Job applications

How to apply for a job in South Africa

Job applications

In South Africa, there are two different kinds of Curriculum Vitae: the Brief Profile and the Comprehensive CV, who are sent in different stages. It is also required to send a cover letter along with your CV.

When applying for a job in South Africa, you should first send a “Brief Profile” (a short summary of the “Comprehensive CV”), and if you are applying speculatively, you must also send a cover up letter. Most applications are sent by email. It is common to follow up your application with a phone call.

Brief Profile

The “Brief Profile” you send when applying for a job in South Africa is a one page CV. It must have your personal information, your education, and a chronological list of all your previous jobs. You should emphasise your most relevant position, and mention that your “Comprehensive CV” is available. You must add a cover letter if applying speculatively, and follow up the application with a phone call.

Comprehensive CV

The “Comprehensive CV or Resume” must have every detail of your education and employment history. It must include your complete contact information: first name, address, phone number, etc.

The Education section of your Curriculum Vitae includes a list of schools, dates you attended them, their locations, major studies, diplomas, and degrees. You can also add a brief list of extracurricular activities, awards, honours, trainings, and courses.

The following part is an “Employment History”, a chronological, reverse-chronological, or functional list of your jobs. You must provide dates of employments, employers' names, location, specialization of the business, titles, responsibilities, achievements, and reasons for leaving. Use action verbs and power words, emphasize on your experience and skills, and what you can bring to the company.

In the final section, you can list your volunteer experience, professional affiliations, and hobbies. You must include personal information (marital status, date of birth, nationality, languages) here. Also include references and their contact information.

There is not a prescribed length, but the comprehensive Curriculum should not be longer than 5 pages (2 or 3 are preferable). A cover letter must go with it (if you did not send it along with your Brief Profile before).

Cover letter

The cover letter must be sent along with your Brief Profile when applying speculatively to a position. If you are answering a job offer advert it is not obligatory, but you must send it along with your Comprehensive CV. Every cover letter must be personalised.

The cover letter must begin with your name, nationality, and contact information (address, telephone number, email, etc.). Write three or four paragraphs (cover letters must never exceed one page), be concise and write in a professional style. As in the Comprehensive CV, use action verbs and power words, emphasising on your experience and what you can bring to the company (and South Africa). Close the cover letter expressing your willingness to explain everything in a personal interview. Indicate you will follow up in the next days. Do not include copies of your diplomas.

Some companies will ask you to fill in application forms instead of sending a cover letter. Pay attention to what you write, and try not to leave blank spaces on them.

The job interview

Before the job interview, research information about the company. This is essential if you want to make a good impression: you will show knowledge of the company and you will be able to take initiative and ask questions yourself.

The interview can be over the phone or in person. Personal interviews can be in your country if you are applying for a position in an international company, or in South Africa. In this case, the company should pay the travel expenses.

Follow the company's dress code. If you are in doubt, you can call them and ask for special requirements. Always dress conservatively, and check if your hair is combed before entering the building.

Do not carry coffee, water, or food with you; do not chew gum. Only carry a folder with your CV and documents you might need to present to the interviewer.

Be punctual and remember to call your interviewer Miss, Mr or Mrs., unless they invite you to use their first names. Avoid physical proximity, pointing, or talking with your hands in your pockets. Listen carefully to the questions and try to sound confident and clear in your answers. Be prepared to discuss your weaknesses and strengths, and your accomplishments.

Always follow up the interview with a thank you letter, it will show your interest in the position.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: