The graduate CV guide.

It’s almost the end of June and the academic year is coming to an end. Scores of students are looking towards graduation, with many UK Universities having released results to finalists last week. This means one thing – a fresh batch of graduates are on the hunt for jobs. Although some are way ahead of the game – with their places in graduate schemes secured months ago – many are just starting on applications, sending their CVs out in all directions.

It is no secret that getting a job these days is tricky and this is no less the case for graduates. Record numbers are entering the job market, so competition is tough. Many are forced to look outside their target field in the hope of improving their chances of employment. With hiring managers having to eliminate more candidates than ever in the early stages of the recruitment process, impressing employers with your CV is more important than ever. But how should all the relatively inexperienced graduates go about this?

So you’ve been working hard for the last three years to get your degree, before which you had probably only just finished at school. You haven’t got a huge amount of experience, but then how could you? No realistic employer will expect a graduate to have a huge variety of relevant experience, so don’t panic. Look to the skills and experience you do have and present them clearly and realistically. If the only work you have ever done is a summer job in Sainsbury’s, then tell it as it is. There is no point claiming that you “have accounting experience” if in fact you just worked on the till. Employers will see right through such claims and if anything, you’re making yourself look less credible rather than enhancing your skill set.

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Image via .SilentMode (Flickr)

Another temptation is to go into too much detail. While it’s great that you got your ten GCSE’s and Grade Two flute in 2007, they’re not so important now that you have your degree. By including everything you’ve ever done, you are only decreasing the chances that an employer will notice the truly relevant information. Although it is not necessary for an experienced 40 year-old to adhere to the “one-page-CV” rule, there is no shame in graduates keeping CVs to a concise page. Consider your content carefully; CVs from graduates listing their favourite books, films or board games among their interests (which some seem to do in an effort to pad out their CV) quickly flag them up as questionable candidates. It is always important to show professionalism and the case of graduate CVs is no exception. I have previously mentioned the value of including a photo on your CV. This is another area where professionalism is key. Attaching one of your holiday snaps or graduation photos will not help your credibility. Attach a smart, sensible photo of yourself in business dress however and you will help the employer remember you and put a face to a name.

Simple as it may sound, it is vital not to lie on your CV. Stating that you have an advanced level of German, when in actual fact you haven’t spoken a word of it since you got your B at GCSE is just not worth the risk. Employers are unlikely to seek such skills in a candidate if they don’t plan on having them put to use somewhere down the line, so there is absolutely no point in lying if you want to avoid looking like a fool later!

Be prepared. To give yourself the best chance of success, it is advisable to thoroughly consider the requirements of the job for which you are applying. There is absolutely no harm in tailoring your CV to the job at hand and highlighting particularly relevant experience. Preparation is also important where references are concerned. If you are claiming to have “references available on request”, then you should previously have identified those people, as well as having checked that they are happy to be contacted to provide a reference.

Do blow your own trumpet – as long as it’s true! As much as I have talked about the risks of exaggerating your experience, don’t be modest. Your CV is after all your real chance to show off and make a good impression. Describe relevant experience accurately and thoroughly, quantifying success and making your aim and suitability for the role clear.

Knowing the importance of CVs in the job search process – and particularly in today’s competitive graduate job search – it is important to follow the above suggestions in order to ensure that your CV portrays you in the best light possible.

Good Luck!