The unemployment rate in South Africa rose to 27.6% in the first quarter. This figure does not include the hundreds of thousands, probably millions of unregistered citizens and the ever growing population of illegal immigrants. When looking at these figures it’s not hard to see that there is something terribly wrong when a country outgrows its own ability to keep its citizens employed. A lot of the unemployment is due to a sub standard education system where only the upper crust have access to a decent private school type education. There are many other factors involved and they are all so intertwined that it is not possible to pin point one that is solely the cause of the joblessness in the country.

I have dealt with many desperate unemployed job seekers who simply do not know how to find a job and have no experience or knowledge of how to be unemployed and find a job. Thousands of professionals call or email our offices every month desperately looking for employment. Some manage to maintain some level of grace in the face of the “push back” from the ever shrinking job pool, while others display an outright panic, which is of course understandable but not recommended.

As a recruiter who genuinely cares about people and their situations, I try to advise these candidates on how to face the situation with integrity and courage. A film I watched some years ago had a scene where a platoon from the British Army fighting in Sudan in 1885 were overwhelmed by the enemy. In the scene the platoon form a square with two lines of men on each side and thousands of the enemy soldiers charging down on them from all sides. The only hope the platoon had was to keep their discipline and not panic. The Lieutenant in charge shouts out to the men, who are ready to break discipline and open fire without the order, to “Hold the line and hold your fire”, which the men do, against every burning instinct they have to just open fire. The men follow the orders and wait for the command to fire and manage to hold off the enemy long enough to survive. This stuck with me and became the way that I always react to situations that seem overwhelming.

My point here is that the British did not become the great nation that they are by panicking and breaking the line in the face of overwhelming odds. They held the line and stood their ground with dignity and grace. And that is what employers are looking for. Solid characters that are disciplined, loyal and level headed. They are not looking for employees that plead for pity and react in a disrespectful manor.

Here are some dos and some don’ts when job hunting that align with the above:


  1. Don’t send emails that smell of fear and desperation.
  2. Don’t say anything on the phone that make you sound desperate. It is not attractive at all to an employer and will only cast doubt on you as a potential employee.
  3. Don’t call over and over to find out if your application is accepted. A light WhatsApp or email from time to time is best. A call once in a while would be acceptable. Remember to “Hold the line” on this.
  4. Don’t pitch up at the potential employers offices without an appointment.
  5. Don’t plead for a job with cries of pity. This is not attractive to any employer. They do not want “victims” or “sympathy seekers”. Although they may understand your situation, they are looking to employ candidates who contribute to their bottom line. Victims and Sympathy Seekers, through experience, usually become liabilities and often only accept a job as a stepping stone (betrayal to their employer).
  6. Don’t send a messy CV out on email with a sloppy cover letter or no cover letter at all. An empty email with a CV attached doesn’t get looked at and only shows that the applicant has no pride.
  7. Don’t react with anger when you are rejected and burn your bridges. Acknowledge the rejection gracefully and move on. You never know what might happen next.
  8. Don’t blame others for your situation. This doesn’t look good and makes you sound problem orientated and not solution orientated.
  9. Don’t lose hope. There is always hope and giving up is not an option. Life is tough and giving up will only make it tougher. It’s about decision, decide to push on or decide to give up. You will do what you decide to do.
  10. Don’t lie on your CV. Stay honest. This is all part of “Holding the Line”. I had a candidate recently who was about to get a job offer after being out of work for 8 months, I found that he had lied on his CV an pointed it out to my client. He didn’t get the offer and proceeded to “Break the Line” by violating almost all of the above.

With all the negative “Don’ts” above, Lets look at the “Do’s” so that you know what is the right action to take. Although I cannot guarantee you will get the job, this will improve your chances tremendously.


  1. Do send an email which is personalized if you can that has good grammar and is concise and to the point.
  2. Do rehearse what you are going to say on the phone and sound professional by having good manners and respect.
  3. Do try to restrain yourself from pestering the potential employer. There is a fine line between inquiring about the position and becoming a nuisance.
  4. Do always try to get an appointment. You can be a little forward about this. As the old saying goes “If you don’t ask…..You don’t get”.
  5. Do present yourself as a stable character who can take the pressure off of the employer and that your sole purpose is focused on increasing profits.
  6. Do get your CV in order. It must be easily readable and have only the necessary information. The employment history must make sense and must include explanations for any gaps. The dates must be in sequence from latest at the top to earliest at the bottom. The front page should have your full name, age, area where you live and prepared to work in, your profession, your qualifications, computer literacy if relevant and industries that you have worked in.
  7. Do keep your manners about you when reacting to rejection. There is always the possibility that the other candidate who did get the job declines and you are still in with a chance.
  8. Do be pro active and see how you can evolve and change your situation for the better. Focusing and placing blame on others is a recipe for disaster.
  9. Do keep your chin up. Everyone feels down from time to time. Make sure you don’t make it a habit. Do something physical like exercise or make something with your hands. Produce some kind of a product. This is always a good recipe for lifting spirits.
  10. Do keep it honest on your CV. Recruiters and employers are savvy to red flags on CVs and more often than not you will be found out for lying. There is nothing wrong with pointing out your achievements and making your achievements well know. But make sure that your achievements that you are making known are relevant and not that you headed up the school choir or played 1st team cricket.