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How an employer reads your graduate CV

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Let us guess, if you had £1 for every time you tweaked, edited and re-wrote your CV, you’d be able to pay off your student debts in a month!

While Google is full of advice for creating a great graduate CV, with so much advice out there, it can be even more frustrating if you find your CV still isn’t getting you the graduate job you want!

At Give A Grad A Go we wanted to take a different approach, by getting you to see your graduate CV through the eyes of an employer.

With this in mind, here are three things an employer looks at when they read your CV.


1. Layout

Before even reading a word, an employer has already begun to form an opinion of your CV, simply from how it looks.

Employers can have up to 100 or more graduate CVs to read per graduate job, and the CVs that look well-presented and easiest to skim over are often the ones that get the most attention.

But you don’t need to have a flashy CV design to get noticed – it all comes down to formatting.

Having lots of ‘white space’ helps make the page look less busy – use easy-to-read font types and make sure the different sections of your CV are well-spaced.

Using a different colour for section headers and highlighting key points in bold, will add variation to the page, making it easier to follow all the points.


2. Dates

Believe it or not, dates make a huge difference to your CV.

Including dates on your CV helps an employer connect the dots between all your experience much more easily. A good format to use is, MONTH YY e.g. JAN 15 – JUN 16.

Employers will often look at the length of time you’ve spent at different places and in various positions, as a way of understanding more about you.

E.g. Getting several promotions in the same company suggests you’re driven, proactive and dedicated, whereas a short time spent at lots of different companies might tell an employer you’re unlikely to stick with their company for very long.

In this case, you might want to highlight if it was an internship or a short-term contract, to give some context.

Remember to also list your most recent experience first – muddled dates will suggest to an employer that you have poor basic communication skills.


3. Words

Employers are looking for proof you can do the job and will produce results.

So making your key achievements stand out is a great way to ensure employers zone into those specific parts.

Put recognised brand names or words related to the sector in bold e.g. highlight the fact you worked at ‘Martin’s Motors’ if you’re applying to be an analyst in an automotive company – employers are always on the lookout for candidates that will come with great commercial awareness.

Write any key achievements as numbers where possible e.g. Increased following from 12,000 to 30,000, created six new 100 page booklets for an audience of 45,000, or billed £20K – 20% over target.

This will help keep your points concise and the big numbers will speak for themselves!

You might find your CV is stronger in one of these areas than the others.

But what you lack in one you can make up in another.

E.g. If you don’t have much overall experience, put emphasis on highlighting your achievements.

This way you’ll come across as having achieved a lot in a short amount of time.


Find more career advice on our Careers Advice Blog – or check out the the best graduate schemes UK!

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