After 3 years of hard work, it’s time to finally put away those textbooks.
Don’t worry if you’re lacking relevant experience - you can still market yourself to potential employers through your knowledge, skills and abilities.
Considering the fact employers spend mere seconds looking at each CV that lands on their desk, think of your graduate CV as a personal advert. And if you don’t catch the reader’s attention straight away, you’ve lost a buyer.
Here’s some tips on creating a CV that will make you stand out from the crowd.
1. Don’t write your life story
Your CV is not an opportunity to bore people to tears with every detail of life over the past 20 years.
This document has to be succinct and to-the-point to have any chance of succeeding. Try to stick to 2 sides of A4 or less.
Read the job description carefully and decide what information about yourself is actually relevant to the role.
Write down a list of keywords or phrases to help you focus your CV as tightly as possible, and show the employer as quickly as possible that you match their requirements (and perhaps even beyond this!).
2. Choose a clear, structured format
Usually, your personal details come first, followed by your qualifications/education history, work experience, and your hobbies and interests.
Many jobs will only require this generic format (or something similarly traditional), but if you’re applying for jobs in the Arts or Media industries, you may wish to come up with something a little more creative!
However, it’s generally a good idea to choose just one style of template and stick to it. This will keep your applications consistent, and also make it easier for you to edit according to the job description.
3. Be honest
Don’t miss out bits of your CV in the hope it won’t be noticed. Employers will pick up on gaps in your CV, or obvious details that are missing.
On the other hand, don’t lie about what you’ve done and for how long. You don’t want to risk being caught out if you’re invited to interview!
If there’s a gap in your employment history or education, don’t worry - just be prepared to explain why and present your reasons in the best possible way.
Remember - employers are human too, and will understand if you were out of work for a number of months due to illness, going travelling or wanting some time out to think about your career and what you want to do next.
4. Tailor it
Each job you’re interested in applying for will be different from the others in some way or another.
This is why it’s important to go through the job description so you know what skills and knowledge you should be emphasising.
The best way to do this is to give examples in the work experience section don’t just list your responsibilities in previous roles, but demonstrate how you have used different skills to achieve goals. Try to include keywords and phrases in these examples that match you to the job (if possible).
While you may have limited experience to draw on, think about all areas of your time at university (and before this), not just that spent in paid employment.
What skills and knowledge did you gain from tutorials, lectures and seminars? If your degree involved practical classes, what did you learn in these?
Think about any clubs, societies or teams you’ve ever been part of - what were your responsibilities? how did you contribute? what transferable skills did you pick up?
These might include communication, IT, numeracy, public speaking, teamwork and problem solving.
Not everything you talk about on your CV has to be related to work experience. There are many other areas of your life where you might have gained valuable skills relevant to a job you’re applying for, and therefore make your CV as effective as possible.
5. Proofread, proofread, proofread
Yup, several times (at least).
And don’t just rely on your computer’s spellchecker to sort this part out for you. Software is not infallible, and can easily miss errors in grammar or sentence structure.
Focus on spellings first, and then read it for sense.
Printing off your CV and reading it through on paper rather than a screen can help you identify mistakes, as well as giving it to a friend or family member to check as well.
6. Get feedback
This comes in two forms. First, if an employer rejects your application, try to ask for reasons why.
While many might say there was high competition, a large volume of applications etc., others may be willing to offer a golden nugget of information that could help you to improve your application for future jobs.
Second, show your CV around to people you know. Whether it’s family, friends, university lecturers, career advisors, all pairs of eyes could help you find ways to improve your CV. The same goes for any cover letters you write (but that’s a whole other ball game!).
Don’t take any criticism to heart - just use any constructive comments to polish your CV, which will eventually bag you a job!
If you’d like some further information and advice on putting together a graduate CV, take a look at our postgraduate CV area.
For more tips and advice on graduate jobs, please see:
- CV tips
- CV writing
- Targeting your CV
- Writing a cover letter
- Tailoring your cover letter
- Types of graduate job interview
- Preparing for your graduate job interview
- Graduate job interview tips
- Example job interview questions
Graduate job boards
Got any questions or comments about my post? Please pop them below!