How to write a graduate CV
Learn how to construct the perfect CV step by step. There’s even some handy templates too!
The key to putting together a CV that stands out is to tell a story. It needs to grab the attention of the person reading it.
Your CV is normally the first thing that an employer will see about you so it’s your chance to shine!
You’ve probably picked up some brilliant qualifications and experience over the past few years, but if you can’t sell yourself on paper, you’re going to struggle to find employment.
Following our simple yet effective guide and using our free templates will ensure that you have the best chance when applying for graduate jobs.
Skills based or chronological layout?
If you already know a thing or two about CVs, you’ll know that you have two main choices: skills based and chronological.
In basic terms, skills based will focus on the various competencies you have, where as chronological will talk through your experiences in a timeline format.
The difficult thing here is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it! If you’ve got gaps in your employment and education history, they’ll be less prominent in a skills based CV. But don’t forget that they’ll ask you more about your experience when you attend the interview, so it isn’t a foolproof way to avoid difficult questions.
If you took the traditional path of university straight after A levels, with a bit of part-time work thrown in, a chronological CV will probably provide you with the easiest approach to getting your skills and experiences down on paper.
How to prepare for writing your CV
Preparation is key for writing your CV. It will save you so much time when writing it.
Brainstorm all your experience
It’s easy to forget about part-time jobs that you’ve had and projects that you’ve worked on.
Before you write your CV, sit down and make a list of all your experiences and achievements that helped you to develop new skills.
Don’t forget any volunteering work or freelancing that you’ve done.
Ask your friends where they think your skills lie
Writing your CV isn’t a time when you should be modest. But it can sometimes be difficult to think objectively about what you’re good at and where your skills lie.
Ask your friends and course mates what they think. You might get an insight into something that you’d never even considered before!
Just hope that they don’t say things like “impossible to work with, lazy, etc.”
Search the internet for examples of CVs in your field
Researching isn’t cheating! You should never copy another person’s CV, but there’s no reason why you can’t look for examples of CVs from other people who work in your field.
A quick search on Google for ‘accountant CVs’, for example, will bring up more results than you could ever work through.
Remember that some of them will be rubbish. But some of them will be really good. Use them as an indicator of what works and what doesn’t.
What to include
Every CV should be different, because everyone’s experiences will vary. But as a general rule, you should include the following…
All in all you need to include your name (across the top of the CV), address, phone number, email address and any professional social media profiles you might have.
With the address, make sure that you keep in mind where you may be living in future (eg. leaving a 3rd year house).
It might also be worth looking for a new email address as having something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” won’t look too good on your CV.
Personal statement (optional)
If you want to include a small personal statement then that is up to you.
The aim of the personal statement is to sum up who you are and why you are perfect for the role in 2-3 short sentences. Almost like an introduction!
You should include your degree (or projected grade), A levels and GCSEs.
Your most recent qualifications should come first and therefore have most importance. Do NOT make the mistake of listing every single GCSE you gained. A simple “7 A-C (including English, Maths and Science) ” works absolutely perfectly.
If you feel that there is a specific module of your degree that fits in with the job you are applying for then you may want to give it a small mention too!
Once again, you should start off with your most recent work history. Don’t forget to include both paid and voluntary roles (you can split them up or list them chronologically depending on the importance of the volunteering roles).
For each position you will want to list the place of work, your role, the time period that you worked their for and then a few bullet points about your experience.
When writing the bullet points you need to be liberal. Mentioning that you were in charge of potting plants at your garden centre job won’t be of any significance if you are applying to be an accountant for example.
If you have carried out a similar role to the one that you have carried out in the past then make sure that you take advantage of it.
Interests and achievements
It’s a good idea to list your extra curricular activities so that the employer thinks you have a bit more to you than just working.
Avoid cliches such as ‘socialising with friends’ and focus on ones that showcase your skills such as captaining a 5-a-side team, joining in with university debates etc…
And don’t go getting all of your swimming badges and certificated out either…
It’s now acceptable to state that references are available on request. Have the details of two referees ready, just in case you’re asked.
Generally, one academic reference and one from an employer is good practice.
Don’t forget to ask your references first though!
Download your Free Templates
We have taken the time to create two free CV templates for our readers and you can download them onto your computer and use the advice above to craft the perfect CV.
Take your time and create something that you’re really happy with. You’ll be thankful when it secures you that job you’ve been dreaming of!
So, thanks to Save the Graduate you should have now completed the perfect CV but what do you do with it? Or are you looking for some extra tips?