8 Steps to Write an Outstanding Graduate CV

6 August 2019
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Searching for a graduate job can be daunting. The thought of being thrown from the protective bubble of university into the world of work fills many with dread

However, you’ve achieved so much up to now – including getting into university and completing your degree – so think positive! Following these 8 steps will help you to write an outstanding graduate C.V that sets you up for success. You’ve got this.

1. Decide the type of CV you need.

Did you know there are different types of CV depending on your experience level? Choosing the type of CV best suited to your situation optimises the content and layout to showcase your most relevant attributes.

Skills-based: ideal for graduates who may have limited work experience in their chosen field, a skills-based CV emphasises the transferable skills you have gained from other endeavours.

  • ‘Skills’ section first (see below).
    ‘Experience’ section after (see below) with any part-time jobs or volunteering.

Experience-based: if you have significant experience in the relevant sector, for example through a placement year or a summer internship, an experience-based CV allows you to highlight this advantage.

  • ‘Experience’ section first, with a detailed explanation of insights gained into this area of work.
    May have a small ‘Skills’ section afterwards if any have not been covered previously.

Hybrid: for those graduates who have a little relevant experience, but not a great deal, combining the skills-based and experience-based CV will give you the best of both worlds.

  • ‘Experience’ section first, highlighting the time you have spent in the relevant sector only.
    ‘Skills’ section second, emphasising transferable skills gained from other experiences, such as part-time jobs or volunteering.


2. Attention-grabbing introductory statement

Make a powerful first impression with a brief introduction to the job you are seeking and what makes you the ideal candidate. This is an opportunity to highlight your unique skills and experience, which you can then further expand on. Tailor the introduction to the specific role you are applying for and the attributes it requires.

‘Driven publishing graduate with experience in event planning, content creation and social media management, seeking a role as a publicity assistant in a dynamic company.’

3. Qualifications/education history

This is an easy bit. List your qualifications in reverse chronological order, from your degree to your GCSEs. Summarising is fine to save space; rather than list all your GCSE grades, something along the lines of ‘6 As, 4 Bs and 1 C in subjects including English, Maths and Science [+ any other relevant subjects]’ is more concise.

Applying for a technical job? You may want to list the software you are familiar with and your level of proficiency. Place particular focus on any software listed in the job description.

4. Skills

This is where ‘Step 1: Deciding the type of CV you need’, comes in handy. If you’re writing a skills-based CV, this section should come first.

Have you, like me, ambled through your degree in a state of blissful procrastination with no thought for what you’ll do afterwards? Fear not, even without industry experience you will have picked up numerous transferable skills that are essential for the job. The best way to showcase these is with examples.

‘During my part-time job as an office administrator, I demonstrated my commitment to being a team player. For example, I proactively created a technical guide to help new staff members gain confidence using the company’s specialist software.’

Try to make sure the skills that you foreground are tailored to the job you are applying for. Read through the job description to select skills the company has explicitly stated they desire in a candidate. It may seem too obvious, but, in fact, they will be impressed by your research and keenness!

5. Experience

In this part of your CV, list your employment history, as well as any relevant placements or volunteering, in reverse chronological order. Include a brief explanation of your main duties. You will have gained valuable skills from even the most mundane role, so instead of ‘filing’, try:

‘Responsibility for the company’s filing system enhanced my organisation and attention to detail.’

6. Interests

The ‘Interests’ section is usually the last part, so it can be tempting to just write a few half-hearted lines. Also, everyone knows that ‘socialising with friends’ is just code for ‘pub’!

Don’t miss your final chance to demonstrate how your personality makes you a great fit for the role. Are they looking for someone outgoing? Your sports team or amateur dramatics group shows just that. Is the job you’re applying for quite high-pressured? Maybe yoga practice helps you calm down after a stressful day.

‘I am an outgoing person who loves to try new things; I recently joined my local improvised theatre group. This fun and unique hobby has increased my self-confidence.’

7. References

Unless you have a particularly impressive reference, such as someone from the industry, a simple ‘References available on request’ will help you to save space.

8. Formatting

Touching up a Word document isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, but your CV has to look professional. Here are a few ideas:

The heading at the top of your CV should be just your full name, no need for ‘C.V’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’.

Easy to overlook, but ‘Full Name CV’ is the best format. Not ‘my.cv’ and definitely not ‘cv updated 2002’!

Contact details.
Ensure your contact details are displayed at the top of the page. I find that aligning my heading to the left creates a handy space.

Make use of bullet points.
It can feel odd after carefully crafting sentences for your university essays, but bullet points help to present information clearly.

Headings and bold text.
Make your CV clear and easy-to-read for potential employers.

After writing your CV, have another read 24 hours later as you will spot mistakes more easily.

Good luck finding your first graduate job!


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