Graduate CV advice - get that interview!There are lots of books and career advice sites on how to put together a good graduate CV these days. It's not rocket science but people still get it alarmingly wrong. Graduate recruiters are usually pretty busy people, often sifting through dozens of CVs every day. You don't need to be a genius to realise that pages of badly articulated rubbish that are full of spelling mistakes in your CV won't get you very far - we've listed our top CV tips below.
Ask ten people to look at ten CVs and they will all have a slightly different opinion about the suitability of a particular candidate, for a particular job, in a particular organisation. Most recruiters will agree on the basic rules of CV format. After that, you'd be hard pressed to find a great deal more common ground. Many of the bigger recruiters only accept applications via their own online systems now. Some are deliberately difficult in order to put off all but the most determined candidates and incorporate various other 'weapons of mass rejection' such as numeracy, literacy and personality testing tools. Smaller employers still use the more traditional methods of CV and interviews to select candidates although, as the price of online testing has come down, it is becoming more commonplace to use testing as well. Make sure you practice as many tests as you can before you do the real thing.
You don't actually need any qualifications to work in recruitment and sometimes that really shows. Many commercial recruitment consultants at the entry level job end of the market tend to be quite young, quite inexperienced, poorly trained and driven by tough financial and turnaround targets for clients who may, or may not, themselves be experienced recruiters. Others are fantastic, really know how to spot the type of candidates that will be successful in those roles or organisations and have charming personalities to boot. Nevertheless, they are the ones with the power to hire you, or ignore you, so it pays to comply with all reasonable requests and make a good impression on them. Truthfully, it can be a bit of a lottery.
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Graduate CV advice: our top tips to get that interview!
Quality: a good CV is both form and substance. Form is about good spelling and presentation, substance is about what you have to offer. Make sure that yours makes the grade on both counts.
Format: use plenty of white space to make it look fresh and easy to read, stick to one font such as Arial, size 10 or 11 and don't add in colours, personal photos or images.
Length: no more than two pages for a graduate CV. Sometimes recruiters will ask for a one page resume. Always do as they request.
Be safe: never add your National Insurance number or your passport number on a CV. You will only need to supply confidential information of that nature if you are offered a job and need to be added to the payroll system.
Create a CV for the job you want: if you want to work in a particular profession use the examples of your education and any work experience or aptitudes that resonate with that e.g. numeracy for accounting positions, communication, analytical or project skills for consulting or marketing roles.
Sell yourself: make sure your CV sells you and your achievements. This is no time for modesty but acknowledge that you've still got a lot to learn if you get an interview.
Sell yourself quickly: recruiters are busy - you have a just few seconds to make an impression. Does your CV pass the A.I.D.A test? Does it grab their attention, hold their interest, create the desire to find out more and drive the action to talk to you?
Achievements not duties: if you are describing your work experience, tell the recruiter what you actually achieved don't just regurgitate your job description.
Be ready: prepare your core CV so that it is ready to send out as soon as you spot an opportunity.
Customise: create one core CV and then adapt it appropriately to the individual positions you are applying for.
Application forms or online applications: if an employer asks you to fill in their application form (in addition to, or instead of, your own CV), follow the instructions such as word counts to the letter. Make sure you answer the questions and don't use the same example for every competency they ask you to illustrate.
Cut and paste with care: it's easy to make mistakes when you are making multiple applications but Company B is not going to be impressed if they read how much you want to work for Company A just because you forgot to change the name!
Get noticed online: create a basic CV for posting on job boards to grab the recruiters attention, if you catch their eye you can give them more detail later if necessary.
Keep track: save each version of your CV with a clear naming rationale you can identify for reference purposes later, e.g. yourname/company/date or marketingmanager/company nameplc/12.12.10.
Don't spam: sending CVs and applications by email saves money on postage and is much faster but don't send your CV every man and his dog just because it's easy, or it won't be taken seriously.
Identify yourself: when emailing your CV, it is always a good idea to put your name on your CV attachment e.g. Bloggs, Joe CV. Recruiters do not have the time to guess the author of the attachment and it makes it easier to file and retrieve.
Write covering letters that count: write a punchy covering letter to go with your CV, tailor it to each job opportunity. Tell them why you can do the job and why you want to do it.
Don't use 'text speak': when you are texting and emailing your friends you can write whatever you like. Using slang and text-style language in CVs or covering letters will not cut the mustard with recruiters.
Give it interview appeal: interview questions usually revolve around the 'Big Three' so make sure your CV answers the questions: Can you do the job? Will you do the job? Will you fit in?
Make it search engine friendly: make sure your CV contains the right key words for the job you want so it will come up on the database searches of recruitment sites you are registered with e.g. marketing, accounting, engineering.
Keep it current: keep your CV regularly updated, especially if you take on any relevant voluntary work or study or get the results to exams.
Bait the hook regularly: updating a CV on a job board, even very slightly, every couple of weeks can often result in renewed interest from recruiters.
Get a second opinion: from trusted friends, recruiters, or even a paid professional. Print off your final copy and review it and get a second opinion on its content and presentation - or take advantage of our free CV review offer here.
Referees: think about who will act as a referee for you and sound them out in advance if possible. You do not always have to offer these upfront; most recruiters will assume that you know that you will have to provide them at some point.
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