For the majority of graduates, your CV is the first opportunity to sell yourself to a potential employer.
But after several years of studying at university, thousands of graduates will discover that when they’re applying for graduate jobs, the competition can be incredibly high – and your degree or qualification won’t necessarily be enough to set you apart.
It’s all too easy to find that even with great results, your CV falls to the bottom of an employer’s pile; but there is plenty more that you can do to give your CV a much-needed boost.
Let’s take a look at 11 easy ways to improve your graduate CV, even if you don’t have any work experience.
1. Make sure your graduate CV looks professional ?
Whether your CV is submitted online or in physical format, it needs to look neat and professional.
A messy, untidy graduate CV, often belongs to a messy and disorderly person – so if you can’t look after your graduate CV and present it well, how can you expect someone to trust you with an important position?
You want your CV to show that you are serious, and have excellent attention to detail; so make sure you use a neat and professional font, and if you have to print it, make sure it’s on high-quality paper, in an envelope or folder.
2. Tailor your graduate CV to each role ?
When it comes to recruitment, there’s not much worse than seeing someone use the same graduate CV for every job they apply to.
Repeatedly using the exact same CV indicates to an employer that the candidate hasn’t taken the time to research the job that they are applying for.
They don’t know if the candidate would be a good fit, or if they have any key skills that could help them; in fact, all it tells employers is that they just want a job, and don’t care which one.
Use your CV to apply for a job, not just to sell yourself.
If there’s a particular job that you are interested in, do your research.
Read the job description and tailor your CV so that you mention any skills and experience that are relevant, instead of just listing everything.
It’s undoubtedly a good idea to save time with a template (or a few templates), for different kinds of work, but don’t be scared to make changes for each job that you apply for.
3. Change the layout of your graduate CV ?
The layout of your CV is essential.
You don’t want massive blocks of text with nothing to break them up, and unless the job calls for it, you don’t need to add a photo.
Use headings and bullet points to break it up, grab a potential employer’s attention, and help you stand out from the crowd.
Read more about how to structure a graduate CV here.
4. Cut down the excess on your CV ✂
Your CV shouldn’t ever be over two pages, especially as a graduate.
Rather than listing every skill you have, every exam you’ve ever taken and all the graduate jobs you’ve had before, stick to the most relevant and attractive qualities.
If you are required to write a cover letter, this is where you can explain why you are interested in the job that you are applying for, and why you think you’d be the best person for it.
If not; save it for your graduate job interview!
5. Avoid career gaps on a CV ?
Short gaps on your CV aren’t usually cause for concern.
No one would begrudge you a little time off after graduation, or in between high-stress positions – but when these gaps start to add up or stretch out, it can be a red flag to an employer.
Generally speaking, people that have got jobs find it much easier to get another one – so if there are significant career gaps in your CV, either don’t go back that far when you list your previous jobs, or explain the reason why.
6. Only include your key skills on your CV ?
Most people list education, experience, and then key skills on their CV – but in fact, key skills are often what grab an employer’s attention.
When every applicant has the same degree, these skills can set you apart – so think carefully about what your most valuable skills are, and consider how you could transfer skills you have learned in other areas.
For example, if you babysat as a teenager, you might not want to include it on your CV, but you can list your key skills like organisation, time management, the ability to cope under pressure, a trustworthy and mature attitude and a calming presence.
These skills are valuable in many different industries.
7. Continue your education ??
If everyone has a degree, then maybe you need more – and while it might not be a viable option for every undergraduate, pursuing postgraduate study can help to add real value to your CV, especially if you know what specific sector you want to go into.
A Master’s degree is a popular choice, but if you need to work and can’t afford to stay in university full time, an online course like a bba degree online can be an excellent addition to your graduate CV.
8. Include your references on a graduate CV ?
You don’t need to actually list the names of your references on your CV, but it’s important to think about who these would be should the employer request them.
Putting your mum, a family friend or a teacher from ten years ago down as a reference might not be the best idea.
Ideally, you want someone that you have worked for.
But, if your employment history is limited, try to find a character reference with good standing in the community.
9. Spell-check your CV ✅
One of the most common mistakes that people make when writing their CV is failing to check their spelling and grammar.
A potential employer might not be searching or spelling mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t notice one.
Take the time to proofread and run your document through a grammar checker like Grammarly before you finish.
10. Gain some work experience ?
One problem that many young professionals have is that they have been so focused on university that they have forgotten that education isn’t everything.
Often, graduate employers look for candidates with some work experience, a placement year, or an internship in a relevant sector.
If none of these are possible; try volunteering, upskilling and taking varied online courses, freelancing, learning through hobbies – or gain some copywriting and blogging experience and write for our student blog.
11. Ask for feedback on your CV ?
Your graduate CV doesn’t need to be set in stone.
If you progressed to the next stage, and are still applying for graduate jobs, ask the Recruitment Consultant or employer what worked or stood out on your CV, and what they think could do with some improvement.
Getting feedback will help you to improve your graduate CV over time.
Ask your close friends and family for advice on how to improve your CV further; an outside perspective is a good way to make improvements.
Looking for more Careers Advice, or ready to start applying for Graduate Jobs? Check out the latest jobs on our Graduate Jobs board.