What is actually important on a graduate CV?
Looking through hundreds of graduate CVs every day, I’ve seen (almost) everything; from very unique language skills to typos and even incorrect contact details. But what is actually important on a graduate CV?
As is always the question on the job hunt, ‘how can my CV standout in the 20 seconds an employer glances at my CV?’ The answer is… I don’t know. But there is certainly some must-dos that can only enhance your chances of being put into the yes pile.
It sounds too obvious to mention, but make sure you have read, re-read and re-read again your CV to ensure there are no typos, mitsakes and to make sure your contact details are correct (I hope you all picked up the typo!). This is usually your first touchpoint with the employer, so your CV has to sell you as a candidate; it has to show that you have attention to detail and that you write concisely and accurately, amongst other things. Make sure your personal profile or bio section, (if you have one), reflects the role you applying for.
All work experience is good experience
A lot of candidates think hospitality work or retail work (to name a few examples) may hold them back in finding their dream graduate job, as it may not be directly relevant experience. But I couldn’t disagree more. The ‘soft skills’ learnt through, for example, juggling a job and university or through working long, late shifts are valuable and may even help you stand out above the crowd.
Relevant experience should be highlighted
If you’re looking at going into PR, any experience in communications will definitely be beneficial, so make sure that jumps off the page. Similarly, if you’re applying to be a designer, make sure that your relevant projects or portfolio is easily noticeable and accessible as that is your unique selling point. Whilst this may not be a pleasant thought, an employer might not get to the bottom of page 2 of your CV, so make sure it’s there, clear as day.
If you’re lacking the relevant experience…
… then go out and find it! I speak to a lot of candidates who are looking to change careers and move into marketing. That may be all good and well, but I only know that after speaking with the candidate; their CV doesn’t suggest that marketing is even on the candidate’s radar. This is where even a few days or weeks at a marketing agency could benefit you greatly. Do some research, email local agencies and see if you can gain experience for a short period so you know how a marketing agency works and, crucially, gain the experience that connects your CV and your future career.
Plug the gaps if you have any
If you went travelling after university then say so; don’t let the employer guess as that may work against you. Similarly, if you are looking for a job for a few months – note there’s no shame in that – then be proactive with your time; is there an online course you could take to bolster your skillset or is there some relevant experience you can get in a similar role or industry. What you do in your ‘spare time’ could give an employer insight into who you are as a person and they will no doubt be looking for someone proactive, willing to learn and always looking to develop.
Yes, the search for your first job can be stressful and time consuming, whilst you are also eager to start paying off your debts and get on the salary ladder. But it’s important to remember that it is not a one size fits all approach.
There’s nothing wrong with ‘spreading your bets’ and applying for various different roles within different sectors but, when it comes to the application itself, you need to show the employer that you want to work in their business. You want to work in that specific role, not just to get into the company and then transfer to a different department.
Be smart in your application, be relevant and be personal. And remember, BrighterBox is always here to help!