When it comes to landing the perfect graduate job, having a good graduate CV will be key to your success.
But it’s thought that employers, often with 50 or more graduate CVs to read at one time, spend an average of 6 seconds scanning the CV you poured hours of time and effort into.
To be in with a chance of getting an interview, you need to understand how to write a graduate CV – because it needs to be well-structured, tailored to the specific graduate jobs you’re applying to, and still be unique in some way.
Read on to find out how to write a graduate CV – whatever your level of experience, and whichever type of role you are applying for.
Graduate CV tips
1. A good graduate CV will have clear contact details
It might seem obvious, but at the top of your graduate CV you’ll need to clearly state your personal details – your name, address, email and phone number (we’d advise not including a photo of yourself).
If an employer has decided to contact you, not being able to see your details right away might make them think twice.
So to ensure that you get the invite to interview, your details should be written in a clear, legible font, right at the top of your graduate CV.
Top tip for graduate CVs: That embarrassing email address you chose back in 2009?
It doesn’t belong on your CV, and should be kept only for private use.
It will only take 5 minutes of your time to set up a professional email address using a free provider – ideally, this will be your full name, with no nicknames, symbols or numbers.
2. Sell yourself to the employer!
Directly underneath your personal details, your graduate CV should include a short personal profile which outlines your key skills, interests and career ambitions.
Think of this section like a very short personal statement – 3 or 4 sentences that you can really personalise, to capture the attention of an employer and help them to understand in the first few seconds of reading your CV what makes you, you.
Your personal profile should be honest, but should show your worth to an employer – so feeling like you’re being a bit conceited isn’t unusual.
When writing your graduate CV, pick out the best things about you, whether this be personality traits, skills, achievements, or the career path you’re interested in following – and shout about them!
An employer will be interested to know what you think the best things about you are, so let them know from the off what they can expect from the rest of your CV.
Top tip for graduate CVs: It’s acceptable to write your personal statement in either the 1st or the 3rd person – ‘A recent graduate seeking…’ or ‘I am a recent graduate seeking…’.
Both have their own benefits (one is more objective, the other more personal), and it doesn’t really matter which one you choose, as long as you remain consistent throughout.
3. Say on your CV what your education taught you
On any graduate CV, you should always include the schools and universities you have attended, the dates you studied there, and the results you obtained.
Many candidates searching for graduate jobs make the mistake of just listing their university and degree qualification but you can also include details of projects you worked on, modules or courses you studied, and specific skills you obtained.
Top tip for graduate CVs: If you’re lacking in work experience, use your education to demonstrate the transferrable skills you learned.
In your History World War II research project, for example, you might have used research skills, worked as part of a team, exercised great time management or fantastic organisational skills.
Listing the skills that specific aspects of your education taught you will indicate to an employer that you have just the attributes they are looking for, even if they haven’t come from years of work experience.
4. List all your experience on your graduate CV
On your graduate CV, your work experience should be written in chronological order, with the most recent first.
It should include the company name, your role or function, and any responsibilities or achievements you have had in the past.
Some would argue that it’s better to only include relevant experience, tailored to the particular role or company you are applying to.
This is certainly something to consider if you’ve got lots of work experience already under your belt.
But if you’re lacking in this kind of experience then it’s more than OK to include any voluntary work, extra-curricular projects or part-time jobs you’ve had.
Just try to make these relevant to the graduate jobs you are applying to, and link them to the particular skills that the role calls for.
To really impress an employer, include action verbs like ‘transformed’, ‘initiated’ or ‘inspired’, to indicate the kind of impact you had, and the results that you were able to deliver.
Top tip for graduate CVs: Explain any large gaps in employment.
Big gaps without any explanation will be a red flag to any employer, and it’s better to include what you were doing during this time than to leave them guessing.
But whatever you do, don’t lie – you will get caught out eventually.
5. Include any awards, achievements or interests
Although it’s not a necessity, this section can help to bulk out a CV that is lacking in solid work experience, as well as showing an employer other ways you might be suitable for the role.
It can include sports teams you were part of, societies or volunteering activities you were involved in, or any academic awards you won – and remember to include what you actually learned (i.e. the transferrable skills you gained) from doing these things.
Including information about extra-curricular interests and achievements is also a great way to emphasise your personality and can indicate to an employer that you are a well-rounded individual who is likely to be an asset to their company.
Top tip for graduate CVs: Pick only your most relevant interests, and tailor them to the specific role and company you’re applying to – if you’re an avid reader applying to a publishing house, for example, this would be one to include on your graduate CV.
As a rule of thumb, never include anything that you wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation about if you are asked in your interview because saying you’re a die-hard Shakespeare fan won’t be quite so impressive when you struggle to name your favourite comedy.
Check out more tips on how to structure a graduate CV.