Virtually every job you will ever apply for will require you to send a CV or "Curriculum Vitae" as part of your application. For those of who that don't know exactly what that means (and I didn't really have much of a clue when I left 6th form), it's basically a document that chronicles your academic and work based achievements, providing potential employers a quick reference point from which to base their decision of whether to offer you an interview or not.
Since this is likely to be your first contact woth the employer, whether on paper or via email, it is therefore important you make yours as good as possible. A good CV can be a great way, before interview, for you to show the employer you are right for the job. To try and maximise your chances of not being rejected at the first hurdle, you need to know what makes a good CV, and then you need to make yours better.
There's a lot to consider; content - which achievements are most important, what seems like irrelevant information; structure; length; tone; etc. In order for you to write the best CV, why not have a look at the CV articles TSR has on offer, and see if we can't help to improve your CV.
- CV FAQs and Answers - basic questions on what to include, what not to include and how to structure your CV.
- Writing the killer CV - tips on what to include in each section of your CV and detailed advice on formatting and language use.
- Targeting your CV - tips to get your CV right when applying for different types of vacancies.
- CV Help Forum - Already written your CV? Then you can post it up in TSR's private CV forum, where approved CV helpers will be able to offer you their expert advice.
Remember to look over the Covering Letters articles, so you can back up your CV with the best possible introduction.
You have to remember that there's no accounting for taste, so you have to make the content of your CV unique, rather than using elaborate presentation to stand out from the crowd (unless, of course, you are going for a design job, in which case you have room to get creative). You can't afford for a recruiter to reject your CV because they don't like your font or layout, so making the document as accessible as possible is a must. Some suggestions are:
- Use a simple business font (some of our consultants favour Arial, Calibri, or Verdana)
- Use bold or italics to emphasise text (like job roles) rather than underlining
- Use bullet points, numbering and dashes to format content
- Aim for two pages in length
- Use a high quality A4 paper (should the recruiter want a hard-copy)
These are standard and required by all employers, but note that you shouldn't include your date of birth, marital status or gender. Don't include the header 'curriculum vitae'! It is a waste of space that you might need to utilise later. Furthermore your prospective employer should know what the document is! The essentials are:
- Postal address
- Email address
- Telephone number(s)
This is an optional section which shows the employer you are focused and determined to pursue a career in their field. Most selectors want an uncomplicated summary of expertise and suitability. Don't fall into the trap of making unsubstantiated statements here - for example "I am hardworking" - that should be evident from the content of your CV. Instead make this a factual and relevant mission statement. It should:
Be no longer than 2-4 sentences Give an overview of your current situation - "I have just graduated with a degree in ..." Specifically detail what it is you want to do - "I am looking for a job as a ... in the field of ..." Be different for each application! You should make it specific to the job and the employer
For your first graduate CV, your education will be of high importance. Write your education in reverse chronological order (so start with university). The employer wants a snapshot of you as an academic in this section - not a summary of 15 years' worth of your school reports! Focus on your university grades, specialisation and extra-curricular experiences to start with. A term that is often used in relation to the graduate employment market is 'transferable skills' - this is your time to throw light on those skills which might include leadership, project management, communication and presentation skills. Essentially the education section should contain:
All qualifications in reverse-chronological order The dates you attended each establishment Degree subject, type, grade and establishment More detail on specialisation/university experience A level grades, subjects and establishment GCSE grades and establishment (subjects not necessary, unless otherwise specified) Other skills - computer literacy, languages (this could also be in a separate 'skills' section towards the end of the CV if necessary
You might think that at this stage you don't have much in the way of work experience - but you may find that you have overlooked relevant content. You can include everything you have done from internships to voluntary work and schemes to summer placements. As long as you have developed business skills, then it is worth a space on your CV. Even writing about a day of experience you did is relevant, as long as you gained some skills from it. What is not appropriate is an essay about part-time work with limited responsibility. Again this should be listed in reverse chronological order. Your work experience will be comprised of:
- Company or organisation, dates and job title
- A sentence outlining the role you performed
- Bullets summarising specific responsibilities
- Bullets backing up specific achievements whilst in this role
Interests and activities
This is the place to say a little bit about you as a person, outside of work. You can mention any activity or hobby - but obviously keep it appropriate! There are certain things that a graduate recruiter just won't want to hear, so use your own discretion! Examples worth including in this area are:
- Sports teams
- Awards (these are particularly good as they can suggest a high achieving and competitive nature)
Two references are ample for your entry-level graduate CV. One can be academic and the other from a period of work experience. You can choose to omit the contact details if, for example, one is a current employer or you would prefer to contact them first.
Proof-reading and final notes
What overall tone does your CV take? Has it conveyed all of your accomplishments as well as an idea of you as a person? Have you missed anything glaringly obvious? We get many applications that omit the degree grade, or even subject, for example! You can also try out some of the following proofing methods:
Leave it overnight - you will find that fresh eyes spot new mistakes Don't forget the obvious - I'm sure we don't even have to mention spell-check, do we?! Read it out loud - this can help identify tone, check the flow and ensure you haven't just constructed a wordy list Ask everyone you can to have a look! - peers are good, but professionals in the industry are even better. Be prepared for a little criticism because, after all, you want the best possible CV.
One more important point - don't be tempted to 'stretch the truth' in your CV. Getting your foot in the door would be worthless if, once you are at interview, you can't back up your claims. You want an employer who wants you for all the unique skills and experience you can bring.