After graduating, the prospect of entering the ‘real world’ can seem daunting. Leaving the student bubble and finding your feet is difficult enough without the constant rejection from potential employers. To secure an interview, your CV is an opportunity to show off any accomplishments and sell your skills and experience. So to make sure you impress, here’s a general guide to follow to create an employable CV that will get you that job.
Choosing your format
Start by choosing a format best suited to you and the position you’re applying for. Different formats generally contain the same information, but with different elements emphasised. The main types of CV formats include performance, targeted, student or graduate and alternative.
As a very popular CV layout, a performance CV usually starts with an achievements section, highlighting what makes you stand out, followed by your previous job titles and company names. Your steps in career progression and any key targets can also be listed. This format is great if you want to stay in the same line of work or if you feel you’ve got a lot to shout about.
Another common format is the targeted CV. This format focuses on transferable skills rather than job titles, such skills should be listed under headings titled ‘abilities’ and ‘achievements’. This type of CV is helpful if you’re looking for a career in a new sector which you may not have much experience in. As a recent graduate, this is also a good route as you’ll likely have more skills to boast about than job titles. The general graduate layout differs from this by having qualifications at the top of the CV instead of skills, but any relevant skills should also be highlighted.
Finally, an alternative CV is best suited to creative roles, for example a CV aimed at a media or design job will be more unconventional than others and is likely to feature lots of imagery, to the point where it will look more like an advert or a sales brochure.
What to include
It’s tempting to reel off everything you’ve ever achieved on your CV. However, a CV should usually be no more than two pages of A4, so be selective with what you include and keep it concise.
With any CV, always include your personal details. Name, address, mobile number and email address are essential. Date of birth, marital status and nationality aren’t, so only include if necessary. A LinkedIn profile or personal website can also be beneficial so that employers can find out more about you.
Include a short paragraph dedicated to your personal profile. This should state skills and qualities which make you stand out, your work background and any career aims. Although this is your chance to sell yourself, try to avoid generic clichés such as ‘team player’ or ‘good communication skills’. Also only include skills which paint you in a good light. Although it may be impressive that you finished your whole dissertation in one Red Bull infused night, you want to come across as organised.
When adding employment history, start with your most recent job and work backwards. Include the name of the company, the dates you worked for them, your job title and main duties. As a graduate, don’t be afraid to add short term work experience and volunteer work if it’s relevant. Use concise bullet points and try to include positive verbs, such as ‘achieved’, ‘supervised’, or ‘created’. Although it may be tempting to fluff it up with a couple of white lies, avoid adding fabrications which could get you into trouble in the future.
Use the same bullet point format for qualifications and work backwards, including the establishments, the dates, the courses and the grades you achieved. Include both academic and on-the-job training if you have any.
An extra paragraph including hobbies, interests, or any outside-of-work achievements can also help. For example, if you were involved in any societies, or won any awards at University, add them here. Include mainly interesting activities that make you seem sociable. For example, being part of your University’s swimming team may appear better than listing reading as a hobby.
Finally, add at least two references at the bottom, or the sentence ‘references available on request’. If you decide to include your referees state their relationship to you and contact details. At least one referee should be work-related, while another could be an academic tutor.
With all of the above, make sure the presentation is easy on the eye. Keep it cohesive, with a simple business font and the same sized lettering throughout. For headings, use bold or italic text to emphasise instead of underlining. Bullet points are also preferred to numbers or dashes.
How to tailor your CV
As appealing as it may be to send out the same CV to every employer, take the time to alter your CV with each role that you apply for. A successful CV will appear custom-made for the job in question. So research the company thoroughly and seek out which specific skills they are looking for, the effort will not go unnoticed.
It also helps to look at ads for that job title within different companies to see if there are keywords that appear throughout. For example, a graphic design candidate will always want to boast a creative flair or add any experience using Adobe software. Including such keywords will also make it easier for recruiters to find you if you have uploaded your CV to job site.
Good luck securing that interview! If you have can think of any helpful information we’ve missed, let us know in the comments! Also, see 20 Quick Student Job Hunting Tips