How to write a graduate CV for job application success

By Robert Half 2nd March 2018

Plunging into the hiring market fresh from education can feel more than a little daunting. Competition for the best junior roles will be hot and you have very little experience to your name. 

Your best chance at standing out from the competition is a well-written graduate CV or résumé, showcasing the best of your educational achievements and demonstrating the potential you have to offer an employer.

A lack of experience doesn’t put you behind other candidates—in fact, research for the Robert Half Salary Guide showed that businesses in many industries are interested in hiring juniors and training them.

Get graduate CV advice from our team of experts and maximise your chances of securing a job with purpose.  

Write a graduate CV for the industry you want to work in

Before you think about writing a graduate CV, you’ll need to consider which industry you want to work in and the kind of roles you’ll be applying for. 

Writing an accounting and finance graduate CV will be entirely different from writing a CV for a graduate technology role and neither will be the same as a graduate admin CV. Each industry values different types of experience, qualifications and skill sets, so be sure to research requirements and best-case examples of these CV types before you begin.

Tailor your CV to the role

Now that you know which industry you’d like to work in and have best-case graduate CV examples from those industries, you’re ready to start tailoring the content to suit the role.

Saddleback College surveyed employers regarding their hiring process and found that 33% of them expect to see a personalised or tailored CV with a job application. We recommend breaking down the role requirements and highlighting your own experience to match.

Include a personalised cover letter with each application

Your cover letter serves as a formal introduction between yourself and the hiring manager, so it should ideally be laid out like a traditional letter and addressed to the hiring manager by name. 

Keep it short, succinct and be sure to pull through specific job role details, so that both your graduate CV and cover letter work together to reinforce your suitability for the role.

Graduate CV writing checklist

Best practice graduate CV writing usually dictates that your CV is one to two pages in length and is sent as a Word document. Here’s what you should put on a graduate CV: 

1)    Personal statement

Your personal statement should sit under your name and contact information. This will ideally be a short paragraph about yourself, your motivations, work ethic and career goals. 

2)    Experience and relevant job history

A graduate CV is unlikely to have lots of previous, relevant job history to fill it, so try and include work placements, educational achievements, community or voluntary position, or anything else you think will help make you a stronger candidate for the role. Write these in chronological order, starting with the most recent. 

Top tip: While you may not see the need in creating a LinkedIn profile with only limited experience, writing a great LinkedIn profile can help to accelerate your job search. 

3)    Personal interests

Part of hiring for a role is finding the right cultural fit for the company. It’s not unusual for an employer to hire someone underqualified for a role if the fit is right—as long as you illustrate you are committed to learn! With this in mind, the last spot on your graduate CV should be dedicated to a few of your interests outside of work. 

Top tip! Avoid over exaggerating on your CV. Although it might be tempting, research at Robert Half shows that 62% of hiring managers in the UK have removed a candidate from the running because they discovered false information on a CV.

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