9 quick tips to improve your graduate CV
You might never have been told how to write a CV. Most of us are thrust into the working world armed with nothing more than a generic template that we found online. With that in mind, it’s not necessarily your fault if your CV could do with some improvements. Moreover, sometimes even small mistakes can stop you from getting through the first round of job applications. Luckily you can improve your CV in a matter of minutes with these quick tips.
1. Get rid of long paragraphs An employer is going to be have a lot of CVs to read quickly, so you need to make things easy for them. Keywords and easily digestible info. Long chunks of text are a sure-fire way to get your CV skimmed over and put aside. Break it up into easily digestible bullet points (and put key words in bold) that get to the crux of your experience immediately – don’t try and list everything, just summarise the important bits and leave yourself things to expand upon in an interview.
2. Know what to include When your experience is limited it can be tough making the decision to edit out parts of it. At graduate level, it’s no longer necessary to include all your GCSE grades (a simple ‘10 GCSEs from A to C’ will suffice). Feel free to tailor your CV so that the more relevant work experience is detailed, whilst your sixth form Saturday job gets a sentence or two. This is your space to highlight the best of your abilities so don’t let irrelevant stuff crowd up your document. If you have less experience, keep it concise at around a page long. If you want to include more, 2 pages is fine as long as its all relevant! And make sure you've included your NAME and CONTACT DETAILS!
3. Include your hobbies and interests Hobbies and interests are important. Don’t disregard what this section can do for your application. This is where you show that you are a well-rounded human being, not just a cookie-cutter candidate. Why not try putting something original down – do you play an unusual sport or volunteer at an interesting charity in your spare time? Put it down and make it intriguing enough for the person reading it to want to find out more.
4. Add links to your online presence Got a website? Got a blog? Got a LinkedIn profile? (Please say you have a LinkedIn profile). Add these links to your CV to include that extra something. Give your future employer a reason to linger a bit longer on your application and read a blog post that caught their eye. A LinkedIn profile will demonstrate your commitment to career hunting and a basic understanding of networking. It also shows how you can market yourself - so might be a quick win when going for that marketing internship.
5. Make it official Most people vaguely understand Google, Linkedin and Excel. But you can stand out if you deepen your knowledge – and you can do it for free! There are free online courses on every topic under the sun, and some will give you a recognisable qualification on completion. Adding this to your CV is a great sign of motivation and commitment and can also pad out some space if you don’t have much experience.
5. Highlight your gap year You might have been travelling around Thailand, or you might have worked in a supermarket all year. Either way, both should be on your CV. Never overlook travelling as a chance to demonstrate some desirable skills. We’ve written a whole blog post about how to incorporate a gap year into your CV, so have a read if you need some ideas. If you worked throughout your gap year, then put this down as work experience and don’t try to make light of it as a ‘filler’ job. Write up your responsibilities and what you learned from the experience – this turns an empty space on your CV into something worthwhile for your job application.
6. Keep it concise and smart Don’t make anyone scroll endlessly to find out what your key skills are. As we said before, employers and recruiters must get through a pile of CVs and don’t want to take forever over it. Perfect your editing skills and make it succinct – there is no need for it to go on for 4 pages unless you are using a huge font or just haven’t stuck to the point. On that point, don’t get too creative with your font choice – choose something clear and easy to read and do not, under any circumstances, use comic sans. You can use a template to help get the formatting right - you can find these all across the internet (Canva, Google Docs and Microsoft all offer nice ones), and soon we will have our own line of free downloadable templates! Keep your eyes peeled.
7. Check your spelling and grammar You probably think that this goes without saying, and that Microsoft Word does it for you anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra vigilant. Read, re-read and triple check every section on your CV and pay close attention to your opening personal statement. It can be easy to mix up a few letters and suddenly your CV looks sloppy and your ability to communicate well on paper is called into question. The easiest way to be sure that everything reads fluently is to give it to friends and family to proof-read for you (often we overlook our own mistakes after the third/tenth/hundredth read-through). You can also print it off to read, as many professional editors argue that reading something on paper makes it far easier to spot errors.
8. Don’t bother putting references in Keep things to two pages by leaving out the full details of your references. If your employer wants to hear from your references, then they can ask for them later. A simple ‘references are available on request’ at the bottom of the page will suffice.
9. Make yourself memorable Read over your personal statement and delete any buzzwords. Revamp your wording and inject some personality. Startups aren’t looking for robots who are ‘passionate about expanding their skillset’ – they want someone interesting who is genuinely fascinated by the industry and can translate that into words on a page. Write a list of things that make you unique and get them into your personal statement. You only have a few crucial minutes to grab your reader’s attention so make them count!
If you find this helpful, check out our comprehensive guide on how to get a graduate job!
If your CV is looking perfect, then head to the BrighterBox jobs page to apply to work in startups in London.