Top tips for writing a graduate CV to make you stand out from the crowd
As a graduate or a school leaver, it can be daunting writing your first CV. Given that you are unlikely to have gained any serious work experience, how do you stand out from the crowd and get your foot on the career ladder?
Here’s the good news. As a graduate or a school leaver, you can get on that career ladder without any work experience. Employers know you have spent the largest chunk of your life in full-time education. That effectively has been your job.
And here’s some more good news. You might not have realised it but you have already been learning, developing and using some of the key skills employers look for from any worker, experienced or otherwise.
The essentials of a great graduate CV
Let’s take a look at the key components of creating a great graduate CV.
Start with your name, contact telephone number, email address and your location. Details such as a full postal address and date of birth are increasing becoming less common on CVs although feel free to include them if you so wish.
The next section should be a Summary / Personal Profile, providing an introduction to your academic background as well as any work experience you may have gained and, equally important, your goals and objectives from the role you are applying for as well as your long term career ambitions.
Irrespective of the role, in any office environment, you are guaranteed to have to use a range of office software packages and tools. So, it’s a great idea to include a section listing your knowledge and experience of any technology including Microsoft Office, databases and analytics as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and professional networks such as LinkedIn.
This should be followed by details of your education, starting with your degree (including results) and working back to higher education and GCSEs.
Certainly, for your degree, you will need to include core subjects, particularly if they are relevant to the skills or knowledge required for the role you are applying for.
Highlighting core and transferable skills as a graduate
If you were an experienced professional, you would now showcase your past roles in more detail. However, we are going to assume that your work experience to date has been fairly limited.
Therefore, in this section, you should highlight your core and transferable skills using examples from your academic work as well as from social or personal experiences. (Yes, these are the professional skills you have been learning, developing and using without necessarily realising it.)
Remember, experience is not simply found in the confines of an office. It can be gained in a classroom, a science lab, on a sports field or filling shelves at your local supermarket.
A good starting point for this section is the job description for the role you are interested in. Here you should find a list of key skills that the job requires. Typically, for a graduate role, they are likely to include:
For each key required skill, write a short paragraph illustrating your competence and achievement. For example, you may have led on a project at university that demonstrates your leadership skills. Perhaps you devised an innovative solution to a complex problem while working in a team back at school demonstrating your communication, problem solving, team work and creative skills all in one!
Remember, for most graduate roles employers are looking for an understanding of your potential and transferable skills as demonstrated through your academic and personal achievements.
Let’s not forget the paper round
Of course, like many graduates you may well have already acquired measurable work experience. It may have been through a paper round in your teens, a Saturday job and, perhaps, even a summer internship giving you a real introduction in to the world of work.
Include all of these as the last section on your CV, remembering to tie in what you learned in each role back to the key requirements of the job you are applying for. Yes, even a paper round requires planning, deadlines and dedication especially on a freezing cold Saturday morning!
Length of a graduate CV
One-page graduate CV is great. Two-page is perfect too. Three-page graduate CV is a page too long.
Certainly, for a graduate, there is no good reason for your CV to exceed two pages. Remember, employers want to get a good understanding of your potential and invite you for an interview and not offer you the job based purely on your CV. So, keep it focused and succinct.
Finally, proof read your CV with great care, with particular attention to commonly misspelt words. Once happy, ask a friend to cast a critical eye over it.
You should now be ready to press the apply button. Best of luck!