An impressive curriculum vitae (CV) or resumé is a must for anyone applying for a job in today’s conditions of economic uncertainty and intense competition.

However, many jobseekers mistakenly believe that a good CV or resumé itself is sufficient to land them their desired job.

As a result, they are likely to spend more time and effort in crafting their job application than on preparing for the job interview.

The end result is usually a tedious document that tends to reflect the jobseekers’ desperation rather than their suitability for the job.  

Searching for a job is actually a two-stage process. The first stage is crafting a good job application to garner an interview. The second stage involves putting effort to perform well at the interview to get the job offer.

Numerous resumé templates are readily available on the Internet. However, there are basically only four formats.

Jobseekers therefore need to carefully use an appropriate format that matches the expectations of the employer and the profile of the position they are applying for.

Which format is appropriate depends largely on the educational qualifications, competencies, experience and accomplishments of the jobseeker.

Choose from four formats

* Education-centred: This format is generally suitable for new entrants with little or no work experience. The primary focus is on educational qualifications, academic achievements and key skills. Skills can include internships, volunteer work and other campus experiences relevant to the applied position. Any employment history is briefly summarised or avoided.

* Experience-centred: This is an appropriate format for people with many years of working experience but who lack educational qualifications and training. As experience is the major focus, facts on the person’s employment history are listed in reverse chronological order, that is, starting with the latest job role.

* Expertise-centred: This format is only suitable for professionally qualified individuals with specialist qualifications, extensive training, experience and achievements in a specific field or industry. Prominence is given in the document to work experience supported by summaries of key competency areas, expertise and career accomplishments.

* Integrated: This is appropriate for young graduates with the necessary educational qualifications and a few years of relevant working experience. The emphasis is on the candidate’s educational level and skills — and hence, his potential to achieve — while his employment history and relevant experience underscore his suitability for the position.

Four important elements

No matter which format is used, fundamentally four elements are important in making a job application impressive:

* Suitable length: A resumé is essentially a summary of what is covered in slightly more detail in a CV. Generally, a resumé is about two pages long and a CV about five pages. Employers usually evaluate and judge a job application within five minutes when there are many applicants. Within this time frame, the document should be able to attract the employer’s attention to salient information about the applicant.

* Professional image: The first impression of the jobseeker comes from his job application. As such it should be neat, consistently well organised and readable. Sentences should be short and clear with consistency in headings and fonts. Long paragraphs, slang, jargon, inappropriate e-mail addresses and unsuitable photographs that do not project a professional image should all be avoided.

* Relevant content: The CV or resumé has to be clearly structured to help the potential employer find important information easily. Generally, strengths should be highlighted and weaknesses given less emphasis. Avoid sending a single standard document for all job applications. Each document should be tailored to emphasise only competencies and experiences directly relevant to the job position applied for.

* Error-free: Sufficient thought and time must be invested to carefully write, edit and proofread the job application. There should never be any factual, typographical, spelling, grammar or punctuation errors in the final document. Even a small error can dent a professional image and cost the jobseeker the opportunity for a job interview.