are mandatory. Therefore, your qualifications and skills should be the most prominent features. Ensure that your education is written clearly and easily accessible to the employer.

Important information

A law CV is best written in the third person. Don’t use personal pronouns such as ‘I’ or ‘me.’ Attorneys are required to register at the relative provincial law society where they practice in terms of the Attorneys Act, 1979.

Ensure you focus on steps two and three: job descriptions and achievements. As mentioned earlier, list the company name and job title you fulfilled, as well as two sentences that describe your primary responsibilities. List your accomplishments in bullet point form. Arrange these bullet points in a way that clearly explain the action, the task and the result.


Finance and Accounting

If you’re applying for a position in the finance or accounting world, the demonstration of your value proposition and the skills you bring to the table are golden. You should also have gathered relevant quantifiable results that have made a positive impact in the industry to hook an employer instantly.

Important information

When working through steps one to four, the core thread that joins everything together is the demonstration of the value that you can bring to a company. You should always backup your claims with impressive figures. By adding key achievements in the form of facts and figures, you can prove the effect that you made in your former job roles. This shows employers that you can add value to their company.

Emphasise your qualifications because requirements may differ depending on the position. For example, according to the South African Institute for Professional Accountants, “you need to have completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree, or equivalent, have a three-year learnership at a SAIPA Accredited Training Centre (ATC); or six years of verifiable experience; or a completed training programme from another accredited professional accounting body.” Also, you must complete a Professional Evaluation exam.

The basic requirements for a financial professional such as an independent financial adviser include but are not limited to

  1. Matric Certificate
  2. A qualification with 120 credits in any of the below fields will be accepted in the industry: 
    • Accountancy
    • Business management
    • Business finance
    • Cost and management accountancy
    • Economics
    • Financial management
    • Investment management and management accountancy
  1. Completion of RE5 (Regulatory Examination for Representatives)
Optional qualifications include
  1. NQF5 in Wealth Management.
  2. A postgraduate degree to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). 

Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Advisers are also required to pass several other legislated exams, such as the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA)  as well as regulatory Exams and ensure that they are compliant with the Financial Advisory and Intermediary (FAIS) Act.



Like medicine, theoretical and practical experience is essential and must meet the requirements listed on the job posting. You should also include your clinical skills, competencies, interpersonal skills, training courses and activities as well as noteworthy achievements.

Important information

According to the University of Cape Town, 

    • All nurses in South Africa need to be registered with the South African Nursing Council (SANC).
    • Good Clinical Practice (GPC) is advantageous
    • Diploma or degree in General Nursing (NQF7)
    • Post-qualification experience in a hospital or clinic nursing care
    • Fluency in English and isiXhosa or Afrikaans
    • Current South African work permit (if non-South African)

By following these steps, you’ll have a complete, optimised CV that will attract the attention of recruiters. Good luck!