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How to write a killer graduate CV

Is it best to admit you are a blank slate with bags of potential or should you overstate your credentials?

For first-time job hunters, writing a winning CV can be a daunting task. Knowing precisely what to include to best show off your skills – particularly when your job history is limited – can be confusing to say the least.

Understanding the purpose of your CV is key to the formula. As a graduate or school leaver, you should be aiming to secure interviews; therefore, your CV should quickly advertise your value to potential employers.

The keyword here is ‘value’. If you have limited job experience, you can still be of inherent value to an employer. This involves showing your transferable skills and talents. Rather than merely writing a list of skills you think you have, make sure you research the industry first.

Look at job ads online and make a note of the most common in-demand skills, which will often be qualities such as communication skills and flexibility. Sometimes they will be job specific, particularly if the job requires knowledge of particular computer programs. Wherever you can find a crossover with your own skill-set, underline it and put this front and centre of your CV – this is the surest way to make an impact.

Recruiters see hundreds of CVs every day and you are going to need top-notch structure and clear presentation to stand out. Use a large font and clear sub-headings; section off your skills, experience and interests; and use bullet points or lists wherever possible. If in doubt, remember that less is more – there is nothing more off-putting than a huge block of text.

Begin your CV with a personal statement, comprising a couple of sentences, summarising your overall talents and your aims. Make sure this appeals to all the jobs you have researched, as recruiters will use this to sift their applications.

Clearly list your most relevant or impressive achievements, both academic and otherwise. If you have only a few jobs to draw on, pick out what you learnt from each one and what skills you can transfer. Remember that experience from extra-curricular activities and university also counts.

Bullet point your relevant work experience, in date order, listing the company name, job title and duration. Some companies will ask you about your leaving circumstances at interview, so be prepared for this. Include tangible results from each role wherever possible, such as implementing new management techniques, organisation or project results.

Lastly, look to your interests and personality to distinguish yourself. A good CV will open doors but it is the interview – and how you come across – that really matters. You can start this process in your CV by emphasising your particular interests and unique traits.

Practice selling yourself now and you will be in good stead as you gain further experience.

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