I have just written a new CV for a talented and ambitious undergraduate in her final year of a three-year course. This individual is multi-lingual, with a strong academic background, solid business experience gained through several internships and a plethora of extra-curricular activities. She might be described as the perfect catch for the graduate recruiter, yet her existing CV let her down. To go to all that effort of acquiring those experiences and honing her skills, just to let an ineffective CV reflect badly upon her, would have been criminal. We can all breathe a sigh of relief, as this individual recognised her CV needed improvement, and took the steps needed to ensure her CV did her justice.
Here are the changes I made, and recommend that all graduates make, to take a graduate CV from mediocre to marvellous:
1. Use a headline to flag your preferred direction
Using a headline at the top of your CV is an excellent way to position yourself, your skills and your professional aspirations in the recruiter’s mind. If you intend to use your degree to take your career forward, then you could define yourself using your degree, for example, BUSINESS GRADUATE. Another tactic is to position yourself in terms of your aspirations, for example, ASPIRING BUSINESS ANALYST. Wherever possible, reflect the terms used by your target recruiter, so that if they are looking for a graduate sales professional, you also describe yourself in the same terminology.
2. Summarise your offering with a compelling CV profile
Add a concise and targeted profile at the top of your CV to introduce your key skills, experience and career aspirations to your reader. Flagging up what the recruiter needs to know at the top of the CV is much better than making them scan through your CV to find out who the professional ‘you’ is, what skills and experience you have and what you want to do with them. For more information on writing your CV headline and profile, check out our recent blog, Who does your CV say you are?
3. Present your education up front
As a new graduate, your education is likely to have been your main focus and platform for achievement to date. Unless you have been employed in a relevant role since graduating, it is advisable to detail your education after your profile. List degree modules if relevant to your target career, and if you are waiting to graduate, indicate your expected grade.
4. Make the most of your experience
As a graduate, it’s unlikely that you will have acres of experience in the traditional sense gained from paid employment. That’s OK. The experience section on your CV does not necessarily have to be drawn from paid work experience. Internships, unpaid work experience, degree-based research projects and extra-curricular responsibilities can all enhance your credibility in the recruiter’s eyes.
Although a reverse chronological approach is recommended, you can also segment your experience into sections to make it easier for recruiters to assess. For the graduate I mentioned above, I divided her experience into Experience, covering internships and work experience, and University Roles. Another approach is to include a Relevant Experience section on page one of your CV, listing roles most relevant to your job target, with Other Experience to follow on page two of your CV.
5. Summarise transferable skills in a Key Skills section
Help the recruiter to tick their boxes by adding a Key Skills section. Consult your target employer’s website, any job advert, role description and person specification and identify the core skills the recruiter will be looking for, then include the skills you have that match in this section. Use snappy two to three-word bullets, and describe transferable business skills (e.g. Quantitative Research or Report Writing), rather than soft skills (e.g. Communication Skills), that you can bring to your target employer.
6. Present your CV using clearly defined and easy-to-read sections
If your CV has no clear structure or presents information in sections that look all the same, chances are that the recruiter is going to switch off. Your CV needs to be smart, skim-readable and visually appealing.
7. Convey your passion through additional information
Relevant professional memberships, voluntary work and extra-curricular interests can boost your CV and demonstrate commitment to your target career.
8. Add a cover letter
A targeted cover letter is, at a basic level, a courtesy and, without one, you are not being polite to the recruiter. More than this, however, a considered and well-written cover letter is a great way to convey your fit for your desired role. It can demonstrate that you have researched and understood the role you are applying for and that you have an idea about how the company operates and its vision for the future. You can use your cover letter to convey your enthusiasm, motivation and positive attitude. To find out more, check out our recent blog, Cover Letters Uncovered.
9. Integrate with LinkedIn for a coordinated application
LinkedIn now has more than 10 million UK members and over 200 million members globally, with recent figures suggesting that two people sign up to LinkedIn every second. As a graduate, it is increasingly important to ensure that you have a presence on LinkedIn and that it reflects what you are saying on your CV.
Giraffe CVs help graduates to supercharge their job search by delivering compelling, interview-winning CVs. Find out more about Giraffe CVs’ graduate CV services here.