Your CV provides an overview of your education, qualifications, skills and experience.
It’s often your initial communication with a company and employers generally scan a CV in about 30 seconds, to decide whether you’re what they are looking for – so you need to create a strong first impression! Read our tips on how to create a standout CV that presents you in the best possible light.
Your CV must look good and read well.
There is no perfect template; it’s fine to use sample CVs as a guide, but don’t just complete an online version – that doesn’t impress! So create your own, using these guidelines to help you:
Keep It Simple
No more than 2 sides of A4.
Well-structured, concise, easy to read.
Clearly defined sections.
Typed in a straightforward font:
For a fresh contemporary look – opt for a ‘ ’ font
e.g. Tahoma, Verdana, Century Gothic, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial
For a more traditional feel, use a ‘ ’ font
e.g. Garamond, Bell MT, Georgia, Goudy Old Style
But avoid Times New Roman – it’s considered boring and outdated.
Font size: 10 – 11 for body text, 12 – 13 for sub-heading
Get The Basics Right
Whilst it’s difficult to make your CV stand out, it’s easy to put employers off with silly errors such as spelling mistakes, poor grammar, or sloppy presentation.
Your CV should reflect your personality. Tell the truth and write in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Avoid clichés – use your own words.
It should be a personal profile, emphasising your strengths and achievements.
But don’t state the obvious e.g. If you got 3 A* A Levels and a 1st at University, there’s no need to mention that you’re results-driven!
As a new graduate, you won’t be expected to have much experience of working life, but draw on the valuable learning and transferrable skills you have gained from previous work, personal interests and activities.
Use positive, assertive terms when describing your accomplishments e.g. ‘adapted’ ‘developed’ ‘organised’ ‘resolved’ etc. Sell yourself!
Unexplained gaps will only raise questions. So if there are certain periods when you were neither working nor studying, give reasons; talk about skills/experience you may have gained during these times.
Tailor Your CV
Prepare a good basic CV, which you can then adapt to each job application.
Research the company and several job adverts for the type of role you are applying for, so you understand the jargon and specific requirements. Then demonstrate how you fulfil their needs and could benefit their business.
As you accumulate more experience, you can start to omit earlier parts of your CV, particularly if you have better examples.
Update Your CV Regularly
Keep a record of everything you have done, so you don’t forget!
Note dates and company details as well as what you achieved and learned.
Always submit a CV that is fully up-to-date.
What To Include
List all education, training and professional experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
Hello Grads CV Tips!
Other Advice & Examples
Describe work/leisure pursuits in a way that highlights relevant assets and transferable skills.
Use PAR: Problem, Action, Results – Show what impact you made. Where relevant, provide measurable evidence.
😥 Rather than ‘I was responsible for organising our annual charity event’…
🙂 ‘I organised our annual charity event, motivating and supervising my team; I was successful in publicising it via local media, which meant we benefitted from record attendance and a 30% increase in funds raised.’
😥 Rather than ‘Captain of swimming team’ …
🙂 ‘I was elected captain of the swimming club; I organised training sessions and led the team to win the regional championship.’
😥 ‘Senior Prefect’ could be better described…
🙂 ‘As a senior prefect, I acted as a mentor and role model for younger students, supervising after-school clubs.’
Video CV’s are becoming popular, not as a replacement for the traditional CV, but as an extra feature to enhance an application, particularly where good presentation skills are key e.g. for creative or customer-facing roles in advertising, PR, sales, marketing or media.
Tackled in the same professional manner you would treat an interview, a video should ideally last 1-3 minutes, allowing you to introduce yourself and explain why you’re the right candidate for the job, and letting your personality come across.
Bear in mind that a poorly executed video could risk recruiters rejecting you before they have even met you; but if you are adept at communicating what you have to offer, then the addition of a video CV could give you the edge.
More on Video CV’s
How To Record A Video CV – Inspiring Interns
Video guide of Do’s & Don’ts (approx. 5 mins)
How To Make A Video CV – Total JobsPros & Cons; How To
Find out more on creating a standout CV
Make Your CV Stand Out from the Crowd
An experienced recruiter explains how to create an impressive CV, even as a new graduate with little experience
Grad Bites: Job Applications
An HR professional gives his views on how to stand out in this tough jobs market, with tips on job applications, CVs & cover letters