Applications / Job market

The do’s and dont’s of a graduate CV

With 3 or 4 long years of hard studying behind you and degree certificate firmly in hand, it’s time to find your first full-time professional position. Andrew Fennell, the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV, shares his perspective on how to create an effective CV. Andrew is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

The first step to securing that dream grad role is to demonstrate your transferable skills, knowledge and experience in a professional, well-written CV. But competition for entry-level roles is fierce, so your CV needs to paint you as no less than the perfect candidate for the role. With that said, check out the essential do’s and don’ts of a graduate CV – stick to them to ensure that your application demands attention:

Do keep it simple

keep it simpleThe more you over-complicate your CV, the closer you get to losing the reader’s attention. Hiring managers and recruiters often receive hundreds of applications for a graduate role – so they appreciate simple, well-presented CV’s which are easy to read. If you cram too much information onto a disorganized page, you’re asking for immediate rejection.

Unless you’re applying for a highly-creative role, there’s no need for fancy designs. Start with a simple structure, making sure there’s space between each section, for easy navigating. Stick to a clear, size 12 font and make use of bold for headings.

Don’t be generic

Letter block in word custom made on wood backgroundWhen you’re eager to secure your first role, it can be tempting to send out the same CV to tens of employers. But as soon as hiring managers spot a recycled CV, they move it straight to the no pile – after all, it shows a complete lack of commitment to the role.

You need to tailor your CV to each and every role you apply for. Make a list of the desired skills, experience and attributes listed in the job description and, if you can, work each one of them into your CV. This way, you’ll be painting yourself as a perfectly matched candidate for the position.

Do make it scannable

woman hands putting a sheet of paper into a copying deviceWith piles of applications to get through, recruiters often scan CV’s to initially separate the time-wasters from potential hires. That means you might have 30 seconds or less to prove your value! During this time, recruiters are likely to focus on the top third of the first page of the document. Therefore, starting your CV with a punchy personal profile and core skills section – which include your most valuable (and relevant) attributes – is key to passing the initial scan.

Don’t be clichéd

Staring at the screen but nothing's going inPut yourself in the shoes of a recruiter. After reading “a great team player” and “a creative thinker with a can-do attitude” over and over again, how would you feel? Likely, completely bored and uninspired. Don’t be one of those candidates – packing your CV with meaningless clichés doesn’t actually say anything about you!

Focus on selling yourself with hard facts like skills, knowledge, experience and achievements which are all backed up with examples and metrics – which we’ll discuss next.

Do focus on facts and figures

Can you prove it? Word abstract in wood type.Using real-life, quantified examples to prove your value is the best thing you can do to impress potential employers. This could be financial gains, savings made, time saved or targets hit – but as a young grad, it could even be university grade percentages or customer goals hit during part-time roles. Take a look at the following examples for some inspiration:

  • Reduced customer complaints by 30%.
  • Achieved the highest class grade of 81%.
  • Hit up-selling targets for 5 months in a row.

By following these essential do’s and don’ts of a graduate CV, you’ll create an easy-to-read, flawless CV which effortlessly proves your value to employers.





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