How to Write a Graduate CV
The perennial issue for graduates when faced with writing a Graduate CV is: What should you include on it? A CV is supposed to be the summary of your work experience, yet it's hard to provide this when you've been in education for years and the only jobs you've held are seasonal or part-time to fit around your studies.
The good news is that you can still write a great CV that will work hard on your behalf, so that you can gain interview invites. It all comes down to understanding what employers are looking for, so that you identify the information to include and angle it accordingly.
Need to improve your graduate CV? Professional CV writing services like Bradley CVs can give your a real advantage over other graduates and help you secure that all-important graduate job just that bit sooner than you would have done on your own.
Graduate CV Profile
Your profile is two or three sentences at the top of your Graduate CV that sum you up as a candidate. While you may still think of yourself as a recent student, your profile needs to create a picture of a professional who has recently gained valuable knowledge and qualifications.
Your profile should include one or two relevant areas of experience, two or three valuable skills and abilities, plus one or two personal qualities that amount to professional, transferable skills (that is, skills that can be used in any job, such as communication, team working, etc).
Unless you've been to careers workshops, you may not have assessed yourself in this way before. The first thing to do is thoroughly research the kind of jobs you're interested in and get a very clear picture of what employers are looking for. Reading job descriptions and careers' websites will help with this.
Your entire Graduate CV, including the profile, needs to highlight how much you fit the employer's person specification for the vacancy. Your profile needs to sum you up in a professional sense, but you should avoid focusing on what you want to do, and try to show what you can offer an employer.
Your profile can start with the fact that you're a recent graduate - specify your subject, but only if it's relevant. Otherwise, you can simply mention being for example, a Bachelor of the Arts graduate - only give your degree classification if it's excellent.
As CV writers ourselves, we recommend that you think about any work placements and how they gave you professional experience? Have you held part-time jobs that, collectively, give you experience in a certain sector, even if they weren't high level posts? If so, you can mention that experience here. You don't need to detail the positions.
Think about your strongest skills, particularly those you used in various part-time jobs or placements. Even in temporary positions, you can learn what you're good at. These don't need to be technical skills or professional skills (such as accounting). Being excellent at using IT, showing a very detail oriented approach, being a great communicator with members of the public - these are all points you might include in your profile.
Once you've decided what to include, you should write up the sentences of your profile so that it's a coherent statement about who you are. You can write in a confident tone, although not boastful. Try to be emphatic. Rewrite it until you feel it is describing a professional person whom an employer would welcome into their organisation.
Achievements on a Graduate CV
Once your profile has suggested to the employer that you can make the step from education to employment without any effort, your achievements section needs to cement that impression.
You need four to six bullet-pointed sentences on a Graduate CV, positioned high on the first page. These will go a long way to persuading an employer by showing how you personally made a difference through your contribution.
Once you've been in a permanent or full-time position, you would draw these from your professional experience. However, as you're a recent graduate, you have the same problem as with your profile - what should you include? Take heart: most people find achievements hard to identify anyway, so your problem is only slightly more complicated.
The way to do this is to look at all your experience, not just part-time or casual jobs. Think about voluntary work and placements you undertook while studying for your degree. Look at your sporting achievements too, or membership of interest or community groups.
Can you identify any employment-related achievements to go on your Graduate CV? The best of these can be quantified in some way - you processed a certain number of products in a job, or served a certain number of people, or contributed with a certain-sized team (achievements can be your contribution to a team effort as well).
What matters is whether your achievement can show what you can do for a future employer. The numbers you can include make it specific - they serve as evidence so the employer can get an ultra-clear idea of what you have done and might do for them.
If you can't come up with numerical achievements, don't worry. It's not essential for a Graduate CV. Think about other achievements: were you commended for some work by someone senior? Did you have a strong idea that was taken up by a manager?
Maybe you worked on a project and wrote a report that was found useful by others. Or perhaps you set up a system that needed tackling - this could be as simple as dealing with an outstanding administration project for the department. Take your time thinking back through your tasks.
Think: what were you especially good at? Which skills did you use and what were the results? What challenges did you face? How did you deal with them and what was the outcome? One way to think about achievements is to use the abbreviation SAR: Situation, Action, Result. What was the situation, what did you do to deal with it, and what was the result?
Your achievements can also be drawn from your educational experience, as well as other experience and interests. Vocational placements or secondments can be highlighted, outstanding sporting achievements, voluntary or community work, etc.
Graduate CV Education and Qualifications
Next on your Graduate CV comes your education. This would normally be at the end of your CV, but graduates typically mention this ahead of work history.
List your most recent qualification first. This is normally your degree. List the degree title, the academic institution and the year you graduated.
Include your degree classification if it is good. You needn't list all the modules you studied, but if you undertook a secondment or placement, or worked on an individual project such as a dissertation or thesis, include a line or two about this.
There's no need to give details of your final school examinations when you've degree qualifications.
Career History on Your Graduate CV
Most of the employers you apply to will be open to recruiting graduates, or their job advertisements would have specified specific career experience that excluded you. This means they won't be expecting to see major lists of previous positions on your career history. However, you can still make the most of what you've done by focusing on relevant information in your Graduate CV.
You should present your jobs in reverse date order, starting with the most recent. List the job title, the name of the employer and inclusive dates (months only). Beneath each entry, you can detail your responsibilities.
If you've held some positions that were more like professional positions with relevance to the vacancy you're applying for, as well as other positions that that were simple casual jobs such as bar work or table waiting, you may wish to separate them. Keep the relevant jobs in the career history section and move the others to your other experience section (see below).
Again, pay attention to transferable skills when writing about your roles. Even if your role was an undemanding manual one, you can mention teamwork, communication, diligence, etc. If possible, write up duties as you would achievements, describing how you were commended for some work, or how you made a difference.
Other Experience on Graduate CVs
If you undertook casual jobs to pay for your costs while travelling, for instance during a gap year, then include this in your experience section on your Graduate CV.
Do this if you took bar or catering positions to top up your funds, or whether the work was part of your travel plans.
The first can be classified as unskilled subsistence work, so describe the transferable skills you utilised.
Long working hours show that you have a strong work ethic and staying power. Working with the public and dealing with difficult situations shows your ability to interact with others.
If you held low-paid or voluntary placements in overseas countries, which you had to apply for in advance, you can describe your duties in the same way. If you held unskilled roles that made an important contribution to an organisation such as an animal sanctuary or charity, then state why the experience was important.
Gap-year activities can show your motivation and interest in the wider world. Never present the holiday side, but focus on the meaningful experiences. Mentioning travel is fine, providing you also refer to the cultural learning experience involved. It shows you are a rounded character who can organise and plan, while taking care of yourself.
Hopefully, you can now see that just because you've not held a permanent full-time position, it doesn't mean that you have nothing to write on your CV.
Other pages a graduate may wish to view:
- Need to improve your graduate CV? Our professional CV writing service can substantially improve your graduate CV, which means you'll win more graduate job interviews.
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