CV MAGIC -  Some easy ways to improve your CV    
Copyright Mary Stuart July 2011.  Updated November 2020

"There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it."  -Dale Carnegie, author and educator (1888-1955)

Teachers generally don't deal with CVs, and are often uncertain about what to include or exclude when putting together their own CVs.  This document was compiled, bit by bit, in response to areas of weakness we frequently came across in CVs sent to us by teachers.  It is a work-in-progress! There are many excellent and definitive books available from libraries and booksellers, and articles on the internet, and each writer and professional CV writer has his/her own personal approach.  This is simply our view at The Teacher Network, and is reinforced by comments made by our client schools and by candidates.  We hope you'll find this part of the site useful.


Your CV should be impeccably neat, easy on the eye, logically presented so that it's easy to find information, concise but comprehensive, and it should contain no factual errors (whether deliberate or unintentional).  Chek yore work!    Make sure, too, that you don't have any "gaps" in your CV.   The CV is the story of your life, and if you skip any time periods, it raises questions.  The CV should enable us to accurately assess your suitability for any post we are helping to fill.  It goes without saying that there should be no grammatical or typographical errors.


2.1  Your phone numbers (preferably cell, home number and work number) should be in a prominent place, e.g. immediately below your name.  Your e-mail address should be in the same place as your other contact information.  If this isn't your own personal e-mail address, indicate this.  If it's not obvious to the readers what name you are known by, underline the name they should use.  If you are known by different names in different parts of your life, underline the one that you are known by at work eg Thokozile Aselina Sibisi.

For example:

Full name:
Valerie Mary Stuart

Contact numbers:
000 000 0000
(000) 000 0000
(000) 000 0000


It is really important that these numbers are correct.  It gives a very bad impression if we phone and hear that the number doesn't exist.   It immediately makes one wonder what else on the CV is not correct.

2.2  If everyone knows you as Tienie Smith, but your name is Albertina Elmarie Thorrington-Smith, put the name you are known by on the cover of your CV.     If your name is Zwelo Frederick Mthabela, and your past employers have always called you Freddy, put Freddy Mthabela on the cover.  But do make sure that your full name, as it appears in your ID document or passport, appears in your CV.  And please, in your interactions with The Teacher Network, use the same name each time you contact us.  Remember too that if your surname has changed (e.g. through marriage), it's a good idea to give your previous surname somewhere as it is possible that you will have obtained your qualifications and/or some work experience under a different surname.

2.3  On the phone to a recruitment consultant/potential employer ... While on the subject of names, we would suggest that you never introduce yourself to a recruitment consultant or a potential employer as, for example, Mr Pillay or even worse Mr P Pillay, or Mrs van der Westhuizen.  Using your own title sounds pompous and self-important, and it's particularly patronising if you address the person you are phoning by his/her first name.  If it's really important to you that people call you Mr or Mrs Whatever, say your first name softly and your surname with more emphasis.  "Good morning, this is Prem PILLAY / Anita FOURIE".   Also, never phone and say, "Hello - this is Tracey."   You can't assume that we'll know WHICH Tracey it is.  And finally, although you may wish to come across as warm and friendly, if you call the recruitment consultant "dear", "lovey" or "sweetheart", you are committing a serious faux pas.  Be warm and friendly - but keep it professional.

2.4  Email: we don't accept CVs from third parties, for a number of reasons.  If your email comes from someone else's email address, it raises questions, and suggests (depending on your age) that you are either not up to speed with technology or that you're not serious about looking for a post.   You really should have your own email address, since these are freely available.  Your address should sound professional: "" and ""  may be fine for family and friends, but just may not inspire confidence in a potential employer reading your CV.  


If we don't know approximately where you live, we can't know which schools are within a reasonable travelling distance for you.  Further, when applicants don't provide a residential address (at the very least, the suburb they live in) it can suggest a lack of transparency.  If you feel that your residential address is irrelevant since you are prepared to work anywhere,  mention this in your covering e-mail.
For example:  Although I live in Lyttleton Manor, Centurion, I am happy to relocate anywhere in South Africa except northern KZN.

Remember that although your family and friends know exactly where your suburb is, it's quite possible that many other people have never heard of it.  So if you live in Senderwood, you need to add its location ie Bedfordview,  Johannesburg.  Also, a number of suburbs like Rosebank, Kensington, Morningside exist in a number of different towns in South Africa.

If you are relocating to Johannesburg from another town, please indicate if you have a preference as to which part of Johannesburg you think you may end up in.  (This is usually where you have family or friends.)   If you have no preference, indicate this too.  Johannesburg is massive and the traffic is hectic, and this has to be taken into account by a recruitment agency like The Teacher Network, so that we don't waste everybody's time.

If your residential address is a temporary one, indicate this: for example, "I am currently living with relatives in Roodepoort, Johannesburg, but once I have found a position, I will relocate to be within twenty minutes of the school."


4.1 Tertiary education  
List the subjects that you have studied at  tertiary education level, as well as the title of your qualification.  Indicate which institution it was, and when you were there.  Use the name the institution was known by when you were there, and the name of the qualification as it was when you did it.  Keep these lists compact and intelligible.
For example:

Jan 90 -  Dec 92:   
University of  Natal, Durban

English I, II, III
Psychology I, II, III
isiZulu I, II
Social Anthropology I
Speech and Drama I
Intro French NDP

Jan 93 - Dec 93:
University of Cape Town

English, Guidance, African Langs

If you have done a PGCE, indicate your area of specialisation e.g. Foundation Phase or FET English and History.

4.2  High School
Provide the name and location of the school(s) you attended, plus the dates, and if you feel it's relevant, a list of the subjects you did in Grade 12.  If you want to list your school results, don't devote too much space to this, as your subsequent education and training are far more important.  Perhaps if you did badly in any subject, you should leave out your results altogether - you want to inspire confidence in your reader, not the converse.

4.3 Current Studies
 List any educational programmes you are currently enrolled in, and indicate when you anticipate completing it/them.


5.1  What have you taught, and at what level?  Give details about your work experience
Provide a summary of the experience that proves you have the skills to do the job for which you're applying.  Along with your qualifications, the most important thing in your CV, from our perspective and that of a potential employer, is your actual teaching experience.  For this reason, indicate very clearly exactly where you have taught, what you have taught, which grades you have taught, and for how long.  Remember that Principals never ever phone a recruitment agency like ourselves and say, simply, "I am looking for an educator".  They are more likely to say, "I am looking for someone to teach Grade 10 and 11 Maths, and I'd prefer someone with a few years' experience".     

For example:        

Jan 96 -  Jul 99:   

Grade 8-9 ENGLISH  
Grade 8  isiZULU Second Additional Language (two years)
Gr 10 PHYS ED (one lesson a week, two years)

Aug 99 - Dec 02:

Grades 3 - 7 isiZULU First Additional Language
Grades 8-10 LIFE ORIENTATION (two years)

Because of the variety of teaching experience that some people have, the above can be difficult, but just do your best to provide the information clearly and accurately.  The names of certain subjects have changed (e.g. Biology to Life Sciences).  You can use the name it was known by at the time, or the new name.  The reader will be old enough or clever enough to understand both.

5.2  When did you work there?
Be specific.  Give both the month and the year. If you only give the years 2015 - 2016, this could mean four months (November to February) or twenty-four months.  Use the same format for dates throughout your CV.  If you worked somewhere part-time, indicate this (e.g. three evenings a week during holidays; every Wednesday).

5.3  Details about schools:
Unless the schools you have been at are household names, and the only school of that name, indicate where they are.   
For example:   Joel Smith High School,  Kensington, Johannesburg; Weenen Primary School, Weenen, KZN.   Don't assume that people know where every suburb or small town in South Africa is - particularly if you live in Johannesburg where there are over fifteen hundred suburbs.
If the school has changed its name, or if the town has changed its name, perhaps provide both names.

5.4  Reasons for leaving:
This is also important information, and is often the first question a Principal asks us about a candidate we introduce.  Make sure that you provide your RFL for each position you have held. For example: husband transferred to Gauteng; career advancement; overseas travel; maternity; desire to return to home town.  Don't give, as your RFL, "Offered new job." Why did you want to leave your old job?   Remember that when we do "Reference Checks", this is one of the things that is discussed.  If your ex-employer says that you left for one reason, and your CV says that you left for another, it immediately raises questions. (See "Honesty and Transparency" below.)

So the final version of this section of the above fictional CV might look like this:  

Jan 06 -  Jul 09:   
(Westville, near Durban, KZN)

Grade 8-9 ENGLISH  
Grade 8 isiZULU Second Additional Language (two years)
Gr 10 PHYS ED (one lesson a week, two years)
Husband transferred to Johannesburg

Aug 09 - Dec 12:
(Edenvale, Gauteng)

Grades 000-7 isiZULU First Additional Language
Grades 8-10 LIFE ORIENTATION (two years)

To enter the commercial world

5.5 Gaps:
Your CV is the story of your life. There shouldn't be gaps. If you left one post in April, and started your next post in September, indicate somewhere what you did in the meanwhile. You might put this in your reason for leaving the post e.g. "I resigned in order to nurse my brother full-time" or "I left teaching in order to work full-time on completing my novel The One Minute Teacher" or "When I accepted this position, the school was aware that I had already committed to preparing and accompanying a group of handicapped athletes to the Paralympics". Alternatively, put  the information in using the same format that you've used for "positions held". If you really did nothing for six months, find a way of describing it that is truthful but focuses on something positive. For example: "From Sept 2016 to March 2017 I volunteered three days a week at Friends of Free Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Kyalami, Johannesburg."

5.6 Current?  Present?
When giving the dates of your current employment, don't say "Jan 2018 - current". That is incorrect.   "Jan 2018 - present" is correct.


6.1  Decoration:  
It's better not to decorate your CV with computer-generated pictures or fancy borders. You are a professional and your CV should reflect this.

6.2  Font and font size:
A small professional looking font size is preferable to a very large font. Remember your purpose: you're producing a CV for a busy professional adult to read, not a class worksheet for children to read. Also, don't use too many different fonts and font sizes. Again, it doesn't look professional.

6.3  Upper case:
Don't write the whole CV in capital letters. It's not easy on the eye, and many people perceive it as the written form of shouting, so it may come across aggressively. DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN?  

6.4  Underlining:
If you want something to stand out, instead of underlining it consider using CAPITAL LETTERS (if it's a heading) or bold font. This can make words stand out more effectively than underlining. See the example in 5.4 above.

6.5  Number of pages:
Brevity is best. A CV that meanders on for six or seven pages doesn't give a good impression of the writer, nor of his/her ability to organise written information, nor of his/her sensitivity to the reader. You can safely assume that the person reading your CV is busy, and probably has a pile of CVs that he/she needs to work through, so needs to be able to find information quickly. If your CV irritates him/her because it goes on and on and on and on, it's unlikely that you'll be short-listed. Number your pages (using Header/Footer). Don't have a separate page for each category of information. It can be difficult to summarise your own life, so if you are finding it impossible to get everything important onto two or three pages, get someone objective to help you. (See also Covering Letter below.) If the reader wants more information, he/she will ask for it. Do not send scanned copies of every single qualification you have, or course you have been on. Only send this sort of thing if you are specifically asked for it.  

6.6  Careless, typographical, grammatical and/or spelling errors:
The reader will assume that your CV is the very best you can do, so it's worth getting another pair of eyes to check your final draft. Surprisingly, English teachers tend to have an unusually high number of silly errors in their CVs (for example "colledge", "B.ed", "Blikkiesfontein high School"). Proficiency in the medium of instruction (English, for most of our client schools) is required.  Recruitment agents and School Principals will judge you negatively if - after you've had sixteen years of formal education - there are careless or serious errors in your email's heading, the covering email, and/or your CV.  

6.7  If English is not your mother tongue:
If English is not your mother tongue, it is important that you ask an English Home Language speaker to check your CV. If Afrikaans is your mother tongue, be careful of the "is/are" type of error, and of direct translations from Afrikaans which are not correct in English (e.g. in English we say that one teaches a subject, one doesn't give it). The Teacher Network often receives CVs from African language speakers where the word "temporally" is used instead of the correct word "temporary". It would be correct to say: "The post was a temporary one" or "I was in the post in a temporary capacity" or "I was a temp". (The abbreviation temp is slang, but would be acceptable in a teacher's CV.)  

6.8  Blank final pages:
Check that the end of your CV is in fact the end of the document, particularly if you have decorated (see "Decoration" above) your CV with borders. Print your CV out before e-mailing it anywhere, to check that you've got this right.

6.9  Columns of information:
CVs should not be in essay form. There are too many unnecessary words. Provide the information in columns so that the reader can skim it to find what he/she needs. Remember: the reader is busy and has a pile of CVs to work through. Let your CV be one that makes this a more pleasant task. Columns are easy on the eye. As a general rule, TABLES are not the best way to give your work history. If your CV is in table form, please think seriously about what you are trying to achieve by presenting your information in this particular way, and whether a table will achieve your goal. Have you used this format for your convenience or for the convenience of the reader? Is it visually attractive?   


7.1  First impression
Your covering letter/e-mail is the first impression you make on the reader. Make sure that it's the impression you want to make. Surprisingly, some applicants don't use correct punctuation or in their covering e-mails, and completely ignore the use of capital letters. Some even write in SMS-style text!   As a rule, we reject these applications: our clients pay us to find them professional people who speak, read, write and comprehend English at the level of an educated home language speaker. Your English should be simple and clear: "I have already resigned and am available from 1 October" is far more appropriate than "I have issued my letter of resignation and will be terminating my services at the end of September. My availability will be from 1 October 2010". More and more, people forget to or are too lazy to capitalise "I". Unfortunately this small mistake makes a big impression - and it's not a good one.

7.2  What should go into the covering letter/e-mail
Indicate what position(s) you are applying for along with any other information that you think the reader needs to know, which you want to emphasise, or which isn't in your CV. Keep the tone friendly but professional. Make the reader feel that you are the answer to a problem, rather than that you want him/her to be the answer to your problem.  

7.3  Subject line
Be guided by what the advertisement says. If the advertisement doesn't ask you to use a particular heading, then put your name and the position for which you are applying in the subject line, for example "Lucy Jones  BUS EC  Part-time  Jhb northern suburbs" rather than "CV". Most e-mails that a recruitment agency receives from strangers are CVs or applications for positions.

7.4  Tone
Keep the tone friendly but professional. Most people get this right, but occasionally we receive covering emails that are downright bossy and peremptory, or pathetic and pleading, or ingratiating and slimy, or irritatingly pompous. You want the reader to feel good about you, as he/she opens and reads your CV.   

7.5 Language of covering e-mail
Use English.  See 9.5 below.

7.6 Send it from your own email address
The first contact most candidates have with an agency is through email. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. If the email accompanying a CV starts with, "I am sending this on behalf of my mother ... " it's hard for the reader not to jump to the conclusion that the mother incompetant - either unable to send her own emails (ie out of touch with technology) or too lazy or disorganised to send them. If it starts with, "My son asked me to send you his CV ..." again it's hard for the reader not to wonder why the son didn't just send it himself. People who are out of touch with technology, lazy, disorganised, and/or unmotivated aren't highly prized as employees. There may be a really good reason why you can't send the CV from your usual email address. In that case, consider getting a second email address so that you can send it from any computer with internet access. Think twice before you send an application for a new job from your current work address.

7.7 Assume that the reader is intelligent.  
Don't write things like "It would be an honour to be part of and contribute to a school which is known for its talented workforce and high standards." This is smarmy and reeks of insincerity and manipulativeness.  

8.     OTHER

8.1  Availability:
Indicate your availability i.e. when you are available to start. How much notice do you have to give? One term? Three months? Two weeks? None? Or are you available from a particular date (e.g. 1 August 2020)? If your notice period is negotiable, say so. If you can give one month's notice but would prefer to give a term's notice, say so. Be absolutely correct. Don't say that you are "available immediately" unless your current employer would agree with that statement. Remember too that if you need to give a month's notice, but are prepared to "dump" your present employer and learners, and give 24 hours' notice, potential employers may well assume that you'll be prepared to do it  to them too.

8.2  Referees:

GUIDING PRINCIPLE  When we phone your referees, we need to be able to get hold of them first shot! It is your responsibility to provide the information we need, to reach them. It is not up to us, nor a potential employer, to spend hours trying to get the contact details of your referees. Where this does happen, it puts you - the candidate - in a very bad light. It makes you look disorganised and unreliable. So, please, make it easier for us to help you get the job you want.

(a) Try to provide at least three referees, and for each referee, give these categories of information:  name, position, your relationship (if not apparent from other information), contact details.
(b) Check that the telephone numbers are still valid. Don't provide a cell phone number only, but rather a cell number and a work number.
(c) Remember that many educational institutions are closed for about four months of each year, and many school switchboards close a few hours before the end of a normal business working day, so don't provide only a school number. If you can't provide a cell number as well, give the person's home number (obviously with his/her permission).
(d) Provide the referee's email address as well.  
(e) Make sure that the referees know they may be contacted. Ideally, you should contact your referees, ask if you can list them on your CV, and tell them that they may get a call from The Teacher Network.  
(f) It's better not to use your immediate family members as referees. (See Transparency below.) Nor your mother-in-law, even if she really likes you!  If the only people you can think of who would say nice things about you are related to you, it sort of raises questions ...
(g) Note that a reference is a written document, or a verbal communication.  A referee is a person.
(h) Your referees should mainly be professional ones (ie people you have worked for or reported to). If you are also very involved in any other group (for example, a church, a welfare organisation, a cultural group, or a sporting one) give a referee from this area of your life.
(i) Provide referees in SA wherever possible. If it is appropriate to provide referees in other countries, provide all of their contact numbers as well as their email addresses.

For example:

Miss Marguerite Greenhof
Previously Head of Department: English
Westville Girls' College
My immediate superior for five years
Contact details:
(031) 123 4567 - Work
(031) 123 4567 - Home
(089) 123 4567

Dr Jamie Clark
Chairperson: Namib Desert Canoe Club
I was Membership Secretary in 2006 and 2007
Contact details:
(021) 123 4567 - Work
(021) 123 4567 - Home
(087) 123 4567

8.3  Extra-murals:
Give details about your school extra-mural activities.  Be specific. (For example: coached second hockey team in 2011; coached junior squash in 2010, 2016, 2019; organised Debutantes for three years; introduced and ran inter-class general knowledge quiz over a period of four years; accompanied five groups of Grade Twelve learners on Wilderness Trails in Kruger National Park).  If you have lots of these, divide them into logical categories e.g. Sporting, Academic, Cultural.

Give information about your personal extra-mural activities, for example: Current Chairman of Kalahari Canoe Club. If you have achieved highly, say so. For example: South African Underwater Basket Weaving Champion 2015.  If you are an actor, please don't write pages and pages listing your roles.  Summarise the information in a reader-friendly way.

8.4  Photograph or not?
People's views differ. From my perspective, as the recruitment agent, it's helpful to have a matchbox-sized photograph of the applicant because of the number of applications we receive.  Perhaps a rule of thumb would be that if, in real life, your appearance is an advantage rather than a disadvantage, provide a photograph - and do make sure it's a photograph in which you look like a professional, like a teacher. If you have a photograph of yourself that makes you look absolutely stunning, don't send that unless that's what you usually look like. If your photograph looks like it was taken as you woke from a deep sleep, you're probably better off not including it.  Be careful with selfies ... and if you have to use one, make sure the background is appropriate.

8.5  Sending the CV by e-mail?
We need to be able to file your CV electronically as well as physically. Follow the instructions in the job advertisement, as to what you should put in the subject line. If there are none, give the name you are known by in the subject line (e.g. Thembi Johnston-Smith), and if appropriate, a reference to the post you're applying for (e.g. Geography Teacher, Gr 8-12). The CV should ideally be a single Word document of no more than 4 pages, smaller that 1MB.

8.6  Scanning of CVs:
It's better not to send scanned CVs.They often don't print out well. It's better to have your CV in the form of a Word document.

8.7  SACE Registration Number  ( South African Council for Educators ):
Include this somewhere in your CV.  Note that SACE registration is not an option. It is required. If you have applied for SACE registration, but haven't yet received the document, explain this E.g. "I submitted my documents to SACE on DD/MM/YY". Schools understand that brand-new teachers won't have their SACE registration immediately.

8.8  Transparency and honesty:
Ensure that your CV gives the impression of an honest, trustworthy person. If you are vague about the names of people you worked for, or when exactly you worked somewhere, it looks suspicious.  There should be no chronological gaps in your CV - it is the story of your life.  And if you can't remember what you were doing during a six-month period of your life, it doesn't give a very good impression of your intellect.  (After all, you were there!)  
If you use a family member as a referee, spell this out somewhere in the CV.  Perhaps you helped your uncle every Saturday for three years at his animal shelter.  He would be a good referee.  But do be upfront about the fact that he is a relative.
Do not send your CV to The Teacher Network if there are any lies in it. If we find that you have lied once, we'll probably assume that there are other lies and/or that you lack integrity. If, after sending your CV to us, you notice that you have made a genuine mistake somewhere in it, please send us the corrected version and we'll update our records.
If there is something in your past that you are tempted to lie about, get advice on how to handle this. There is lots of good information on the internet, and in books on CVs.
If there is something in your CV that really suggests you shouldn't be a teacher, or that parents might not want you to look after their children, perhaps reconsider your career choice.
Religious views and affiliations: it's entirely up to you as to whether you mention these or not. Some schools prefer their teachers to be of a particular religious persuasion, others have no preference. Please note that it is very inappropriate to include religious text in your CV, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned you are, since this assumes that everyone who reads your CV shares your particular view of the world. See below 8.17 for more on this subject.

8.9  Additional professional information:
It is important to specify your on-line teaching experience.
If you have been a Matric Marker or Examiner or Moderator, say so.  This adds tremendously to your credibility as a teacher.
If you have written material which others use, or have had anything published, give details.
If you hold or have held any office (e.g. Convenor of a User Group; Chair of a Cluster Group), put it down.
If you have been involved in Outreach activities, describe them.
Modesty is all very well, but you also need to let the reader know who you are and what makes you special, what sets you apart from other applicants for a position. Give the reader the facts.

8.10  Additional personal information:
Hobbies and interests: list hobbies and interests where they add to the picture you want to project.  Don't, as some applicants do, list "Watching TV and talking to friends" as your hobbies and interests.   This may well be factually correct (and probably is for many people) but it doesn't paint a particularly inspiring picture of the applicant.  If those are your only hobbies and interests, rather leave them off the CV altogether.
If, however, your hobbies and interests include something which will benefit a school (e.g. tennis, soccer, ABET at your local community centre, calligraphy, woodwork, sewing, flower arranging, being a Lifeline counsellor, doing Midmar every year) or if they tell the reader more about you as a person (volunteer at local Community Policing Forum, member of church Hospital Visiting Panel, Reader at Tape Aids for the Blind, microlight pilot, scratch golf handicap), add them to the CV.  It'll make you stand out as an interesting person, and/or someone who contributes to the community.
Your children: it's up to you whether you mention your children or not. If your children are probably going to need to attend whichever school you get a post at, then it makes sense to mention them and to indicate their ages and sexes. For example "Dependents: Peter and Paul (born 2010), Suzanne (born 2015)".  Sometimes proud moms take this opportunity to brag - and although it's understandable, it's probably not a good idea.  The fact that Eric (aged 34) is an Actuary and Janine (aged 32) is an Ophthalmologist is probably not really relevant to your employment at the school, whereas the existence of Peter and Paul and Suzanne above would be.
Marital status: employers are always interested to know this, since it can affect them.  But (in our opinion) you don't need to provide your marital history which is none of a potential employer's business.  You can include that in other parts of the CV if you need/want to, eg Reason for leaving a post: "After my husband passed away in 2010, I relocated from Ballito KZN to Roodepoort to be closer to my children."

8.11  Own description of personal attributes/qualities/skills:
It's better not to provide a paragraph listing what you consider your strengths. Obviously you are going to be subjective. It is far better to let your CV show, through facts, that you are, for example, a multi-talented, dedicated, extremely capable team person who interacts well at all levels and is always prepared to go the extra mile, than to state this yourself, without substantiation. If there is factual evidence of these qualities in your CV, in terms of your experience and achievements, the reader should be able to pick it up. You should never describe yourself as having "excellent" English skills. The reader will decide whether you have, based on your CV and covering email.

8.12  Update your CV:
We understand that life changes but if the CV you send us is out of date, it doesn't give a good impression of your efficiency and accuracy and attention to detail.  If you have relocated to Johannesburg, don't give a Durban home phone number. If you don't have a landline at your new residence, by all means give an "Alternate Contact Number", and indicate in brackets whose phone number it is, e.g. parents, John and Erina Smythe. If you left your last school in November, ensure that your CV indicates this and doesn't state that you are still working there. If you don't yet have a residential address, indicate that you are staying somewhere temporarily. If you are in transit, and don't have a computer at your disposal nor a smart phone or tablet, make sure that you have saved your updated CV on a flash drive or the Cloud.

8.13  Written references/testimonials:
These are worth their weight in gold. Try to collect them throughout your career. Don't, however, attach them to your CV unless specifically asked to do so. Get certified copies of them, and bring them to interviews with you. (Put them in a flip file, with the original on top, so that you can access them easily.)  Do keep special letters of thanks and appreciation received from superiors/colleagues/parents/learners.

8.14  To Scan Or Not To Scan:
Please pretty please don't send us pages and pages of scanned documents. If we want to see a scanned copy of your academic and teaching qualifications, your Library Monitor of The Year Award, letters of recommendation, or your SACE certificate, we will ask for these. We want you to send us your CV; that is what we want. We should be able to pick up from your CV that you are a star - and these documents are not part of your CV. Your achievements are, though, and they should appear in your CV.
8.15  Non South Africans :
If you have a Work Permit, provide the necessary information about it.  Also note that you need to be registered with the South African Council for Educators - full details are available on their website.  

8.16 Be contactable:
Provide at least a cellphone number and either a landline number or an alternative cell number (eg partner/close friend/parent, in case there is a problem with your cell).  Make sure that your voicemail is working, and that your message gives a good impression.

8.17 Religious affiliation:
If you choose to, you can indicate your religious affiliation in the "personal details" section of your CV.  Since many independent schools do have a particular religious affiliation/spiritual tradition, it can be useful information.  Also many schools are keen to employ staff who can bring religious diversity to the school e.g. a Catholic school which has a Muslim scholars' society. It is, however, not at all advisable to put religious quotations or exhortations anywhere in your covering email.  Although this is no doubt done with the very best of intentions, you cannot assume that the reader (ie an agent, or school management) shares your particular religious beliefs or philosophies, and the reader may in fact find these offensive or irritating - which defeats your whole purpose.  See also 8.8 above.

8.18 Gender - to state or not to state:
Don't state it if it's obvious. Do, however, if your name is Sam, Alex, Pat, Lee or any other name. If your name is Billy or Bobby, but you are in fact a woman, it might be wise to emphasise your gender, even though you will have given your full name elsewhere in the CV (e.g. Wilhelmine Ann Lewis.) An elegant way to do this is to write your title, as part of your postal address e.g. Mrs W.A. Lewis, 21 Blue Gum Lane, Sandton 2146.  


Often it's hard to know what to include in your CV, and this section is intended to help you make the most of the experience you do have, thus far.  Bear in mind that the whole of CV MAGIC has been written, bit by bit, in response to common errors in CVs that have been sent to us over the years.  And there are certain common failings in the CVs we receive from newly qualified teachers, or those presently in their final year of training.

9.1  First of all, remember that you are marketing yourself, and trying to stand out as someone who - with little teaching experience other than prac teaching - should get a job ahead of others with similar or much more experience.   So make the most of the teaching experience you have.  List  the schools at which you've had school experience, and say what you taught and at what level you taught it, and for how long e.g. Riverside Primary School:  March - April 2018 (6 weeks) Grade 6;  Riverside College; April - June 2019 (6 weeks) Grade 10-11 Maths Literacy.  Provide the names and contact numbers (including cell, with their permission) of the teachers with whom you had the most professional contact.   Try to get written references from these people, even if they're only a few lines long.  If you have a complimentary report from your practical teaching experience, refer to it, and consider putting it in the interview pack.  Also mention relevant things from your personal life (see below).

9.2  Don't let your CV wander on for pages and pages.  The general rule is that a CV should be two to three pages long, and this applies to people with thirty years of working experience too.  So if you don't have much experience, don't try to fill the CV with pages and pages of the modules you did at university or college. Your CV should highlight the important courses.

9.3 The following applies particularly to those of you who do a lot in the sporting or arts and cultural arena:  divide your activities and achievements into categories.  For example, all cricket coaching could be in the same section.  All performing should be in one section. If you have taught Sunday School ever since you were 13, say so.  These things count, but you shouldn't go overboard. For example,  "Played role of sheep in production of Christmas Play in 2005" can safely be left out.

9.4 Do include part-time and temp jobs that you've had, plus dates/time periods (e.g. School tuckshop cashier every Wednesday when I was in Gr 10 and 11; Babysitting (children aged 4 -14) on average twice a week during all university holidays; student library assistant from June 2016 to November 2019).  Use the people you worked for as referees.  Ideally, get written references from them as well.

9.5   Get someone to check your CV for you, preferably someone who is objective but knows you.   If your home language is not English, we strongly recommend that a mother tongue English speaker checks it.  The language of all of our client schools is English, and they expect their staff to write in English at an appropriate level for a professional, mother tongue speaker.  It is not considered acceptable for a candidate to state that she "gives" Maths.   In English, we teach a subject, we don't "give" it.  Similarly, a post that is held for a short period of time is not a "temporal" post.  It is a temporary post.  

9.6  This is very very very important: do not use texting style spelling anywhere in your CV or covering email.   If you've been through twelve years of schooling, and four years of tertiary education, you are expected to know how to spell words like "I" and "you" and "because".   First year teachers are not expected to know everything.  But they are expected to know how to spell and when to use capital letters at the beginning of words.

9.7  In the covering email, say what you're looking for: for example, "I would like to find a position teaching Gr 4-6, ideally in Johannesburg or else in coastal KwaZulu-Natal.  I am available as soon as I finish my B.Ed. at the end of the 2019."   

9.8  Take a long hard look at your e-mail address: or may be fine while you're a student but just may not inspire confidence in a potential employer reading your CV.  You can't really go wrong with   (It goes without saying that you should send your CV from your own address, with a covering email that you have written.  If your mum or dad sends the CV for you, it makes you look like a child, not like a competent and professional young teacher.)  

9.9  Voicemail messages:  If a recruitment agent or a school is trying to get hold of you with a view to placing you in your first ever teaching post, it really is in your interests to have a concise, business-like message that projects a positive image.

9.10 Your CV is not a worksheet, nor is it a presentation, nor is it a scrapbook. The form should suit the purpose - which is to give potential employers (or recruitment agents) the information they need, and to give it as efficiently as possible.  Sometimes newly-qualified teachers send us most entertaining documents - but they have too much clutter.  Butterflies and roses are beautiful - but not in a CV. Ideally your CV should be in the form of a Word document no longer than three pages, attached to an email with a covering note. Please use an appropriate sized font like Calibri 11 or Arial 10.

9.11  Can't find a post?  It could be that you have simply been unlucky and applied for posts where there have been better/more suitable candidates than yourself. It could be that there are things in your CV or covering email that potential employers are reacting to negatively (for more detail, read the whole CV MAGIC page). It could be that you are doing something wrong in your email, telephonic or face-to-face interactions. Remember that a school is not going to employ you unless they think you will fit in well - so you really need to put your best foot forward in all interactions.

9.12  Generally The Teacher Network rejects well over half of the applications of newly qualified teachers - simply because their written English is riddled with errors. Whether this is carelessness, ignorance or immaturity is irrelevant; teachers are professional educators, and their written English should be at an appropriate level. Many of these badly written CVs and covering emails come from people whose home language is English, and who were educated at decent schools.

9.13  Your voice: do you sound like a teacher? Do you sound like someone who can hold the attention of a group of possibly reluctant students? Record your voice. Work on it. Remember: you only have one chance to make a first impression.

9.14 Finally, have a look at the rest of this page of the website. There may be other things that are useful. And then, please send us your CV.   


10.1 Provide your SA residential address (or at least the general area) and landline and cellphone number. If you don't yet have a residential address, indicate where in SA you plan (or hope) to live.  This is often where people grew up or lived before or where most of their family and friends are. Alternatively indicate where you would NOT be prepared to live and work, for example: I am open to any area of South Africa except Limpopo Province.

10.2  Present your overseas work experience in terms that will be understood and appreciated by a South African reader. Don't use acronyms that we don't use here. Using them can work against you.  

10.3  Don't just give the school's name; indicate its whereabouts.  (See 5.3 above too)

10.4 Indicate when you will be back in SA.

10.5 Provide the e-mail addresses of any overseas referees.

10.6 If you left SA before SACE registration became compulsory, please note that you need to register with the South African Council for Educators.  See their website

We hope this helps!   And we hope you'll send us your CV.  

There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it. -Dale Carnegie, author and educator (1888-1955)

---Copyright: Mary Stuart July 2011---
Updated Nov 2020