A graduate CV is a short document that introduces yourself, your education and employment history to date, as well as any other relevant skills or interests, to a potential employer. The best graduate CVs are tailored to showcase how well you are suited to a particular role.
There is a lot of competition for good graduate jobs, so taking the time to make your CV as strong as possible will put you in a good position for making it to the next round of the application process.
How to structure a graduate CV
There are a few sections that your CV must include: personal details, education, employment history and references. If you fill out these parts and find your CV is still looking a little sparse, then a section on your hobbies and interests should help to fill it out and add an extra element.
1. Personal details
For this part of your graduate CV, lead with your personal details first. The essential details that you need to include are your full name, contact number and email.
Information such as your date of birth and gender don’t need to be included. However, there are a few optional details that you can include if you feel they might make you more likely to secure an interview. For example, if the role needs to be filled by someone living within commuting distance, your address may be an extra selling point when applying.
Your current job title and your degree can also be included in this part of a graduate CV if they are related to the position you are applying for.
2. Personal statement
As well as your personal details, a graduate CV should include a short statement that allows you to introduce yourself, your skills and career ambitions. This should be a few short sentences and no more than 150 words.
Start with introducing who you are, for example: “A recent graduate with a 2:1 in History from the University of Warwick with experience of…”, before going on to talk about your skills. If you have no practical work experience to speak of, list the skills your degree helped you to develop, such as attention to detail, multitasking and adhering to deadlines.
Finish your personal statement by discussing what your aims are, for example: “I am looking to develop the skills I learned during my studies and begin a career in academic research”.
The education section of a graduate CV is written in reverse chronological order, beginning with your most recent degree, before moving on to your A-Levels and then GCSEs.
This part of your CV can be short and to the point, with each qualification listing the institution you studied at, the dates you studied there, the subject you studied and the grade you achieved. If you undertook any modules that you feel would be of particular relevance to the position you are applying for, please feel free to include these too.
Here is an example of a simple way to structure the education section of a graduate CV:
University of Nottingham (September 2018 – July 2021)
2:1 in English BA (Hons).
Modules included Language Development and Language in Society.
4. Employment history
For a graduate CV, we would suggest putting your academic achievements above your work history. However, if you undertook any internships or work experience during your studies that a business may be more interested in than your degree, then feel free to swap these around.
This section should be structured in a similar way to how you have listed your education, including the company name, the dates during which you were employed there and a short list of your main duties and responsibilities.
If you have previously undertaken work experience that is relevant to the position you are applying for, we suggest listing this first – even if it is not your most recent position. Although this contradicts the ‘reverse chronological order’ rule for graduate CVs, if you are applying for a job in publishing and you have experience of working with a publishing company – this should go at the top of your work history. It’s an important bit of information for the company to know about you and putting it at the top of the list will make it stand out.
If you haven’t had any work experience within the sector, don’t worry! No matter where you have been employed, you will have picked up skills that employers are looking for. List your work history with your most recent employment at the top, detailing your duties and any important workplace skills you developed, such as being able to communicate clearly and confidently or staying calm during busy periods.
Any charity work can also be included in this section. Talking about the volunteering you have done provides another opportunity for you to demonstrate any expertise or knowledge that the company is looking for.
5. Hobbies and interests
Ideally, CVs should be no longer than one page, with two pages being the maximum length. If you are struggling to fill up one page with information, even after including the sections above, then you can include a short paragraph on your hobbies and interests.
As with everything on a graduate CV, it’s important to demonstrate how these are relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, if you enjoy painting or photography, link this to how you have good attention to detail or are a creative thinker – these are all attributes that would make you an asset to any team, no matter the sector or company.
As with all CVs, a graduate CV will need to end with references. It’s good practice to include the sentence “References can be provided upon request”, as this will minimise the amount of space your references take up.
Take a look at the paragraph on providing references in our article about writing a successful job application to see who you should put forward as a referee when a company requests them.
Use a neat and professional design
Get some inspiration on how you would like your graduate CV to look by taking a look at CVs online.
The most important thing to ensure is that it looks cohesive. All headings should be the same font and size, as should subheadings and paragraphs, to keep everything uniform. Make sure that any bullet points are the same size and colour too.
While it’s important to maintain a professional standard for a graduate CV, don’t be afraid to incorporate a little bit of colour or some visual elements. You don’t need to be an experienced designer to create something that looks good, there are plenty of free online tools that will provide CV templates that can be easily customised with your information.
Keep it short
As mentioned before, a CV shouldn’t be more than two pages and a single page is the optimum length for a graduate CV. In terms of the attention span of the person reading your CV, it’s also important to keep each section short and to the point.
When it comes to talking about your work history, avoid repeating phrases like “I was tasked with” or “I was also responsible for”, and instead list your duties in one simple sentence. For example, if you worked in a shop, keep it quick with a sentence like: “My duties included serving customers, using a till and handling payments, helping with any queries, replenishing stock and maintaining a clean and tidy store.”
Another place you don’t want to include too much information is your A-Level and GCSE results. Don’t list every subject and grade you got, as it’s better to opt for something along the lines of: “Three A-Levels at grades ABB” and “Ten GCSEs at grades A* – C”. Because you are a graduate, employers will mainly be interested in your degree, so avoid taking up space with other, less recent qualifications.
Make it interactive
Is the role you are applying for a creative one, such as a graphic design position or one that involves content writing? If you have an online portfolio that showcases previous work you’ve done, link to it during the personal details section of your graduate CV.
If you have one, including a link to your LinkedIn profile in your personal details could also benefit your CV. You can use the platform to demonstrate your interest in a certain sector and your willingness to engage with other professionals in the industry.
When it comes to links, don’t include too many, as this can make your CV look cluttered. Instead, incorporate one or two. An important tip to remember is that a link looks best when it is short and neat. When it comes to longer links, you should hyperlink a word or phrase instead of including the link itself. For example, hyperlinking “View my online portfolio” would look better than copy and pasting the link directly.
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Last updated on 22 December 2021Share this article