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Excerpted from the South Africa Career Guide

Cover letters are an essential part of an application process. A job application in South Africa is almost always accompanied by a cover letter, which should be written in British English. Its purpose is threefold: first, it informs the employer of the job for which you are applying; second, it offers evidence of a match between you and the position; and third, it provides proof of a fit between you and the company or organization. When compiling a cover letter, you should bear in mind that the potential relationship between you and the employer is a two-way process. For this reason, your letter should explain what both you and the employer have to gain from the relationship. Be sure to keep the letter brief and to the point.

Sending the cover letter and résumé by fax or email is becoming the norm. The cover letter should be in the body of the email and not sent as an attachment. It should be formatted as a business letter with a subject heading, introduction, body and conclusion. There also should be a descriptive heading in the subject line of the email. If a hard copy is sent, the paper should not be colorful or decorated – print your letter on A4 white paper.

Résumé / CV Guidelines and Samples

In South Africa, a résumé is known as a Curriculum Vitae or CV. As is true all over the world, a well-written CV is critical in creating the image presented to prospective employers. A CV is a documented record of a jobseeker’s skills, education, employment and service. An applicant gets one chance to make a first impression, so it is important to ensure that it is a good one. If a CV is to stand out, it must be professionally presented and free of errors.

General Guidelines

In South Africa, a CV should be written in British English. It should be brief and to the point; excessive length means less chance of a fair reading. Applicants should strive to be clear and concise, and avoid trivial or irrelevant information.

The CV should be constructed in a readable format. Jobseekers should leave white space and use a font size of at least ten points. This helps the reviewer scan the CV efficiently and effectively. Remember, a CV is a business document, not a work of art. Decorative fonts and fancy lines or borders should be avoided. Bullet points with short sentences are preferred over lengthy paragraphs. Strong points should be listed first, where they are most noticeable.

You'll find more advice and cover letter and resume samples in the complete South Africa Guide.

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