Writing a CV
At The Graduate Project we tell our candidate to think about the purpose of why they are writing a CV and who will be reading this document.
A CV template should:
- Introduce you as a promising potential candidate for the role
- Present all of your relevant skills and accomplishments
- Tell a story of your professional experience to date with some personality attributes
Your CV should not:
- Be an exhaustive list of your every achievement, regardless of relevance
- Include a lengthy discourse about every course you've ever taken
- Contain information just to 'bulk it out'. Being concise will help your reader and maintain their interest, making them want to know more
You have to remember that there's no accounting for taste, so you have to make the content of your CV unique, rather than using an elaborate layout to make you stand out from the crowd (unless, of course, you are going for a design job, in which case you have room to get creative). You can't afford for a recruiter to reject your CV because they don't like your font or layout, so making the document as accessible as possible is a must.
Some suggestions are:
- Use a simple business font, some of our consultants favour Arial, Calibri, or Verdana and ensure you have used the same font and letter size throughout
- Use bold or italics to emphasise text, such as job roles, rather than underlining
- Use bullet points, numbering and dashes to format content
- Ensure new paragraphs, bullet points and headings are all in line with each other and of a consistent style (e.g. headings in bold etc)
- Split your CV into sections and ensure those sections are obvious (e.g. Profile, Work Experience, Education) and when listing experiences within these sections keep to a reverse chronological order, with your most recent experience/education at the top
- Aim for two pages in length; less is okay, more and you risk losing the reader's interest
- When reading the Job Specification decide what the most important factors are that the company are looking for and ensure that your relevant experiences for this are on the front page of your CV
- Should the recruiter want a hard-copy, use a high quality A4 paper
These are standard and required by all employers, but note that you shouldn't include your date of birth, marital status or gender. Ensure that your personal details are clearly placed at the top of the first page of your CV and don't take up too much space, you could also use your name as a header so that it appears on both pages of your CV.
Don't include the header 'Curriculum Vitae'; it's a waste of space that you might need to utilise later and furthermore your prospective employer will know what the document is.
The essentials to include are:
- Postal address
- Email address
- Telephone number(s)
- Personal profile:
This is an optional section of a graduate CV template which can be used to show the employer you are focused and determined to pursue a career in their field. Most selectors want an uncomplicated summary of expertise and suitability. Don't fall into the trap of making unsubstantiated statements here - for example "I am hard working" - that should be evident from the content of your CV. Instead make this a factual and relevant mission statement. Any information you feel the need to impart, but cannot fit within your personal profile.
- Appear at the beginning of your CV
- Be no longer than 2-4 sentences
- Give an overview of your current situation - "I have just graduated with a degree in ..."
- Be positive, lively and to the point
- Avoid buzzwords such as 'dynamic' and 'team player', which every applicant will be using
- Specifically detail what it is you want to do - "I am looking for a job as a ... in the field of ..."
- Be different for each application. Ensure you make it specific to the job and the employer and do not use a generic profile that can be utilised for every CV you send out.
Write your education in reverse chronological order, so start with your university degree. The employer wants a snapshot of you as an academic in this section - not a summary of 15 years' worth of your school reports. Focus on your university grades, specialisation and extra-curricular experiences to start with. A term that is often used in relation to the graduate employment market is 'transferable skills' and this section is where you need to throw light on those skills which might include leadership, project management, communication and presentation skills. Essentially the education section should contain:
- Qualifications (Degree, A levels and some GCSE's) in reverse-chronological order
- The dates you attended each establishment
- Degree subject, type, grade and establishment
- More detail on specialisation/university experience
- A level grades, subjects and establishment
- Maths, English and Science GCSE grades and establishment and maybe one or two more if relevant, avoid listing them all though
- Other skills, e.g. computer literacy and other languages
Interests and activities:
This is the place to say a little bit about you as a person, outside of work, and to let your personality shine through. You can mention any activity or hobby, but obviously keep it appropriate, there are certain things that a graduate recruiter just won't want to hear, so use your own discretion.
Try to avoid irrelevant listing of things you enjoy with no evidence to back it up. If you enjoy running and go running twice a week, tell them that you go running twice a week and not just that you enjoy running or if you are involved in a club/society, don't just say you enjoy that subject or sport, tell them you are an active member of the club or society.
Examples worth including in this area are:
- Sports teams
- Awards (these are particularly good as they can suggest a high achieving and competitive nature)
Two references are ample for your entry-level graduate CV. One can be academic and the other from a period of work experience. You can choose to omit the contact details if, for example, one is a current employer or you would prefer to contact them first.
If omitting the references remember to note at the bottom that 'references are available on request' or something similar so the recruiter knows you are willing and prepared to provide these.
Final graduate CV proof-reading and notes:
- What overall tone does your graduate CV take?
- Has it conveyed all of your accomplishments as well as an idea of you as a person?
- Have you missed anything glaringly obvious?
- Sometimes we get a CV example that omits the degree grade, degree subject or even a contact number. Don't get complacent when sending out your CV to numerous companies, give yourself a break between each CV and ensure you have covered all aspects when writing and/or tailoring it.
Try out some of the following proofing methods:
- Don't forget the obvious - Use the spell check tool, it is truly invaluable, and make sure your punctuation is all correct.
- Read it out loud - this can help identify tone, check the flow and ensure you haven't just constructed a wordy list
- Ask everyone you can to have a look - peers are good, but professionals in the industry are even better. Be prepared for a little criticism because, after all, you want the best possible CV
One more important point - don't be tempted to 'stretch the truth' in your CV. Getting your foot in the door would be worthless if, once you are at an interview, you can't back up your claims or are inconsistent with what you are telling a recruiter. You want an employer who wants you for all the unique skills and experience you can bring.