The CV

The purpose of the CV is to secure the interview. You have to capture and hold your audience long enough to do just that. Your CV needs to be strategically developed as a personal marketing tool. Remember that every CV is unique to the person writing it in terms of the content and layout. To support your CV, please ensure that your LinkedIn profile is truthful and up to date. Bear in mind that this is a professional social media tool. 

Here are some hot tips and guidelines, which will help you to secure that all-important interview.


  •  Absolutely no spelling mistakes
  • It must be easy to read and visually appealing


The information must be accurate, genuine and to the point – use bullet points wherever possible to keep your CV concise.


Personal details:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact telephone numbers
  • Cell phone number and e-mail address
  • Nationality
  • Gender
  • Languages spoken
  • Date of birth (optional) and/or ID number

Your future employer will be able to gauge this from your educational dates, ID number as well as work history dates, so why put him under pressure and annoy him – just put in your date of birth.

Educational Qualifications

Tertiary and school – don’t get too detailed about school, especially if you have an extensive work history. Memberships and professional affiliations – only if they are relevant. You should include all dates of qualifications.

Employment History

  • Start with current and work backwards
  • Name of employer and nature of their business
  • Accurate dates
  • Job responsibilities – in bullet points
  • Achievements – be specific
  • Reasons for leaving – in one line

DO NOT LEAVE TIME GAPS – If you have travelled, then say so with accurate dates.

Interests And Achievements

Here is the opportunity to show something of your personality. Only mention achievements that are recent and relevant. That you swam the Midmar Mile in 1986 is a no-no, but that you won the Employee of the Year award in your present position – yes. Include school and tertiary highlights if they are relevant, e.g. head girl, captain of the first rugby team, member of the debating team, junior lecturer while studying, job-relative awards.


Simply state that these are available on request. Make sure your referees are happy to be contacted. These references should be current.

The Interview

The interview is a two way process. As much as the company is investigating you as to your suitability, so will you be investigating the company to see if they are right for you.

Preparing for the interview

  • What you should know about the company before the interview
  • Who owns the company? Private or public?
  • Who are their main competitors?
  • How are they viewed in the market place?
  • Look at their website
  • What services or products has it to offer?
  • What is the current growth of the company and what potential is there for the future?
  • Make sure you know the exact location, the time of your interview, who you are seeing, what their position is within the company and how you pronounce their name

Time spent on research prior to your interview will pay off on the day.

The Interviewer will want to know

  • Can you do the job? Do you meet all the criteria in the job description?
  • Will you do the job? Have you the right attitude and motivation? Is the job realising your career goals?
  • Will you fit into the team? Will it be the right culture match?

You should be asking yourself these very same questions.

DO's during the interview

  • Do introduce yourself clearly. Do give a firm handshake
  • Do be punctual
  • Do dress professionally
  • Do listen to the question carefully before answering
  • Do be prepared to answer basic questions (see section on “Most frequently asked questions”)
  • Do have good posture, body language, and good eye contact (see section on Body Language Do’s and Don’ts)
  • Do have a positive attitude. Show confidence, maintain poise and SMILE
  • Do be assertive
  • Do market yourself. Do show your worth. Do show how your experience would benefit the company

DON'Ts during the interview

  • Do not bad-mouth previous employers
  • Do not arrive unprepared for the interview
  • Do not make excuses for failings
  • Do not give vague responses to questions
  • Do not show too much concern about rapid advancement, yet do show a clearly defined career path
  • Do not express strong prejudices or any personal intolerance
  • Do not show any reservation about the company or position. You can always refuse a second interview after consideration
  • Do not over-emphasise money. Salary discussion is secondary. Your goal is to sell yourself
  • Do not leave your cell phone on during the interview
  • Do not chew gum

Closing the interview

  • Always close the interview on a positive note, even if you did not think that it went that well. The interviewer may have thought otherwise
  • Confirm your strengths and the reason why you will be an asset to the company
  • If you really want the job, ASK FOR IT
  • If the job is offered to you on the spot and you want it, accept it
  • If the job is offered to you and you need to think about it, say so, stating a definite time when you will get back to the employer
  • Show willingness and availability for a second interview
  • Ask at the end of the interview when the employer will be making the hiring decision
  • Thank the interviewer for the interview and end with a firm handshake
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Things don’t always work out the way you hope
  • Laugh – it is the best medicine

Body language DO's and DON'Ts

  • Walk slowly and deliberately when entering the room. Shoulders back. Walk tall
  • Give a firm handshake while maintaining constant eye contact. A firm handshake shows confidence in yourself and your abilities
  • Never appear to be staring, look away from time to time. Never look down
  • Listen
  • Show enthusiasm, be alert. Your attitude should never be viewed as indifferent
  • Give non-verbal feedback by smiling and nodding
  • Control your movements. Do not hurry
  • Do not fidget. Be aware of what you are doing with your hands. Avoid expansive hand gestures
  • Don’t forget to breathe
  • Do not be aggressive or act in a superior, conceited or overbearing way
  • Do speak clearly with good diction and grammar
  • Do no talk too much
  • Do not lose concentration or attention


Questions you can ask at an interview

  • What will my responsibilities be?
  • Why is this position available?
  • How will you assess my performance?
  • How does this position fit into the rest of the company?
  • Who will I report to and who will report into me?
  • Does your company encourage further study?
  • What is your company’s further growth plans?
  • Where will I be based?
  • Will the position entail travel?
  • How soon will you decide on the appointment?
  • What is the next step? Where do we go from here?

Ask questions. A recruiter for a major company says: “I only hire staff who ask questions. I can tell more about the person by the questions they ask than the answers they give.” It is also said that by not asking questions a candidate “shows a peculiar lack of curiosity and comprehension” If you do not ask questions, an interviewer cannot tell if you are interested in the job and that may cost you a job offer. Asking the right questions not only ensures a lively discussion, it makes the interviewer’s job easier. The best reason for asking questions is to get information as you need to make an informed decision should the company make you an offer. Not all questions are created equal and there are some you are better off not asking.

Questions you can expect to be asked

Q) Tell me about yourself (what the interviewer is really saying: "I want to hear you talk")

A) This is the most commonly asked question, so rehearse so that it sounds important. Describe your qualifications, work history and your acquired skills, emphasising the skills required for the position on offer.

Q) What are your strengths? (Straightforward answering is required here, what are you good at and how can you add value to the company?)

A) You will get this question – so be prepared. Strengths to consider – ability to learn quickly, determined to succeed. Positive attitude, ability to relate to other people in achieving a common goal. Be prepared to give examples.

Q) What are your weaknesses? (Your self -awareness and self-perception is being questioned here)

A) This is a standard question. Be prepared. Don’t say: “none.” You can use a professional weakness such as lack of experience (not ability) or turn a weakness into a positive and how you are trying to work at it. Example: “I am reluctant to let go and tend to do everything myself, feeling like nobody can do it as well as me, but I am learning to delegate more readily with excellent results.” Do not use a personal weakness like “I’m basically untidy and need somebody to keep me in check, but I am getting better at it.”

Q) What have been your achievements? (What is being asked here is "Are you an achiever?")

A) Choose a recent achievement and relevant to the job. What skills were used and how it benefited the company. An example, “I wrote and implemented a marketing strategy which increased our market share by 20%. I was awarded a substantial monetary award in recognition of this.”

Q) What do you like about your present job? (The interviewer is really trying to discover that the job on offer will have aspects of what you enjoy.)

A) This is straightforward question. Describe your likes, linking it to the skills required. Don’t go into too much detail. After all – you are leaving.

Q) What do you dislike about your present job? (Does the job on offer have responsibilities that you will dislike and which will make you unsuitable?)

A) Be careful, very careful. Be somewhat vague, as you do not want to expose your weaknesses, thus causing problems. Choose an aspect of your present company such as its size, slow decision-making etc. Your answer must reflect that you are someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job.

Q) What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how have you tackled it? (What is “difficult” for you and are you logical in problem solving?)

A) This could be a trap. To avoid it, choose a difficult work situation that was not caused by you, how you define the problem, the option, why you selected that particular option and the outcome. End on a positive note.

Q) What kind of decision do you find the most difficult to make? (What is being said here is: " I need someone who is strong and decisive and yet has empathy")

A) This should be answered in 2 different ways: “I like to make decisions based on sufficient information and have alternatives” OR “when I have to make decisions quickly, I rely on gut feel and experience.” Your answer must not reflect weakness.

Q) Why do you want to leave? (Your motives are being evaluated and the interviewer is trying to understand your reason for wanting to leave)

A) This requires a straightforward answer. You are looking for a challenge, more responsibility, you need to enhance your experience and you need a change of environment. NEVER give negative reasons for leaving and NEVER state salary as the main motivator.

Other Questions

The above questions are pretty standard so the answers have been expanded upon, but consider these other questions:

  • What do you enjoy about the industry?
  • What kind of people do you enjoy working with?
  • How do you cope when your work has been criticised? Give an example
  • What is the worst situation you have coped with outside of work? Give an example as well as the outcome
  • How do you respond to working under pressure? Can you? Give an example
  • How have you coped when you have felt anger at work? Give an example, but still showing that this did not affect your ability to get on with the job
  • How have you coped when you have to face a conflict of interest at work? This is testing your interpersonal skills, team and leadership skills
  • What kind of people do you find difficult to work with? As you do not know anything about the staff of the company at which you are being interviewed, be careful how you answer this question
  • What are your preferred working conditions, working alone or in group and why?
  • What are you looking for in a company?
  • How do you measure your own performance?
  • What is your favourite advertisement and why? (For ad agency candidates only)
  • What is your least favourite and why? (For ad agency candidates only)
  • These WILL be asked, so be prepared
  • Why should we hire you? Explain how you can add value to the company