So I hear congratulations are in order? You’ve graduated and now its time to put all that hard work to use and start your career.
The competition for graduate positions is fierce, you are amongst a sea of graduates descending upon the job market and it’s up to you to ensure that your CV makes you stand out from the crowd.
The structure of your CV is incredibly important. A well-structured CV will make the important information easily accessible for the person reading it, a poorly structured CV will force the reader to search for the information they want and a word of advice, they won’t search for long before moving on to the next one.
A standard CV will usually include certain key sections:
• Personal details (name, address etc)
• Employment history
With these sections clearly labeled, it makes it easy for the reader to find the information they consider to be important.
If, as a result of only ever being in education, you don’t have any experience in employment then you may want to re-title this section as ‘Other Experience’ and use it to demonstrate any other positions of responsibility you’ve held or extra curricular activities you may have taken part in.
Later in your career it would be advisable to put your employment experience ahead of your education however when applying for graduate positions it is likely that your education will be the most relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Whilst not essential, many opt to include an opening paragraph before going into the details of their education and employment experience. This can be used to outline key skills you have developed and summarise the important aspects of your experience.
It can be incredibly tempting to simply list things very matter-of-factly in a CV, just listing tasks and activities. This is a missed opportunity to showcase what you have learnt and what you achieved. This is your chance to stand out in what is likely to be a large pile of applications.
When outlining your education, think about certain skills you have developed that might be relevant to the position you are applying for. This might include:
• Research (Qualitative/Quantitative)
• Report writing
• Collaborative work
• Problem solving
• Data analysis
This is not only an opportunity to demonstrate that you have developed these skills but also that you understand the nature of the role that you are applying for.
Do what you can to avoid meaningless clichés, this includes terms such as ‘team player’, ‘driven’, ‘motivated’ and ‘determined’. The person reading your CV has heard these phrases a thousand times before and unless you have significant evidence to back it up it will do you no favours at all. Including clichés like this will do nothing to help you stand out but rather ensure that you blend in with the rest of the crowd.
When presenting your education and work experience, try and keep your points short and sharp. Information presented in this way is a lot easier to find and absorb. This will significantly increase the likelihood of the reader making it all the way through, if they have to wade through long, convoluted sentences in order to find the information they are looking for then that likelihood will dramatically decrease.
As I have mentioned before, your CV is likely to be one of many in a pile of applications. Especially when applying for graduate opportunities, there are likely to be a lot of similarities between candidates making the job of creating a shortlist an incredibly difficult one. It is therefore essential that you do not give them an easy excuse to disregard your application.
Simple spelling mistakes are the quickest way to take yourself out the running especially when we live in an age where every computer has a spell check function. Spelling and grammatical errors demonstrates a lack of care and attention to detail, neither of which are desirable attributes in any job.
Don’t just rely on spell check, print your CV and read it a few times and have some other people read through it for you. Make sure, not only that the spelling and grammar is correct, but that it flows well and everything makes sense. Don’t lose out on that position that you really want because of something that could have so easily been fixed.
Writing your first CV can be a daunting prospect but if approached properly then there is no need to worry. If well presented, then your skills and experience will speak for themselves and then it will be down to you to impress in an interview.