Finding a new 9-5-er

The Importance Of A Good CV & Portfolio

And a few top tips on how to construct them

So you’ve sent your CV out to every “We’re hiring” post you’ve seen on Linkedin, but you haven’t even had so much as a thanks-but-no-thanks in response. We hate to break it to you, but there’s a good chance your CV is either lacking the right content and information, or the design is blander than white rice on a paper plate. Or, horror of horrors, both.

Here's the thing: recruiters and hiring managers see a lot of CVs. A lot. Think about how many faces you breeze by in the average Tinder swiping session. It's like that.

And, much like you on Tinder, recruiters are looking for something that catches their eye. It’s all well and good having the right skills and qualifications for the job, but if your CV looks exactly the same as every other applicant’s, those skills are almost definitely going to go unnoticed.

Though it might not be the most exciting exercise in the world, it’s worth spending the time and effort to get your CV as polished and perfect as you possibly can. After all, it’s only the single most important catalyst to you finding that dream job or client. And it’s equally necessary for full-time and freelance jobs, so if you’re thinking this might not apply to you, think again.

A GOOD CV

  1. The length

Of course, a good CV is not just down to the design. There needs to be the right amount of punchy, impactful content to grab the attention of the reader - too little and you run the risk of underexplaining yourself and your achievements, too much and you’ll simply put them off. A great CV can often be only a single page long, and should never be more than two. You might be proud of every one of your accomplishments and accolades, but you’re not Ernest Hemingway and this isn’t a novel.

  1. What to include

As a non-negotiable, your CV needs to include five things:

  • Your name (duh) and all relevant contact information
  • A personal statement - try keep this to one paragraph of three or four well-written sentences
  • Your work experience
  • Your education - only tertiary education preferably. Though your schooling is important, the particular school, not so much
  • And your highly specialised and much sought after skills

Remember to list your work experience and education from most recent to oldest. Potential employers are more interested in what you’ve been doing recently, less so which computerless company kept you busy twenty-odd years ago.

These aren’t the only things you can include on your CV, mind you. You can also list things like awards, volunteer work, other languages you may speak, or your hobbies and interests. But be careful with this last one. A list of hobbies like “movies, sports, and klapping a braai” do nothing for a recruiter. Instead, phrase your hobbies in a way that can create conversation, like “playing club cricket, socialising and meeting new people, and I am a huge fan of the masterful storytelling of Quentin Tarantino”.

  1. The design

Don’t let the importance of the design scare you. There are virtually a million ways to get this right, as all you’re aiming for is visual appeal. Google provides a few simple yet effective free templates, and there are a number of sites that offer thousands of design options for, given the importance of the document, a very affordable fee.

Take your time and either choose a template that appeals to you or design your own. You don’t have to be a qualified designer to put something striking together, but if you’re at all unsure of your abilities here, rather opt for a template. The worst thing a CV can be is boring to read, so make sure yours isn’t.

  1. The little extras that go a long way

Over and above the CV itself, there are a couple of things you can do when applying for a job that’ll make the recruiter like you before they’ve even met you.

Sending your CV as a PDF is one of those things. As is putting something in the body copy of your email, such as your cover letter or simply a brief to-whom-it-may-concern one-liner.

Oh! And spell check. While you’re at it, adjust all of those easy-to-miss American English words (optimization, personalization) to English English. Use the S, not the Z. Once you’ve done that, spell check again.

You don’t spell check for the recruiter, you do it for you. It is, without question, the littlest extra that goes the longest way. A typo in a CV is like a rhino in a petting zoo, in that it’s immediately noticeable and has the potential to ruin everything.

  1. A good cover letter

A CV-adjacent bonus tip: don’t forget about your cover letter. Where your CV is a static document, your cover letter can - and should - be personalised for each company to which you apply. Again, you needn’t include too much, just what you like about said company and why you think your skills would be a good match for the role

And a bonus bonus tip: most CV templates have corresponding cover letter templates. This will give your CV and cover letter combo that ultra-sophisticated touch, leaving you to sit back, relax, and wait for that interview call.

A GOOD PORTFOLIO

For creatives like designers, copywriters and art directors, a portfolio is a necessary accompaniment to a CV.

If your CV is you in formal wear, then your portfolio should be you in whatever you feel most comfortable. Maybe that’s still formal wear (we get it, a great fitting suit is a wonderful thing), but maybe it's sweatpants and slippers and your hair in a messy bun. Point is, while your CV should be slick, clean and professionally punchy, your portfolio should be an accurate representation of you and your personality - while still being slick, clean and professionally punchy.

Because a big element of a good portfolio is its ease of interaction (and because it’s 2020, not 1990), an online version - such as Behance or your own personal site - trumps an offline, attached portfolio. No recruiter wants to work their way through a 20 page PDF, and it’s worth remembering that the download success at the mercy of their internet speed.

  1. The content

Although what you choose to put in your portfolio is entirely up to you, as you’ll know what represents your skills and abilities best, remember to tailor it to employers and recruiters. If you’re a copywriter, for example, don’t add those visually breathtaking pieces if they only include one or two words. You’re trying to impress with your abilities, not impress in general.

Similarly, showcase a range of different work executions if possible. Versatility is a valuable skill, and this will help prove your talented bad-assery across the board.

Lastly, consider your number of porti pieces. Anything less than eight is probably a little thin, and if you have more than twenty-five pieces listed you’re just showing off. Aim for the wide target in between these two numbers

  1. The design

This is also very much open to personal interpretation, with one important external consideration: the UX design. UX (or user experience, if you’re not BFFs with acronyms) is the look and feel of something.

In this case, you want to make sure that someone can peruse your portfolio without the need for any explanation or aid. The layout should be clear and intuitive, and any rationales should accurately explain both the problem and the solve.

LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT JOB?

We can help with that. At Fundi, we put the right people with the right skills in the right roles.

Don’t look everywhere for your dream job. Let it find you. For career advice and opportunities, chat to us now.

Latest Articles

View All
How To Manage Your Money As A Freelancer

How To Manage Your Money As A Freelancer

Top tips for managing your money as a freelancer.

August 15, 2022
Finding Your Rate In The South African Market

Finding Your Rate In The South African Market

Deciding on your freelance price tag by guest writer, Matthew Leighton

August 15, 2022
The 101 On Good Client Relationships

The 101 On Good Client Relationships

The fundamentals of being a top-notch, hire-worthy professional

August 15, 2022