CV Tips for Students and Recent Graduates

What does the employer want?

Before you draft your CV, think about the role you are applying for and consider what the selector is looking for. Most graduate recruiters are looking for a range of competencies that show you have the potential to excel in the role.

Think about how you can match the employer’s requirements by describing what you have achieved through your studies, work experience and extra-curricular activities.

A part time job in a bar or shop may allow you to demonstrate customer service, tact, diplomacy and the ability to work well under pressure during busy periods.

Involvement in a student society may provide evidence of leadership, effective team working and good time management skills.

Make sure you play to your strengths. Some students will have had a placement or other work experience that will impress an employer whilst others may have achieved a lot through student societies, volunteering or through sporting or musical endeavours. The key thing is to show that you have what they want and that you stand apart from other candidates.

It is not enough to simply show you have a good degree from a good University – an employer will want to see what else you have achieved in addition to your studies.

How long should my CV be?
Keep it concise, most employers are looking for you to tell them enough about your achievements so that they can see it is worth inviting you for interview.

For most UK Graduate Recruiters the optimum length is two pages of well-spaced, well structured, readable text.
Some Investment Banks may prefer an even more concise one page CV, make sure you say enough about your key achievements so that you stand out from the crowd. This can be a challenge but you can download two examples of good practice here.



Layout and Structure

Keep the layout clear simple and professional.

Try and be consistent in the way you use headings, bullet points and dates within the CV. Use reverse chronological order within each section of your CV, start with the most recent activity and work backwards.

Demonstrate your individuality by describing the things you have achieved NOT by using an unorthodox structure, font etc.

One exception may be if you are applying for a creative job role where selectors may value you showing your inventiveness and originality through your application.

Whilst there is no set CV structure that you should follow we do provide an example of good practice in our leaflet ‘Writing Effective CVs and Covering Letters’. You can also browse some additional examples geared towards particular circumstances within the resources section of our website.

Check Spelling and Grammar
Make sure your CV is well written with no typos, spelling or grammatical errors. It can be helpful to get someone else to read through your CV to check for any such problems.

Applying for jobs outside the UK
The CV advice provided by the Employability and Careers Centre reflects good practice within the UK graduate job market. Expectations of CVs and resumes can vary significantly across the world.

If you are looking for specific guidelines for many different countries try accessing GoinGlobal, an excellent career resources for anyone looking for placements or jobs outside the UK. To register to use GoingGlobal follow the instructions we provide on our website.

CVs for Experienced Hire Positions
If you already have several years of relevant work experience you will be applying for “experienced hire” positions rather than the graduate entry jobs that most students and recent graduates will be targeting.

CVs for experienced hire positions will look rather different with far more emphasis on professional experience and less of a focus on qualifications and extra-curricular activities. Some advice on drafting experienced hire CVs can be found in this helpful publication courtesy of the University of Manchester.

Advice for Postgraduate and Early Career Researchers
Guidelines for researchers’ CVs are a little different. The Employability and Careers Centre has produced a dedicated leaflet giving specific advice that will meet your needs.

Further help with your CV available from the Employability and Careers Centre
Look out for talks and workshops we are running as part of our careers events calendar.

Once you have read our CV leaflet (mentioned above) and taken account of the advice provided, you may like to get some feedback on your CV by making use of our Quick Query service which runs every week day throughout the year at the Employability and Careers Centre.

This blog post has been written by Andrew Bennett, a Careers Adviser from the Employability and Careers Centre.