As a recent grad, you’re likely to have worked in several short-term summer jobs and one or two short-term work experience placements that may not be relevant to the career path you have your heart set on. This can make writing your CV a difficult task as it can be unclear as to how you should present the skills you’ve acquired along the way and how to highlight the experiences that potential employers are most likely to be interested in. With few past professional achievements to draw upon to evidence your suitability, it might also be tough trying to persuade a company that you’re the right person for the job.
That said, you are likely to have picked up some invaluable experiences while at university, during periods of travel or while working summer jobs. You should use these to your advantage; but knowing exactly how to, so that you secure your very first entry-level job, can be tricky. Here are five steps you can take to craft the perfect CV:
1. Tailor your personal statement
You should open your CV with a short paragraph that is specifically tailored to the role you’re applying for – this is an important opener, which should sit under your name and contact details, that sets the tone for the entire document. Use the job description or job advert to help you craft a statement that outlines your skillset and your why you desire this role.
Wherever possible, include a mention of the skills they’re looking for in relation to your personal or educational achievements. A strong statement will not only show your potential future employer your enthusiasm for the position, which is essential at graduate level; it will also display your understanding of the industry and position you’re applying for.
Make sure you use it to answer the following questions: Who are you? What you can offer? What are your professional goals?
2. Education and working history
In this section, you should list the subjects you studied and grades achieved for your degree, A-levels and GCSEs in order of the most recent – you don’t need to provide modular detail of all the areas you studied, just a general overview. You should list all your work placements if they are relevant and the transferable skills you need for the role you’re applying to. For example, if you worked as a retail sales assistant, you’ll be able to list customer service a key skill and if you worked in an office environment, you might have gained valuable administration skills. Listing every bar and hospitality position you’ve worked in is a no-no – wading through this is a distraction to hiring managers and could detract from the skills you do want to highlight.
3. Avoid fancy formatting
When applying for your first job, your CV should be short and to the point, ideally no longer than one page in length so that it is not difficult to navigate. Avoid making your CV stand out for the wrong reasons; using any fancy fonts, colours or pictures looks amateur and will distract the reader from the content. This is a factual document that requires minimal design, so a standard Arial font in black and point 11 is probably the most appropriate. Bullet points are a good way to break up the text and to clearly set out the skills you have gained in your previous positions and throughout your degree.
4. Your interests
Your interests outside of work can tell your potential employer a lot about who you are and what motivates you; they can show your dedication, resilience, adaptability or competitiveness. Your extra-curricular activities also provide a good talking point in an interview and can be a great way to develop rapport and a lasting impression on your interviewer. Try to highlight any achievements which could be relevant to the role you’ve applied for or how you’ve successfully overcome a challenge that could be transferrable.
Most employers will ask for referees who can back up your working history and any skills you’ve gained.
You might want to list a university tutor with whom you’ve developed a bond, or a previous employer who can provide a character reference; whoever it is, make sure you notify them first of your intention to include them and their contact details. No matter the role, your new employer is likely to contact you before they approach your referees, so you might even choose to write the statement ‘available on request’ as a space saver.
About the author: David Morel is the CEO/Founder of Tiger Recruitment, one of London’s leading secretarial/administrative recruitment agencies. David founded Tiger in 2001 and has written extensively in the press and wider media advising both employers and job seekers on best recruitment practice.
For further advice on CVs, interview practice and internships/graduate roles, grab a copy of the Capital Moments Guide to Graduate Interviews & Internships