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Your CV is the crucial first step to getting your desired graduate job. As a graduate in a competitive job market, you need to be thinking about how you can make your job applications stand out. Here are five tips to finding the right blend of professionalism and personality:
The key when writing your CV is to make sure it’s relevant to the roles you’re applying for. Essential information like your degree, university and work experience should be instantly accessible to the reader. A recruiter could look at your CV for a matter of seconds, so the information needs to be clear and easy to locate. There is no specific rule determining which should come first on your CV: experience or education. Consider which facts are most relevant. As a recent graduate, it’s likely that you will want to draw attention to your degree over your experience. However, if you do have relevant work experience, this needs to be brought to the reader’s attention. For example, if you did a humanities degree but are looking to get into marketing and have previous experience in CMS or social media management; your experience is more relevant so should feature above your degree. If you have done a placement as part of your degree, you should highlight this also. Don’t just write a list, explain the skills you have learnt and developed as a result.
In order to stand out from the crowd in the job hunt, it’s important to express personality in your applications. Use your CV as a platform to showcase your skills – whether that’s creating an infographic rather than a traditional CV as a graphic design graduate, or adding links to articles you’ve had published as an aspiring content creator. Avoid generic statements about being a “team player” with “good communication skills” and focus on facts you can support. As a volunteer or member of a university society for example, you can demonstrate how you honed these skills. This is also a good opportunity to emphasise success you might have had in these areas. Incorporate the use of numbers where possible when describing your achievements. By how much did you exceed your targets? How many hits did your blog accumulate?
It seems simple enough to avoid basic errors in your CV, from spelling mistakes to dodgy grammar, but it isn’t something you can overlook. Check, check and check again, then send it to a parent or a friend to read it with a fresh pair of eyes. One mistake could halter your chances of reaching the interview stage, if your lack of attention to detail fails to back up those claims of “excellent written and spoken English”. Keep paragraphs short and text succinct. Beginning paragraphs with action words like “Presented to” rather than “I presented” gets straight to the point and avoids overuse of “I”. Bullet points can help break down information and make it easy for the reader to digest.
Layout and format
A clean, simple layout with each section clearly labelled is ideal. The use of links to websites, online portfolios, blogs or previous projects is welcomed by employers and increasingly popular as graduates look to build up a strong online presence. A CV longer than two pages is unnecessary, particularly if you are a recent graduate with limited experience. Save your document as a Word or PDF file, and remember to change the title each time you edit your CV. Avoid saving it as anything generic like ‘CV for internship applications’ and focus on quality over quantity.
Start with your name and contact details, followed by a short personal statement. Keep your experience and qualifications towards the beginning of the document and interests and achievements towards the end. Although less significant, your interests and achievements shouldn’t be overlooked. Highlight your passions and personal attributes, whether they set you apart from other candidates or offer a conversation starter in an interview. A company is looking to find a match for their culture and values, as much as they are keen to find the right skills.
Finally, consider going digital. Check out Inspiring Interns – the pioneers of video CVs – to find out more about filming a video CV and how it can boost your employability.
Guest blog by Catherine Moolenschot from Inspiring Interns