So, you’ve graduated from a university or campus – now what? Well, you start looking for a job. But before you start browsing job boards like CareerAddict Jobs for relevant opportunities (a bit of unapologetic and unashamed self-advertising there), there’s one little thing you need to take care of first: your CV.
But not just any CV, your first CV – which, quite naturally, makes the whole process a lot more intimidating. After all, you’re probably thinking: ‘Why would an employer hire me? I’m a recent grad with no experience whatsoever! Surely they will prefer someone who not only has the qualifications but also the skills and knowledge!’
And that’s probably true. But that really doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance. In fact, if you’re able to effectively show what you’re capable of and how a potential employer can benefit from you, I can assure you-you’ll be one of the top candidates!
Here’s everything you need to know about how to write a graduate CV, complete with valuable tips, a handy template and awesome examples to use for inspiration!
Tips for Writing a Graduate CV
Check out these valuable tips to help you get started with your graduate CV:
1. Emphasise Education
Ever wondered what is a recent grads’ strongest asset? Well, that would be their education, of course.
Make sure to focus on your degree and to give college and school-level qualifications less importance – that’s not to say they’re not important, though!
Beyond degree classifications and your GPA, it’s important to emphasise what you gained from your studies. In other words, the transferable skills you’ve developed. For example, planning your dissertation shows that you’re organised while completing assignments shows that you’re able to work to deadlines.
On a side note, if your GPA is below 3.0, the general rule of thumb is not to include it on your CV.
2. Highlight Relevant Experience
Understandably, you won’t have much previous work experience as a recent graduate. And you’ll, therefore, likely be tempted to mention your brief stint as a dog walker during the summer holidays when you were still in high school in a bid to fill the gaps. My advice here would be: don’t. Unless you can somehow tie it to the role you’re applying for, leave it off completely.
If you’re worried that a lack of professional experience will set you back, there’s no need to. Besides, you can always mention any unpaid internships, freelance or voluntary work you’ve done. Done right, these positions will still demonstrate the qualities and transferable skills that make you an excellent candidate for the job.
3. Use Keywords
Read the job ad carefully and try to identify any keywords, phrases and action verbs that you can use to tailor your CV to the job. For example, if the job specifications require the candidate to have ‘excellent communication skills’, make sure that you replicate the exact phrasing on your CV. It’s also a good idea to use variations of keywords.
Adding keywords is often essential to ensure your CV gets past the robots, i.e.: applicant tracking systems.
4. Watch Your Formatting
The content included on your CV is what really matters, but that doesn’t mean your CV’s layout, format and overall design is worthless. After all, you want to make your skills and knowledge as visually appealing as possible. You can do this by:
Using a combination of bullet points and short paragraphs
Using a modern and clearly legible font like Arial or Calibri between 10 and 12 points
Aiming for two pages (without fluffing it up, of course)
Making good use of white space
Check out our comprehensive CV-writing guide for more useful tips!
5. Use Examples
A little trick you’ll find useful when writing your first CV is to use real-life examples for inspiration. Google, for one, is an excellent resource. You’ll also find some great examples below, as well as a template to reference when putting everything together.
6. Edit and Proofread
Before you start submitting applications to the companies you’re interested in working at, make sure you check and double-check your CV for spelling, grammar, tenses, names of universities, etc. It’s also a good idea to ask family and friends to review your CV, too, in case you’ve missed a potentially embarrassing typo that could end up costing you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Graduate CV Template
Writing your first CV can be a scary task, what with all the (sometimes contradictory) advice available on (and off) the internet. To make things much easier and less confusing for you, here’s a little CV template with all the important bits and pieces you need to include in this all too important document.
The first part of your CV (the top of the page) should contain your contact details:
Your name (use a larger font size and bolding to make it stand out more)
Your email address (make sure it sounds professional!)
Your phone number (mobile is always better)
Your home address or the city you live in
A link to your LinkedIn profile
A link to your online portfolio (if applicable)
A personal statement, sometimes called a career summary or profile, is a brief description of your key achievements, skills and experience, and is used to promote the strategic value you can add to an employer’s organisation. A well-written statement can be anywhere between 50 and 200 words.
Generally speaking, your personal statement should answer the following questions:
Who are you?
What can you bring to the table?
What are your career goals?
Although it’s been long debated whether or not including a personal statement on your CV is wise, there are certain situations where it can prove incredibly useful. Like if you’re posting your CV to a job board for employers to browse or when you’re applying through a recruitment agency that won’t let you submit a cover letter.
3.Education & Qualifications
As explained earlier, the education section should take centre stage on your CV and should primarily focus on your degree. It should be written in reverse chronological order (most recent qualification first) and contain the following:
Dates of study
Degree and degree classification
Course modules relevant to the job you’re applying for
Other relevant information, like a project or dissertation
If you have other qualifications worth mentioning, like 10 GCSEs, make sure you do!
As a recent grad, you may find that this section is the hardest to write, especially if you have no experience to speak of. If this is the case, try to keep this section brief.
Make sure you include:
Dates of employment
Key duties and achievements
As with your education, your employment history should be organised in reverse chronological order.
5.Hobbies and Interests
Including this section is entirely optional, but it can help you demonstrate your skills and back up your motives – if you choose to include the right hobbies, that is. For example, socialising with friends will most likely be of little interest to employers.
Make sure that you expand on each hobby and provide the employer with useful information to confirm your suitability to the role.
Check out our list of hobbies and interests if you’re stuck for ideas!
This section should be used to mention anything that may help support your application, like having a driving license, speaking a foreign language or volunteering at a local charity.
You don’t have to include references on your CV – in fact, many career experts and HR managers argue against it and instead suggest supplying them only when you’re asked for them. If you do decide to include them on your CV, though, make sure you offer the following information:
Their job title and company name
Their relationship to you (e.g.: family friend of 15 years)
Their phone number
Their email address
If you don’t have any professional references, it’s perfectly alright to use friends, former teachers, lecturers, etc for character references. Whatever the case, make sure you ask for their permission first!
Check out these sample graduate CVs for some inspiration when putting your CV together: